Standardized Testing

Greetings, District 96 voters. 

I’ve had a busy week. I met with teachers, and attended back-to-school events around Hickory, and, of course, knocked on doors to talk with voters. As for the back-to-school events, I had a great time at the Highland Rec Center Back-to-School Bash and the turnout for St. Luke’s Methodist Church event drew families from across the region.

It’s great to see so many people from the community stepping up to make sure that our kids have the tools they need to start the school year ready to learn. It's frustrating, though, that so many students must rely on – and hope for private charity – when our state legislature should instead of fully funding public education.

That, of course, is why I want to represent District 96 in Raleigh.

But on to this week’s topic: the outsized role that standardized tests play in determining everything from school funding to student placement.

Recently one teacher told me that JUST ten days into 3rd grade, students start a series of tests that are three hours of sitting still and answering hundreds of questions. At age 8, what is the purpose of this? What are we measuring? Probably not skill and comprehension. 

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from parents and teachers alike with Common Core is the testing.

While the goal is to have our children be proficient, the way we get to proficiency is addressing individual student needs, and being responsive to each student's learning style. Testing can ensure one important result: that we will be teaching to the test. This is not how we teach our children to be curious, to think critically, to solve problems, and to gain confidence in their abilities.

The pressure on students to perform on these tests is overwhelming. They hear repeatedly that their test results will determine their academic trajectory. This starts when they are barely able to hold a number 2 pencil.

Some school districts award teachers of certain grade levels and subjects bonuses based on the students’ scores. Administrators know full well that their school’s funding depends on the students’ test performance. None of this focuses on the needs and best interests of the child.

Teachers used to use a system that took into account a student’s classwork samples, teacher-generated test grades, and in-class observable growth. Children would be held back if they hadn’t learned enough to advance to the next grade. Now, many students are promoted but still have to keep taking the tests from the lower grade before they can start taking the tests from their current grade. More stress, more tests, and more pressure put on the child in an effort to maintain funding and performance.

The bottom line: standardized tests do a poor job determining what a student knows and understands, and more importantly, how much they’ve grown. While a measure of proficiency is warranted, the emphasis should be on growth. We need to trust our teachers. Teachers tell me time and again that they love teaching. They are frustrated by the bureaucracy that comes between them and their students. We need to trust teachers more. They know when their students are learning.

Thanks so much for being here. Follow me on Social media and check out my website. We are building our base of volunteers as we look toward the November election. I'd love to have you on my team! 

To make real change, please vote for me on November 6th, Kim Bost for NC House District 96.

Kim Bost