Teachers Refuse to Give Standardized Tests to First Graders

Why would teachers refuse to assess their students? They explain in an open letter.

Thanks to Common Core, it seems, an increasing number of teachers are refusing to administer required tests to students—especially young students.

To some extent the media coverage of this annoys me since employees are treated like heroes for refusing to obey their employer, while an elected official refusing to violate her conscience and publicly affirm same-sex “marriage” is treated much differently in the media.

Nevertheless, the letter written by two “highly regarded first-grade teachers at Skelly Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” and published at the Washington Post’s website is quite convincing.

They first establish their credentials as veteran teachers who have been evaluated as skilled in education in many settings. Unless they are somehow “padding their resumes,” this seems to indicate that they are unlikely to have suddenly become malcontents or education rebels for attitudinal reasons. Rather, the rules have now changes and they don’t believe they can teach in the new way anymore.

They then review all the assessments that are required, including many individual assessments which leave the rest of the class in limbo.

In our classrooms the children spend, on average, 1,510 minutes (25 hours) completing assessments. 720 minutes of those assessments are one-on-one. That means that we are tied up assessing students for at least 17, 280 minutes a school year. Your children are losing 288 hours of time with their teacher because of mandated testing. When you break down our days and count for specials, lunch, and recess, we end up with about 4 hours of instruction time. So, 288 instructional hours, or 72 days… yes, 72 days of our school year we, as teachers, are tied up assessing students with the mandated assessments. Why are our schools failing? Why are children not learning how to read? We think the numbers above answer those questions.

They then review what happens when first-grade students are forced to sit through lengthy assessments that are beyond their abilities at the time. The results are ugly. There is no reason, at the first grade level, to subject students to that kind of experience.

Over 85% of our students failed the MAP test. We had to meet with most of you to discuss your child’s “at risk” path and the retention they will face in third grade if they do not begin to show higher test scores. Was that a constructive meeting? No. Here is why we feel that way. The data is not valid in an early childhood setting, especially with the demographics of our community school. The test is 55 questions long in both math and reading. Our state and district want your child to be able to sit through a 55 question test that is designed to be frustrating. They make no accommodations for language or IEP’s. How can they say the data is valid when they are not even tested in the language they speak? How can they say the data is valid when they ignore what the research says about early childhood developmental capabilities? Is the data provided from MAP ever going to surpass the data that we collect, as the professionals, in our classrooms? Should we allow a child to scratch their face, throw a chair, pee their pants, lay their heads down in defeat… all over taking a test that is designed to make them fail? Nobody feels successful after taking this test because of the nature of it. Should the results of that test be an evaluating measure for how effective we are as teachers?

They also point out that the student surveys, among other problems, “have an entire back page that appears to be for data collection purposes only and violates the privacy of your family.”

No thank you.

They say they went to the higher-up bureaucrats with their concerns and were essentially told to teach to the tests!

Last week, in search of some clarification, we submitted a letter to Dr. Ballard. He never responded personally; but, we do appreciate that he sent someone to meet with us about our concerns. However, the resolution was that we really work together to study MAP deeper. The suggestion was that we teach the test to the students. The advice was that in order to make the test less stressful for the students, we should run them through practice tests and mini computer based MAP lessons that will aid them in being more successful in taking the MAP. We are not sure how in doing so we would have a true picture of the students’ growth. But, moving on, basically, the district’s answer was to take away more high-level learning experience and replace us, the professionals, with a computer program. The district did not address our concerns with the surveys at all.

If you don’t already have enough reason to consider homeschooling or using a private school that doesn’t try to imitate the latest fads in state behavior control, consider this an opportunity to do so.

stop common core

For the sake of those children locked into the school system, I can only hope and pray that more teachers refuse.