Each spring, K-12 students in Colorado are required to take a statewide standardized test, the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP). The scores from these tests determine, in part, the amount of funding schools receive.
As a student-teacher at Boltz Junior High School here in Fort Collins, I aided in administering the CSAP to students in the subjects of math, science, and, my content area, language arts.
The tests took two-and-a-half hours every morning for six days, and on two of those six, the testing time extended into the day another two hours. While I understand the necessity for accountability in public schools, as an educator I feel there is a problem with such extensive testing that drains students’ energy and decreases their classroom time.
There are already numerous levels of accountability in the public school system that ensure students are taught the necessary information.
Teachers in Colorado are required not only to pass a proficiency test, but also undergo a relatively extensive degree program before they are licensed.
Students are assessed as individual learners by these trained teachers who know their students’ abilities and potential on a personal level, much better than any Scantron machine.
For students who struggle, specific accommodations are made through mandated programs with input from teachers, parents, social workers and the student.
Teachers are required to teach specific curriculum and standards, set by districts, states, and on the national level. These standards dictate, to an extent, what society deems as necessary adult knowledge.
It is these standards that the CSAP is designed to test.
However, the standards are not perfect, and often leave out part of the picture.
As with any human science, there are numerous ideologies concerning how standards should be written. As an educator, I have personal opinions about which of these are best, but I also understand that a wide breadth of knowledge is essential to producing a well-rounded and learned individual.
Unfortunately, Colorado’s standards cover only a few teaching ideologies, and those on the conservative end of the spectrum. National standards for reading and writing are more progressive, also leaving out what many see as important pieces.
The CSAP assesses only partial knowledge, and further restricts teachers who are fully capable and qualified to determine what students need to learn. In addition, such rigorous and drawn out testing takes away valuable class time during which students could continue to learn.
One class I got to see every day during CSAP, while my others were on a staggered, every-other-day schedule. This one class was able to begin a unit on spelling.
To students, a spelling unit may not sound that exciting. For me as a teacher, I know that this unit is based in some of the newest research from a subject that has received little attention as a whole and even less at the secondary level. This unit is a chance for challenged spellers to improve their skills before going on to high school and college.
Because of time lost during CSAP, I probably won’t get a chance to teach this entire unit to students in my other classes.
Standardized testing mandated by the state and No Child Left Behind hinders students and teachers. Methods of accountability are already in place to provide students with the appropriate education to succeed.
If testing must continue, at very least, it shouldn’t take six days. Students are trying to learn.
Ben Bleckley is a senior majoring in English. His column runs every Monday in the Collegian.