Minnesota Testing: Where is the Accountability?

    • Minnesotans are becoming more concerned about the amount of tests their children must complete.   Some parents like Sandi, whose child attends a Stillwater Public Schools charter, is so concerned she wanted to opt her daughter out of one of the many tests.   She relates her story below.

      Many of the so-called high-stakes tests, field tests and surveys are not connected in any way to what the child is learning in class.  Not only do the tests not measure learning in the classroom but teachers and principals do not know what is on these tests!  In fact, teachers and principals are not allowed to look at the tests.  Test results many times arrive well after the results could be put to good use.

      Test results are data mined in at least three ways:  academically, psychologically and for labor statistics.  The Educational Testing Service (ETS) writes most of the assessments for the tests.  The tests are then behaviorally and psychologically data mined through the organization, American Institutes of Research (AIR) , before being sent to the federal government database.  The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) and Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) house our children’s (and family’s) data through the US Department of Education as well as the Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI), through the Department of Labor.

      Many tests, like the MAPs and MCAs, are Computer Adaptive Tests (CAT).  This simply means that the computer adapts questions based on student answers.  Today’s students are saddled with numerous standardized tests every year, as well as school imposed tests purchased from outside vendors.  lastly, students take the in-class tests usually held on Fridays.  And again, teachers and principals do not know what is on these standardized and school-purchased tests nor are they allowed to ask.

      According the Minnesota Department of Education, notification for all state-wide testing as well as school district-wide testing must be available for parents on the their district website.   Lack of proper notification is where many parents are running into problems when wanting to opt their children out of tests.  Last week, one parent notified us that their children were being given mental health exams without any notification.

      Why are local “independent” school districts requiring so much in the way of testing and surveys?  In many ways, they have lost local control and are required to test via the Race to the Top grant and No Child Left Behind waivers. And of course, there is money to be made.   But don’t take our word for it, visit your local school and ask to see one of the computerized tests!

      Here is this Stillwater mother’s story!

      “I’m currently at odds with my daughter’s school. She was given a standardized test, as were all her classmates, without any parent notification of such. I understand this is probably a  pretty common practice but had I intended to opt her out and was not given the head’s up.

      Upon questioning the school, I found out it is not their policy to tell parents of the upcoming testing (Scantron Performance Series) nor the results. They do not intend to change this.

      I informed them I would be opting out of the spring version of this test (twice a year!!) and was told that would require a team meeting. I politely reminded her I did not need a team to make a parental decision. She insisted I needed to come in for a meeting in order to opt out. I let her know that wouldn’t be happening.

      I asked to see the test my daughter took and her answers (not her “scores”).
      I was told no.
      I was told they can’t.
      I was told they don’t have it.
      I was told they’ve never seen it themselves.
      I was told it’s out of their hands.
      When I asked about the law that prevents me from seeing my daughter’s educational material, I was told they would look into accessing the test for me. And… Crickets.
      Nothing. I cannot get a response, I cannot get a contact number of who to reach out for this. I cannot get anything.
      I received her “scores” (but no other parent has since they’re not aware) but do I really, as a parent, have NO option to preview this test?
      If I do have legal rights to such, can you direct me to the specifics that say so in order to empower me for the next encounter with this test loving, score bragging, kid soul sucking, parent lying, answer avoiding, information blocking, smoke blowing administration I’m dealing with?
      This might be something all MACC parents want to know?
      Thank you so much.”

      Principals and teachers ought to have access to the tests they are giving our children.  Considering the organizations funding and partnering with the ETS and AIR, we must call upon our school districts to show transparency in testing, curriculum, principal and teacher evaluations (as tied to Common Core), and how Common Core Standards are playing out in Minnesota.   It is high time for our schools to be accountable to parents and children!

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