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Field Tests To Increase In Schools – Do We Want Our Kids to Be Test Dummies?

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Educators everywhere are all tested out; however, it is worse in some states than others where they are forced to administer field tests. “Field tests” are instruments of mass instruction, usually given after other standardized testing and state testing is completed. The goal is to use students basically as test dummies, but instead of putting them into a car and having them crash into a wall at 50 miles per hour, the kids have to suffer through yet another exam. Parents are told it doesn’t count and not to worry. The students are told the same thing, but the bottom line is valuable instruction time is being turned into a destructive practice – more testing in the name of testing to fine tune future testing. Does anyone feel angry yet?

A recent article in The New York Times focused on this issue, indicating the widespread problem that is growing across the United States. On TV we see people worrying about the so-called zombie apocalypse, but in education we are turning our kids into testing zombies. As an educator I can tell you that nothing – and I mean absolutely nothing – dumbs down the classroom environment more than these standardized tests.

What educators are forced to become now is glorified proctors. We hear people banging the drum for the Common Core State Standards (which are sadly and inextricably linked to these assessments), but in the same breath they have no clue how kids are supposed to reach heights suggested by them, especially in classrooms where teachers are unnerved by having to teach to the test. The tests are like a hydra rearing its ugly heads, and this is mainly because the testing in many states is now being tied to teacher evaluations.

What these states are basically saying (and New York State is at the forefront of this) is that teachers need to learn the new standards, teach in a new and more challenging way while they are learning them, make sure that the students grasp everything about them, and also succeed on the state tests. Oh, and by the way, if the students do poorly, you’re probably a bad teacher.

So at this time of year, after students have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous assessments, now some of them will be selected to sit through field tests. Having been through this process, I can tell you that there is nothing a principal or a teacher can do about it. Your school and grades to be assessed are selected from on high and you get the directive to administer the test. After a long haul of state exams in math, English, and science, this is asking a great deal from those selected schools.

Now should be the time not for field tests but more for field trips. In beautiful spring weather, many learning experiences await students at conservatories, farms, parks, and museums. As a parent as well as an educator, I would rather see our children out in the sunshine learning about something in a vibrant and memorable way than being stuck behind a desk taking an exam that will facilitate the testing companies and the state’s plan for more testing.

This June over a quarter of a million students in over 3,000 schools will be forced to take field tests in English and math. Outraged parents can bang on the principal’s door and ask why, and the principal can only respond that he or she has been directed to do this. Of course, the salient reason is that the alignment of the CCSS is going viral nationwide, and the companies are scrambling to craft a “national exam modeled on the new standards.” Next year more than a million students in 22 states will be subjected to more of this insanity, all in the name of propagation of more and more testing at a school near you.

People everywhere need to stand up to the testing companies and state education departments and demand for an end to this ludicrous waste of school time. It doesn’t take a degree in education to realize that tests do not teach kids anything more than they know; in fact, over-testing like this inhibits true instruction and actually impedes the learning process.

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.