By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester Local Schools Superintendent James Sotlar says it’s time to pull the plug on state testing overload.
Sotlar believes in holding everyone involved in education accountable for student achievement, but questions the price children, parents, teachers and districts pay by spending weeks on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing program.
“On average, our students are spending close to double the amount of time from the former testing system (OGT/OAA),” Sotlar said. “This extensive amount of time does not include all of the test preparation.”
According to Sotlar, during testing weeks, schools are forced into alternative schedules, which have a direct impact on instruction. Teachers must focus on the test, which limits their ability to begin teaching new content.
“We talk about not having enough hours in the school year for instruction, and yet we are reducing the hours by adding extra testing,” said Sotlar. “I would like to see a testing system that only requires one day of testing for each subject area, just like we have done for the past several years. This test can be rewritten to add more rigor without adding more testing time. I would also like to see more local control and let districts use their own local diagnostic test, where feedback and instructional decision making is immediate. These tests are more important to student learning.”
Sotlar said he is not convinced districts understand the purpose of the assessments.
“Is it for accountability? Is it to improve instruction? Is it for a report card grade? Is it for teacher evaluation? Is it for college/career readiness? Is it for all of the above and then some?” he asked.
In Sotlar’s opinion, the PARCC assessment cannot be used for multiple measures, because each area has a different meaning and metrics to determine its effectiveness. He wonders how the new test can be used to improve instruction, determine college/career readiness or teacher effectiveness when results are received long after student and teachers leave for summer break.
Sotlar said there needs to be one clear purpose for the test, and it needs to be communicated to everyone in a timely manner so districts can prepare for the test.
“I cannot state the amount of stress this new assessment system has put upon our students, teachers, administrators, and parents. Today’s society is stressful enough for young adults, and now we just added a whole different level of stress that has never been seen before,” said Sotlar.
He admitted there was a stress factor when the state first required the proficiency test, OGT, OAT and OAA assessments. However, he said nothing compares to stress level the new PARCC assessments have placed on students.
“It is our responsibility to educate, nourish, empower, and develop our next generation of leaders, and yet we are going to determine their fate with a test that may mean little to nothing 10 years out of high school,” said Sotlar. “There is so much more that goes into developing the whole person that cannot be measured by a test—character, values, work ethic, leadership – these attributes are just as important, if not more important, than passing a state assessment. If we are going to hold students accountable, then we need to assess the whole person and not just whether they pass a test.”
Sotlar urged anyone concerned with the number of state mandated tests to provide their input online to the new Senate Advisory Committee on Testing. Send comments to http://sact.ohiosenate.gov/.