Our wonderful country often has an interesting way of dealing with big problems. We over-correct. With the best intentions, we often go overboard. I believe that’s what’s happened with testing. There was agreement throughout the country, regardless of political leanings, that we needed to do something about our educational system. We were concerned about competition with other nations. More than that, our nation places a high value on public education and we wanted to do better. To get better, we rightly reasoned that we needed to do a better job testing. Otherwise, how could we see how we’re doing and make corrections? More standardized tests followed.
However, we overdid it on testing and are paying a price. We all could tell stories of how excessive tests, in an overwhelming environment, have caused duress. It’s a fine balancing act between over-testing and gathering meaningful information that helps students.
So, what’s being done about it? In Tennessee, the state has major say-so in how, when, and what we test. Most people directly involved with our schools know that the State rolled out a new testing initiative this year called TNReady. And, most know the launch did not gone well. The State had so little confidence in new online tests that the tests were scraped and we reverted to pencil-and-paper. This has been painful, to say the least.
It would be easy to say we’ve been victimized by the State, but hardly productive. I believe the State knows we have problems and is trying to do something about it.
In our county, Dr. Looney and his team of central office leadership, school leadership, teachers, and support staffs are working diligently to get us through the painful process. Students seem to be working hard to rise to the challenges.
When Dr. Looney presented a particularly challenging testing dilemma to the Board recently, he pledged that, while he and his team had tough testing decisions to make, they would not decide to the detriment of students and teachers...even if that meant our results would suffer. It would be nice if the whole nation followed his lead.