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My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.
|That is, I believe, how I referred to the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) a couple nights ago. |
Why did I refer to it that way? I don't know--maybe it's because I just turned 40 and I'm really looking forward to that next physical. Or it could be because the impending administration of the CSAP elicits nearly the same reaction from educators as that oh-so-pleasant procedure.
And with good reason.
First of all, the obvious: is testing good? yes, though not as good as some people believe. Do schools need to be held accountable? yes. Do students need to be held accountable? absolutely, though, sadly, this test does not accomplish that. Does there need to be some accounting of the effectiveness of our tax dollars at work? YES.
Unfortunately, the CSAP is a terrible test. Here's what some schools in my district do.
I teach at a number of elementary schools. For all of last week and all of this week, the students have their day divided into testing blocks. Their usual schedule of lunch and specials classes are intact, but the bulk of the rest of their day is spent testing. Yes, that means between 75 and 180 minutes of every day for two weeks is spent testing (third grade gets a third week). In most elementary schools, there is also an additional 15 minutes spent before the test giving the students a special snack (brain food, I guess) and getting them calm and ready for the test. In effect, every student in Colorado will spend about 20 hours of valuable education time taking a test. A test which is designed to assess if the student has assimilated the expected skills and knowledge from the previous year. From one year. 20 hours.
For comparison, the American College Test (ACT) is designed to, in effect, test the skills and knowledge from eleven years worth of education. It takes 3 hours.
And what happens if they fail this particular test? Nothing. Maybe the school gets a little closer scrutiny, and certainly the teacher will be held responsible, but the student suffers no consequence at all.
Maybe that's just the elementary schools, you say. Wrong.
My daughter is in middle school. Her particular middle school, which is NOT unique, alters their schedule rather dramatically for the CSAP. School, which normally starts at 7:35, doesn't start until 9:45; they have one testing block, then they take a one-hour lunch, then they have another testing block.
And that's it for the day. And that's three days a week for two weeks. No education at all.
This is our student assessment program, as brought to you by--you guessed it--the Republicans in the state legislature 15 years ago and signed into law by then-Governor Roy Romer (D).
This is low-hanging fruit. You want education reform? Fix this test. Make it shorter, more pointed, with accountability for students and parents alike (matriculation should, at some point, HAVE to be a consequence of this test), have it measure useful information like how much progress the STUDENT makes in a year (like they do in Tennessee), and use technology to make this less onerous (like they do in Oregon) and give schools less excuse to take a couple weeks off.
The fact that the wholly-owned subsidiary of the teachers unions known as the Colorado Legislature--now fully under Democratic control--hasn't made any effort to change this test in four years tells me a very important thing: this test is more useful as a political football than it is as a school assessment. Republicans are stupid to not get out in front of this issue and make it the centerpiece of their education platform.
But then, we're getting used to that.