There are several things about standardized testing in Mississippi that you, the taxpayer, probably don’t know. It’s not because nobody knows it’s happening, or because we educators don’t want you to know… It’s just kind of like “Fight Club”… we are not supposed to talk about it.
So, in this blog series, I did not lean exclusively on my own personal experience with the testing at my school. That would be stupid. No, I tried to talk to teachers and administrators across the state. I wanted to see all the different ways it’s done.
It’s not filtered research from a corporation; it’s not a scientific study from a government agency. It’s just testimony from the people seeing it happen on the ground. My hope is that you find perspectives that better inform your views of public school operations, and that we have broader conversations together about how to improve assessment in Mississippi schools.
Taking teachers of electives out of their classrooms is a common solution. For example, in one school, tech foundations teachers assisted in all of the school’s testing and had to finish teaching their curriculum, for the year, in mid-March. Other schools shift arts and music teachers around, subtly sending the message to all that those classes don’t matter.
Despite the fact teachers and students were told the system would save student responses to questions they’d already completed, in many cases it did not. According to one teacher I spoke with, one student had completed 40 out of 43 questions, and then was forced to start back over. If you’ve never seen an elementary-aged kid stressed out to the max over state testing, let me just cut to the chase for you: The amount of frustration and fatigue that girl experienced taking the test over again, ensured her score would not reflect her best first shot. None of her classmates’ scores would, either. But their teachers, their school will still be compared with schools elsewhere who experienced no delay.
Everyone outside our profession says they respect teachers, but no one wants to listen when we tell them it’s counterproductive to test kids this much, this hard. Instead, we have to pretend this is all normal. We are forced to violate our consciences.
Today, our public school system has perhaps the biggest, most intensive testing culture in the history of Mississippi public education. The National Education Association, the Network for Public Education, and professional teacher organizations in Mississippi have all made statements suggesting standardized testing has gone too far. If Mississippi educators say the current size of the testing culture is not what’s best for our kids, then why does it continue to grow?
Whether it makes sense to you or not, there is a growing, undiagnosed public health crisis in Mississippi…teachers are more stressed out than they’ve ever been. Diagnoses for anxiety and depression are through the roof. Many teachers experience panic attacks on such a regular basis they don’t even realize it’s not normal, especially among young teachers.
…we teachers cannot monitor any communication between your child and these testing corporations. They present material for your child to read, they elicit responses, and your child’s teachers and administrators never get to see what’s being said back and forth.
Assessment is useful information. It’s valuable for us educators to be able to check on achievement progress so adjustments can be made. And I haven’t heard any classroom teachers argue that standardized testing should go out the window completely. But too many “reformers” promote standardized testing as a way to fix education. They see it less as a progress report and more as a “carrot-and-stick” motivational solution.