MNPS Discusses If Students Take Too Many Tests
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tuesday, the Metro School board asked if students are taking too many standardized tests.
The discussion was spurred by a resolution submitted by board member and retired teacher Jill Speering, who was concerned after receiving numerous complaints from parents. It prompted her to look into the issue and present the school board with a resolution.
Even at the start of a school year, students are being tested. It's the result of evolving standards in education.
"It's not a test that's mindless memorization of facts," Dr. Candice McQueen, Dean of Lipscomb University's Education Department explained about the new assessments. "It is a test that's about critical thinking and problem solving and going in depth inside of material."
The data is meant to help teachers monitor if students understand concepts.
"I think we've gone overboard," Speering said. She wants to limit how many tests students have to take. "The stakes are high and what that eventually means is that pressure eventually rests upon the shoulder of our students."
While the emphasis is on improving achievement teachers, principals, even the Director of Schools' evaluations and pay is tied to the results.
"I'm afraid that our goal of teaching has become the test, rather than student learning," Speering added.
"We're tracking for success, but we're planning intentionally," Dr. Dorothy Gunn, Margaret Allen Middle School Principal said. "We are not throwing darts in black space."
At Margaret Allen, the staff is methodical about charting each student's progress. When asked if the tests put added pressure on teachers she said, "Well it does add a challenge to some teachers who may not be as knowledgeable in their content area. But that's where we come in and give them the support they need to help them get to where they need to be."
Many would agree that high stakes testing is not the perfect solution.
"Certainly high stakes testing has issues but we do still have to test what we're doing to ensure that what we're doing is effective," McQueen stressed.
For now, it's the most concrete way to determine if their strategies are working.
The Board has asked Director of Schools, Dr. Jesse Register, to research how many tests students have to take, how much time is allocated for preparation and how much it costs the district.
In addition, Register will attempt to determine how effective the assessments are in student achievement overall. Once the data has been gathered, the board expects to look into the issue further and determine if there's a need to limit the amount of tests students take. The district has already decided to discontinue the tests for students in kindergarten through second grade.