The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
“Whatever valuable information testing mandates provided have been completely overshadowed by the enormous collateral damage inflicted on too many students. Our schools have been reduced to mere test prep factories and we are too-often ignoring student learning and opportunity in America.”- NEA President Dennis Van Roekel
The National Education Association recently hosted the Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly (RA) Conference in Denver, CO. The RA is the primary legislative and policymaking body of the association. The NEA members, reaching nearly 9,000 delegates, voted to launch a Toxic Testing Campaign to bring the focus back to supporting students learning. These delegates, most of whom are teachers themselves, are not against testing to understand student comprehension, but rather the excessive need to test of local, state, national and district levels to evaluate a school or teacher. Many times these tests are not as beneficial to the students as the financial gain for the school.
On average, a month’s worth of school is being spent on testing. This is about 1/3 of school time being used to prepare, give and review standardized tests. Unfortunately, it is significantly more difficult to pass legislation on testing than on other facets of education reform. The issues surrounding testing surpass the excessive time used on testing and move into issues of student capability. Part of why these tests are toxic, in terms of mandates, is because they can lack nuance. Students within the same grade but different learning levels are faced with being challenged at a different level than they are accurately capable. As a result, the National Education Association is making an effort to restructure the No Child Left Behind Act to eliminate some of the toxic testing and return to a public school education that genuinely focuses on the needs of the students.
In a resolution adopted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, we are reminded that “The Reform Jewish movement has developed very strong policy supporting the maintenance and enhancement of the public schools and opposing any schemes to divert resources from them”. There is strong support of the education system in the United States. We must provide students with a safe, nurturing environment for them to learn. The first step to creating a strong, connected community is ensuring that every student, no matter their socio-economic status, have access to an education that provides them the best opportunity. This will ensure a strong sense of community and continual growth in and out of the classroom.
What is the purpose of education? And how do we teach creativity? These questions should remain at the core of our education system. Some forms of testing do not provide the younger generation with the tools to effectively learn material and creatively problem solve and, therefore, should not have such high stakes in the progression of students’ lives. The ultimate goal should be to implement policy and education reforms that will increase the quality of education to ensure that K-12 students are being given their best chance.
Lauren Offermann is a rising junior at Brandeis University. She is an Education Studies major and French and Judaic Studies minor. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Lauren grew up attending Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. As a Machon Kaplan participant, Lauren is interning at the National Education Association this summer.