From our friends at Neighbors on Call: Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook
Date and time: Tuesday, June 25 2019 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Location: Durham Southwest Library, 3605 Shannon Rd., Durham, NC 27707
Narrated by Emmy and Tony award-winning actor Jeffrey Wright, and shot during the chaotic 2016 election, the documentary film identifies and unpacks a shrewd ten-part strategy developed by political partisans to suppress votes that would be cast against them. North Carolina features centrally in the 80-minute film. We’ll have time for discussion afterwards.
Most students have completed standardized testing across North Carolina for this school year. Here is a list of standardized tests administered in public schools in North Carolina. These are mostly end of grade and end of course tests. Let's not forget the other tests required at the state and local levels. Let's consider third grade for example, where students take the Beginning of Grade (BOG) tests (reading and math), NC Check-ins throughout the year (reading and math) and possibly the Read to Achieve test. That's a lot of testing for 8- and 9-year-olds. That's hours of preparing and sitting for tests and for many students, hours of anxiety.
For most students, parents, and teachers, completion of end of grade testing comes with a sigh of relief. However, for some the stress does not stop there. Justin Parmenter wrote North Carolina’s schools need to quit telling children they have no future where he shows his own third grade daughter's EOG reading scores and how it shows that she is not "college and career ready." Read more to see the background of the college and career readiness measures and its roots in the Common Core movement.
This was my first year as a parent of a student in a "testing grade." My son was a bundle of nerves in the beginning of the year with the beginning of grade (BOG) test. He had heard what a big deal it was from other students. As parents, we explained that this was just one day of many in his school career. Our expectations are that he always does his best. The scores are just one piece of a giant puzzle (aka your score does not define who you are or your potential for success). As EOGs rolled around, I personally felt major stress for my child and his classmates sitting for hours focusing on these assessments. Thankfully, my son did not seem to feel that same anxiety, but I know that is not true for every child. (I recall as a child having major text anxiety and and even as an adult completing college and testing for certification.)
Back in March, I wrote Student Testing Needs Reform, explaining how the NC Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mark Johnson, said he planned to reduce testing for students in public schools (read more here), an introduced a parent group, North Carolina Families for School Testing Reform who remained 'cautiously optimistic' according to NC Policy Watch.
Superintendent Johnson said he planned to
- Reduce the number of questions on tests.
- Reduce the time students must sit for tests.
- Change testing policies to reduce the stress at schools around testing time.
- Work with local leaders to reduce the number of locally required tests.
- Push to eliminate tests not required by Washington, D.C.
- Give students other ways to show progress if they have a bad test day.
- Use the appropriate amount of technology as a tool for students and teachers to personalize learning and eliminate tests.
NC Families for School Testing Reform's vision is that "students will only undergo testing that serves to inform their educational progress. Testing procedures will be evidence-based, equitable, efficient, and developmentally appropriate." (Read more about concerns about testing here including how standardized testing is unfair and not developmentally appropriate.)
So how did we do this year? Stu Egan hit the nail on the head when he wrote Dear Mark Johnson, Reducing Number of Questions on Tests Is Not “Test Reform" (seriously you have to read this as he explains how reducing the number of test questions and the time allotted for the test could have an unintended and opposite effect by causing more stress).
How did legislators do this year when it comes to standardized testing? They came out of the gate pretty strong in the right direction with bills that sought to reduce standardized testing. Senate Bill 621 sought to eliminate NC Final Exams and also included
a provision requiring local school districts to determine how many hours their students spend on local standardized tests. If it’s more than the time spent on state exams, they’re to come up with a plan to reduce the amount of local testing.
Read more from the News and Observer here. The bill was filed and passed in April. It was referred to the House Rules Committee where it has been sitting stagnant since May 1.
House Bill 377 was introduced in March and passed the House in April. It was referred to the Senate Rules Committee where it has not moved since early April. The News and Observer reported that House Bill 377 sought to
▪Replace the state EOG exams given in grades 3-8 in reading and math with the NC Check-Ins, which are shorter exams given to students three times a year in each subject. The Check-Ins are currently voluntary.
▪ Eliminate the remaining state end-of-course (EOC) exams for biology, English and math typically taken by high school students. They’d be replaced by the ACT now taken by all of the state’s high school juniors or by a “nationally recognized assessment of high school achievement and college readiness.”
▪ Eliminate the ACT WorkKeys test in high school.
▪ Eliminate the N.C. Final exams. These state tests are given to students of teachers who don’t have results from an EOG or EOC that can be used to evaluate their performance.
▪ Prohibit school districts from giving standardized tests not required by the State Board of Education.
▪ Prohibit school districts from requiring students to do a high school graduation project. The project involves students researching and writing a paper on a topic that they’ve chosen and presenting the project to a panel.
There seemed to be support in both chambers but not enough to compromise and move forward with one of the bills. So as students are getting their final end of year scores, what score should we issue lawmakers? When looking at whether or not they met performance standards, I say, "no." Furthermore, for their typical lack of effort to consult with teachers and educational experts on the impact of testing and its developmental inappropriateness AND their lack of follow through, I say we issue them a level 1 "Limited command of knowledge and skills." I wish they could see how it truly felt to receive one of those score reports as many students in North Carolina have.
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