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Teachers Sick Of Standardized Tests

They say standardized tests are detrimental to learning.

Teachers from the Sequoia Union High School District are speaking out against the amount of standardized tests students are required to take.

The 12 teachers, hailing from schools across the district, addressed the board of trustees this week in light of the recent approval to implement more standardized tests into the annual curriculum.

Teachers said that preparing students for more standardized tests suffocated their opportunities to introduce creativity into lesson plans during the public comments period of the made during the regularly scheduled district board meeting. 

The district currently requires students to take six different standardized tests to keep up with state standards, as well as similar benchmark exams that are required as part of the math and english curriculum. And after the board's recent approval to implement benchmark exams into science and social studies courses, students could be required to take as many as 14 standardized tests per year, according to Jenny Ortez, a history teacher at Woodside High School.

Teachers expressed frustrations over a percieved lack of communication with the district prior to the program being approved, as well as the negative impact that preparing students for the tests has on constructing lesson plans. Some said this caused morale decreases among the teaching staff, while others called it an inefficient "one-size-fits-all" approach to education. Others suggested that it may cause the district to lose teachers who would prefer to work elsewhere in environments where creativity is encouraged.

Kelly Redmon, an english teacher at Carlmont High School, said that this was the first year in her decade long tenure at the school that she did not enjoy teaching, due to the amount of standardized testing she was required to assign her students. She said the lesson plan that paces curriculum over the course of a semester in order to prepare students to pass benchmark exams does not offer adequate time to go back and readdress lessons that students did not grasp.

Redmon also said that the benchmark exam program does not encourage teachers to assign reading from novels, because test standards favor textbooks instead. She said she is afraid of the long-term ramifications this will have on her students.

"I don't know what will happen when they walk into a novel-based classroom, but they haven't read a novel yet. I'm worried for their success," said Redmon.

Carolyn Wallace, an english teacher at Carlmont who has worked in the district for 28 years, said that the lesson plan designed for benchmark exam preparedness does not challenge students to the fullest of their potential, and expects too little of them. A trainer charged with familiarizing teachers with the benchmark exam curriculum said that homework reading should be done in class because students will not do it on their own time, said Wallace.

According to Wallace, the trainer also said that the strategy used to teach children is of sole importance, not whether a lesson is good or bad.

"I believe students are capable of so much more," said Wallace.

Tony Mueller, an english teacher at Woodside, spoke in plain terms against the benchmark tests and the lesson plan that led to them.

"I believe this program is detrimental to students learning in this district," he said.

He too spoke of the demoralizing impact the program had on teachers, and said that it is interpreted as a slight to the professional judgement of himself and his fellow colleagues.

Nearly each teacher that spoke to the board about the issue said that they wished there was more collaboration between the district and its teachers in regards to how the program would be implemented before it took effect at the beginning of the year.

The board did not discuss the comments and took no action on issue at Wednesday night's meeting.

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In other business, recently elected trustees Allen Weiner and Carrie Du Bois were introduced as the district's newest members of the board. Outgoing trustee and former board president Lorraine Rumley was acknowledged at the meeting for her service to the district.

The board also elected Alan Sarver as board president, and Chris Thomsen as vice president.

Laura R December 09, 2011 at 05:03 PM
I think that standardized tests are an absurd, unrealistic, and unnecessary way to determine whether a child is learning. In addition, they take the fun and excitement out of learning, which I think is key to a good teacher being able to succeed at helping her students learn. Most teachers work very hard, and standardized tests put entirely too much focus on test scores and not enough on real learning.
N. Goodman December 09, 2011 at 05:36 PM
I agree with the teachers' position 100%. The amount of time spent preparing for and taking standardized tests in our public school system is staggering. The school year is ~180 days and my estimate is that a month each year is spent in activities related to the tests. That adds up to an entire year of schooling over the course of elementary and high school in which no self-directed learning is taking place.
Annette S December 09, 2011 at 06:27 PM
All kids learn differently, I think benchmarks and having some standards is needed, but to test to one standard is bad business, and unfair, as well as discrimination to second language learners, which in turn hurts the individual school as a whole for API Scores and schools suffer lack of additional reward funding which is unfair the whole system is completely stupid

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