Assessments — there are too many, says one local administrator.
Dr. Sam Dick, superintendent of the Caverna Independent School System, addressed the issue last week when he, along with members of his school board, and representatives of the Glasgow and Barren County boards of education met with Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, and Sen. Richie Sanders, R-Franklin, to discuss a variety of topics related to education.
“We’re doing nothing but testing all year long,” Dick said. “It’s become ridiculous.”
Not only do schools have to administer the Kentucky Core Content exam, but they also have the PLAN exam, which is given to 10th-graders, and the Explorer exam, which is given to eighth-graders. This school year was the first in which Kentucky schools were re-quired to administer the ACT predictors.
Kentucky schools are also required to give a norm referenced test to elementary students.
The schools may choose the test they want to give. Some give the CTBS exam, while others choose another type of norm referenced exam. Barren County gives the MAP exam to middle school students, as well as to elementary students.
All Kentucky schools are also required, beginning in March, to give the ACT exam.
That’s a total of five state mandated assessments.
“It’s become a monstrosity,” Dick said. “Somebody needs to take some oversight ... and streamline it. It’s really snowballed on us.”
That does not mean that Dick does not support accountability. He does. He said he just thinks educators are spending too much time testing students when they should spend more time educating them.
Dr. Jerry Ralston, superintendent of the Barren County School System, agrees.
“I think we need to evaluate just how much testing we’re doing,” he said. “When we get to the point where everything we do in instruction is based on the assessment, and we tend to get away from what is really important in instruction, then it is time to re-evaluate and look at what we are currently doing.”
Bill Ritter, interim superintendent for the Glasgow Independent School System, also agreed.
“I totally agree with what Dr. Dick said this past Saturday. We are way, way too focused on testing. I can only imagine how many millions and millions of dollars that have been spent mandating all this testing in the state of Kentucky,” he said. “I know some of it is necessary. You’ve got to somehow hold the school systems accountable for the money that has been given to them to put KERA (Kentucky Education Reform Act) into affect, but it seems like every year or two we are required to test another group or a different group that we’ve never tested before.
“Unfortunately, most of this is not funded. We are expected to pay for this out of our general fund.”
Dick suggested state legislators conduct a study to see how many days Kentucky schools spend testing students.
He also brought up the issue of concordance tables, which state educators had to use this school year to determine how well their students did on the CATS exams.
The tables did not allow educators to compare data from the previous year and were confusing for some.
Sanders responded by saying that he thought John Draud was an excellent choice for Edu-cation Commissioner.
“I think he’s going to be pretty aggressive on trying to make some changes,” Sanders said.
The testing issue, he said, wasn’t new. He has heard several other educators in the state comment on it.
“I think we definitely need to do some streamlining as the superintendent from Caverna pointed out,” he said. “We need to have a test that is able to be reviewed by the parents. If educators are having a hard time understanding what they are testing for, then I think that is definitely an issue with the parents out there. We need to have something that is a useful tool. We don’t need to be testing and putting the results on a shelf and no one ever looking at them.”
Bell also said the testing issue needs to be addressed.
“I think there is too much testing. I think there is too much emphasis on testing. I think it is something we need to continue in a more moderated way,” he said. “Of course, we need to address how our children are learning and how they are progressing, but I don’t think we really have a perfect situation right now and the testing has grown to a monstrosity, so to speak.”
The group also discussed how the United States compares to other countries in regards to test scores.
Dick pointed out that the United States tests all students. Japan and China do not. Students in those countries, he said, are categorized in several different tracks. An example of two such tracks are academic and industrial. Students who qualify for the industrial track are groomed for manufacturing jobs, while students who qualify for the academic track are tested, he said.
“I think that needs to be considered, too,” Dick said.
He also told the legislators that while he likes the concept, he thinks the No Child Left Behind Act is a “bad piece of legislation.”
“What I like about NCLB is that it has caused us to be conscious about the individual child, because a lot of times we tend to teach to groups rather than the individual. However, I have some problems with the other aspect. One, it is underfunded. Secondly, the leaving it up to each individual state to determine what is left behind has not worked well because there is no equality,” he said.
“The state of Kentucky made their requirements equivalent to the proficiency level, whereas in another state the standard is much lower.”
Dick also doesn’t like the fact it is an “either all or none” type of law.
“My philosophy is it was designed to be a ‘gotcha.’ If we can’t get you this way, we’re going to get you another way,” he said.
Ritter also doesn’t think NCLB is fair.
“Simply because it is dictated by how the states want to address the matter,” he said.
He said someone at Saturday’s meeting pointed out that Missouri is on target with NCLB in every school in the state.
“We know that is not true, but Kentucky tries to do it correctly and we get punished for being correct,” Ritter said. “It’s not addressed equally throughout the 50 states. It allows the states to cheat if they so desire to.”
Bell said he believes NCLB is something the Kentucky General Assembly should take a look at and make sure there is some uniformity with adjoining states.
“So it doesn’t sound like we’re not actually doing our job, or we’re put into a situation where we won’t receive federal funding for education,” he said.
This is the second in a series of stories this week taken by education reporter Gina Kinslow from the recent meeting of local school district officials and area legislators.
Assessments — there are too many, says one local administrator.