Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why our son won't take the EOGs

From Pamela Grundy and Peter Wong, parents of a CMS seventh grader, in response to “Common Core vs. ‘It’s OK, honey’" (Viewpoint, March 28):

In his assessment of the rapidly growing national opt-out movement, Lane Filler suggests that parents who have chosen to opt out of or refuse high-stakes state tests are seeking to “shield” our children from “feelings of inadequacy,” and charges that our actions “soften and degrade the process of parenting.”

We beg to differ.

Like the vast majority of parents who are choosing to refuse the tests, we regularly challenge our son to undertake difficult tasks where he is unlikely to succeed at the first, second or even third attempt – tasks such as mastering a difficult musical piece, or writing a high-quality research paper. These endeavors have real value. High-stakes standardized tests, in contrast, do far more harm than good.

During nearly a decade of experience with high-stakes testing, we have become increasingly appalled at the damage we have seen it do to schools and children. But despite copious documentation of this damage – downplaying of “extras” such as art and music, rampant teaching to the test, test-related increases in dropout rates, talented teachers choosing to pursue different careers – we see no serious efforts to turn to alternative approaches. Elected officials from both parties have failed us. It is time for parents – who have the biggest stake in high-quality public education – to just say no.

As we have discussed opt out/refusal with parents around the state, we have talked to some parents who are concerned about the effect that taking the tests has on their children. These are primarily parents of exceptional children whose cognitive challenges are severe enough that they have no chance of passing the tests put before them. Yet because of one-size-fits-all bureaucratic regulations these children are required to sit and struggle with the tests for hour upon hour. Anyone who has proctored in this kind of situation can tell you what a painful experience it can be for everyone involved. Lane Filler may believe that seeking to shield a child from that kind of experience will “soften and degrade the process of parenting.” We do not.

We did not make our decision lightly. Parenting has always been a tremendous challenge. But we believe our son will learn more valuable lessons from a targeted, carefully considered decision to stand up to the status quo than from a timid conformity to a system we believe is deeply flawed.

17 comments:

Tsao Nima said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danny Stein said...

Sounds to me like SOMEONE is afraid to take a test.

This is the PROBLEM with us Americans. If we feel like we will not achieve the level of success we just skip it.

Now EVERY other industrialized country is AHEAD of AMERICA and everyone want to point the finger at Minorities, but look who's afraid to take a test.

PROVE your superiority!!! Take the test.

Shamash said...

We're not afraid of tests.

My kid takes them and does fine.

We just don't sweat it much.

And the school we send our kid to doesn't waste time "teaching to the test", either.

Because the kids do well anyway.

It's not necessary.

Pamela Grundy said...

I find it interesting that the first three comments on this article were about being afraid of tests. Perhaps, in the spirit of the Common Core, these folks would like to cite some evidence from the text that supports those assumptions. If that proves too challenging, I'd be happy to provide a multiple choice question.

jon golden said...

Ok. So your kid doesn't take the test...if promotion is not granted, will you sue for promotion?

Pamela Grundy said...

Jon Golden,

In our son's grade, promotion does not depend on a test score. We don't recommend that anyone refuse the test if not having a score would cause significant consequences for the child involved. For more information about opting out of/refusing tests in North Carolina, check out the "Opting out" section of the MecklenburgACTS.org website.

Wiley Coyote said...

Danny,

The EOGs are pretty much useless.

My son made A's during his years in elementary and middle school, yet never performed well on EOGs.

So how do you look at that scenario?

Was he not being taught the proper curriculum during the year or is he one of many children who do not perform well on standardized tests?

The problem with EOGs is that the classes he was enrolled in the next year were based on those tests.

Every year we would have his classes changed to more challenging ones.

We would rather have our son challenged and make B's and C's than making A's snoozing in class.


Janna said...

Recent research demonstrates that tests are not a good predictor of career and college readiness. In fact, a child's grades are more indicative of success in college than any test score. You all know why- a test shows only how well you take tests.It does not show anything important like if you are willing to work hard, get along well with others, complete various tasks successfully and create new learning. Life is not a test bubble- and I am proud of you for preparing your son for life- not tests.

kantstanzya said...

Contrary to what Janna says standardized tests have and continue to be the single best predictor of success in college.

What is young Parker going to do when he wants to get into medical or law school? Refuse to take LSAT or MCATS? And what will he do when graduates....refuse to take the Med Boards or bar exam? Would you want a doctor, lawyer, accountant etc. who doesn't have to take a test to prove mastery of a subject area?

Life is a test. And schools should absolutely teach to the test. The Wongs represent exactly what is wrong with American schools where our children are near the bottom in proficiency but at the top in how good they feel about themselves. Our schools are increasingly less about rigorous learning and competency and more about feelings and self esteem.

Pamela Grundy said...

No, Janna is right. The best predictor of college success is high school grades, which makes sense since they reflect a broader range of abilities than does the SAT. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/21/a-telling-study-about-act-sat-scores/

Similarly, although life is indeed full of challenges, very few of them involve selecting the "right" answers to a set of predetermined questions.

It's so interesting to see how many people take a specific objection to a specific set of tests and imagine that it means an objection to all testing. Not quite sure what's going on there.

Janna said...

If life is a test, Kant, it is a performance based test not a standardized test. A performance based test assesses if you were successful or not. Not how you rank against others. It is the competition that makes no sense. If I hire someone to do a job I want to know if they can accomplish it successfully, not their rank number compared to people I never meet. Also rigor is silly if it disregards all of the knowledge we have about child psychology and learning. People will work hard if they see the task is relevant and it is within their range to learn (meaning they have the prerequisite skills). But raising standards alone without making the work relevant and making sure people have the skills to be successful just makes a generation of people who fail. We know how to teach, testing and standards are not teaching. All they are is outside regulations getting in the way of education. Education is personal, individualized and cannot be standardized since humans are not standardized. We are all individuals and learn in different ways. Great teachers teach children, not standards. As a person who has been in the schools for over 30 years I do not think you really know what is really happening out there.

Shamash said...

Pam, I'm not saying that YOU FEAR the tests.

Only that WE DON'T. So I don't need to provide your "evidence".

I recognize that the NC EOG's are a different matter from other tests.

I think "local" standardized tests are probably just not well-designed. And some Common Core tests are also poorly written.

But tests like the SAT/ACT (until recently) were fairly decent tests of basic skills needed for most college majors.

And I like nationally normed tests like MAP as a guide to how well my kid is progressing.

And I also think we have to be realistic about WHY we have standardized tests.

And the unfortunate "teaching to the test".

It's simply because classroom grades are totally unbelievable across schools across the nation.

There are no "norms" for an A-F grades or even a 4.0, 5.0, or whatever.

In our school, about HALF the kids end up on the A or A-B Honor Roll.

Statistically, that is just wrong unless you're in Lake Wobegon.

And a kid from Boston with a less than "perfect" GPA probably knows a lot more than a kid from rural Alabama with a "perfect" GPA.

That's why the SAT/ACT was invented in the first place.

So it's really the schools fault for not setting believable grading standards that got into this whole mess to begin with.

There is no way the valedictorian from my rural high school was ready for a top university.

And trusting schools to clean up their act is just NOT going to happen.

So, yes there is some fear about the tests out there.

Because kids are still not learning the basics.

Or these tests would be easy.

Again, kids who do well in schools which also do well don't need to "fear" anything from these tests. And we fall into that category.







Shamash said...

Kantstanzya is also right.

School isn't the last place you are likely to see a test or have people "teaching" and "learning" to the test.

People take tests for all sorts of professional credentials, too.

Just about every "profession" from insurance and banking to law and medicine (and yes, even teaching) requires tests.

Good luck opting out of those.

Shamash said...

And I don't think anyone is claiming that standardized or even written tests are the be-all and end-all of measuring what people know or can do.

Obviously there are "performance" and personality issues which cannot be easily measured by written tests.

Can you act, sing, dance, teach, cook, fix a car or build a house?

Some skills are best demonstrated.

But that's not true of a lot of the basics such as simple math, logic, and reading comprehension.

Those are testable and very useful in academics and work.



Wiley Coyote said...

The bottom line is what involved parents believe is in the best interest of their child.

When my son took the military ASVAB test, he scored much higher on the "language and arts" side of the test than the "technical and mechanical" side.

He wanted to go into linguistics and missed the cutoff on the DLAB by only 5 points. He is waiting for a slot to take it again.

DLAB is a made up language. You can't study for it because the language doesn't exist. Only for the time they give you before the test is taken do you get a feel for what is to come. You have to have a grasp of nouns, verbs adjectives etc.

To sum it up, even though my son didn't know what Ohm's Law was on the test, he can speak and write fluently in Spanish and Japanese having never learned Ohm's Law in school.

Plus, to be able to decipher a language that doesn't exist and do as well as he did the first time around is impressive in my book.

We NEVER allowed CMS to dictate what our child should be learning and and what classes they assigned him to based on test scores.

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