An Atlanta parent shared this letter he sent to Atlanta school chief Erroll B. Davis and Deputy Superintendent Karen Waldon expressing concerns over the system’s new Common Assessments, tests designed to gauge mastery of recently taught materials.
First and second graders take nine tests a year; third and fourth graders take 24; fifth graders take 27; sixth graders take 29; seventh graders take 30; eighth graders take 34.
The parent wanted to know what other folks felt about these tests, which he feels divert precious time from instruction.
“Personally, I’m concerned about the volume of tests being put upon our teachers and kids. Maybe I’m wrong, so I’d love your take as well as the opinions of your readers on how they will improve performance by our students and within APS overall,” he said.
Here is the parent’s letter:
Dear APS Superintendent Davis and Deputy Superintendent Waldon,
My son is 10 years old and likes school. He’s a good student – not terrific – but makes As and Bs in all his classes. He loves to read, enjoys school, and pays attention in class. Every Monday, he stays behind, while 18 of his 5th grade classmates go off to Challenge Program for the day.
On Mondays, because his school has a pull-out Challenge Program for gifted students, my son remains in class with 6 others to review material they’ve covered in prior weeks. There’s a good bit of reading (which he loves) and math that they discuss. No new learning is going on for him on Mondays.
Some ask me, and I’m sure you’ve wondered, “Why are you so concerned about these new APS Common Assessments?” It’s because they’re taking even more time away from my kid’s education.
If he takes 20 of these 25 question Scantron tests (10 hours), he loses about two full days of teaching. My son gets four full days of instruction each week (80 percent of a public education). Now, APS has decided to take even more instructional time away from my son with useless assessments?
Already, the scope of these tests has diminished. The “need” for the writing prompt part on the test has been minimized. The 48-hour turn-around of results is non-existent to improve student performance. These tests were pushed for by all four SRT directors and approximately 50 principals, most of whom are no longer in place. Deputy Superintendent Waldon has mentioned this was not her initiative but that she has to assess all programs. My hope is that she will decide if there is a need for testing, it might be done quarterly, and in a manner that is well supported by parents, teachers, and administrators system-wide.
Dr. Hart’s educated opinion of these assessments is that any data is good data. My opinion is that data that serves a goal should be considered the best use of time, money, and energy. Our students and teachers deserve this level of respect and attention. They do not need another useless initiative that gets in the way of improved teaching. This is why I so vehemently oppose their further implementation. What scares me most is that if these “diminished assessments” are allowed to continue this year, that it will be considered approval from the community for reapplying them next year and the next. That would be a huge waste of taxpayer money, employee time, and student energy. In the end, it’s about what moves the students forward in their education, isn’t it?
My job as a parent is to ensure my children are educated. Public schools are an arrow in my quiver of weapons against ignorance. They are not the only arrow, but my job is to make sure my children’s days at school are the best possible. I’ve entrusted my son and daughter to the local schools, and I believe that I should be involved to help schools succeed. These new assessments will not help any child succeed. So I will do what I can to try and rectify the situation. Writing you is one such way.
Please reconsider the Common Assessments currently in place and stop them. If some form of assessments are required, speak honestly with the community about how and why they should be implemented. Gather consensus and support from all stakeholders. Please don’t minimize the impact the four days a week have on my child’s education.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog