Feeling that the federal and state governments have gone too far in their emphasis on standardized tests, the Bedford Central School District's Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution that calls for scaling back requirements.
The act, called a "Resolution on High-Stakes Testing," calls for the federal government (Congress and the Obama administration) to overhaul the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act by cutting testing mandates, promoting multiple ways of assessing student learning and not requiring test results to be used in teacher evaluations.
The board, in the resolution, also called on state officials - they are Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the legislature and State Education Commissioner John King - to take another look at the recently adopted teacher evaluation system and to include other types of assessments for consideration of importance.
The resolution approve is not against testing, but rather it argues that there is too much dependence of it.
The district noted in a statement, "Not to be confused with routine authentic assessments of student projects and work, grades, and routine quizzes and teacher developed tests; the resolution notes the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused collateral damage in schools by narrowing curriculum, teaching driven by testing, reducing a love of learning, and undermining school climate."
The resolution, the statement continued, criticizes the testing system for diverting time and energy, and serving to curtail critical thinking and problem solving skills.
For school board members, the reliance of tests feels less like an attempt to better the lives of kids and more like an intrusion from outsiders who are detatched from what goes on locally.
Board member Suzanne Grant called it “yet another mandate," and noted that it has come from policy makers at the state and federal levels.
Grant also argued that the time spent on mandated testing comes at the expense of developing local assessments, which she referred to as “testing that makes sense for our students and our curriculum.”
“It crowds out," said board member Andrew Bracco.
Board Vice President Eric Karle felt that the system of testing does not teach critical thinking skills. Rather, he argued, it merely teaches people how to take tests.
Board member Erika Long, speaking about why the current system has come about, felt that people tend to look for a "silver bullet," referring to an easy way to gauge student performance. However, she added that things do not work like that. Long also felt that it would be good to let people know about how kids are evaluated locally.
A survey of district residents done last fall for the district shows numbers that align with the board's concerns, with support measured by how many people deemed an assessment to be very or moderately valuable. In the survey, 92 percent rated student essays, projects and experiments as such; 89 percent for teacher-designed tests; 76 percent for homework that was graded; just 64 percent felt the same way for standardized tests.