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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 04/21/2011

School district field-tests 52 (yes, 52) new tests on kids

To see where public education is being driven, let’s look at a school district in North Carolina where students in every grade were used as guinea pigs this spring to help field-test a total of 52 -- yes, 52 -- new standardized tests this spring, kindergarteners included.

This is happening in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools, which spent nearly $2 million to test the tests so that a new teacher evaluation system can be implemented that grades teachers on how well their students do on standardized tests, the Charlotte Observer reported.

As a result, next year there will be more standardized testing experiments in subjects, such as art and music, currently without a standardized test to call their own.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg officials conceded on the district website that the testing and pay-for-performance program “have generated intense interest and in some cases, anxiety or fear.” but then tried to explain why opponents are misinformed and incorrect. They aren’t.

Many educators and parents are petrified because they know that high-stakes standardized tests don’t measure real learning and result all too frequently in narrowed curriculum, cheating and a climate of fear. And linking student test scores to teachers’ grades is plain unfair, given that teachers don’t control most of the factors that go into how a student is prepared to take a test on any given day.

This is just one of the districts in states across the country -- with the support of the Obama administration-- that are implementing new evaluation systems that link teachers’ pay to test scores.

Some grade teachers on their own students’ scores, while others grade them on the school’s scores. Either way, teachers unfairly lose. Assessment experts say that these tests weren’t designed to be used in this fashion, and that the results are invalid and unreliable.

That hasn’t stopped Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Peter Gorman, according to the Observer, from “proudly” declaring that his district will lead the nation when the tests are officially inaugurated. That will be quite the accomplishment.

The tests were created by an organization called Measurement Inc., at a cost of about $1.9 million, the Charlotte Observer reported. The total number of exams given across all grade levels was 52. Each of the tests taken by students in kindergarten, and first and second grades, had about 30 “tasks”; the tests for students in grades three through 12 had about 60 multiple-choice questions, according to the district’s website.

Some of the subjects on which students are being tested are reading and math in grades K-2; social studies in K-8; and high school classes including psychology, sociology and journalism, for which there is no state standardized assessment, according to the Observer.

And to top it off: After all of that field-testing, kids will have to sit down in May to take the tests again in the official implementation of the program (though results won’t be used for high-stakes decisions in this go-round). That doesn’t include the usual state standardized assessments.

(If this doesn’t provoke massive among kids, I’m not sure what will.)

Meanwhile, parents who spoke to teachers and their children about the field-testing of the exams said it was something of a mess.

Teachers were pulled out of classrooms to administer the tests. At many schools, classes in art, music, physical education, English as a Second Language and other subjects were stopped so teachers could give tests.

More than 2,000 people have signed a petition -- written by a grassroots coalition of parents and citizens called “Mecklenburg ACTS” -- protesting the expansion of testing, and a recent school board meeting was packed with hundreds of angry parents who want funding for the tests to be redirected to reduce teacher layoffs for next year and others.

They can’t shout loud enough.

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By  |  06:00 AM ET, 04/21/2011

 
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