Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I Must Be Missing Something

On the way in to work this morning I saw an article in the Star Ledger about plans to increase the number of tests high school students in New Jersey would need to pass to receive a diploma.  The proposal  unveiled by Governor Christie and acting Education Commissioner Cerf could hold high school students accountable to pass 12 end of the year exams.  The tests are seen as a way to ensure college and career readiness.  I did not have a chance to read through the article, but I gleaned enough from a skim to be skeptical of the proposal and its intended outcomes.

I sort of forgot about the article as other events from the day overshadowed the Governor's proposal.  I was, however, reminded of the Ledger article at dinner.  Towards the end of family dinner, the conversation drifted from the generic question about how school was to a specific inquiry about the NJASK.  I have two third graders and they are scheduled to sit for the NJASK next week.  One of the twins brushed off the series of exams, while the other shared that she was nervous.  We asked why and she responded by saying how important the tests are and that there were a lot of red "X's" on a recent ASK Prep assignment.  It seemed as if her nerves and confidence were conspiring to cause angst for next week's exams.

It was not surprising that of the two who shared concerns.  At times she lacks confidence and it would be safe to say that she is a much better person than student (as a side I'm happy this is the case).  My wife and I spent a few minutes reassuring her that she would do fine and that her best effort was all anyone could ask for.

I just wonder what is the point when a third grader is stressed about an upcoming assessment.  What can be that important about school when you are 8 years old?  I cannot help but think about the conversation at dinner and the idea to "ramp up" high stakes testing in New Jersey. The concept that the sum of all knowledge and competence can be contained in a single event just does not seem right.  I'm concerned that a child such as my own who is kind, considerate, creative, passionate reflective and intelligent is headed for a future based on how you do on a series state generated assessments.  I just hope that before moving forward with the proposal a wider audience is invited in to offer an opinion.  Both as a parent and high school educator I have to question how delivering 12 exams is the answer to any question about education and also, accurately assesses the growth of a child.