Opinion | Susan Knopf: Suspend state testing | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: Suspend state testing

“A lot of kids are struggling right now,” said Amy Perchik, a Summit County mom.

Teachers would like to lessen the struggle by eliminating standardized testing this school year. One teacher told me Summit Middle School already has issued a memo to block out testing days.

Down at the state Legislature, House Bill 21-1161 will be in committee Friday, March 5, so some of those blocked out days can be transformed into learning days. The bill has bipartisan support.

One of four bill sponsors, Arvada/Westminster Sen. Rachel Zenzinger announced on her Facebook page, “While we felt suspending (Colorado Measures of Academic Success) in its entirety was in the best interest of students and families, we believe this new proposal has the best chance of meeting the federal government’s requirements. The new bill significantly reduces the number of tests and maximizes approved flexibility measures.”

According to Chalkbeat Colorado, “Any changes will ultimately require federal waivers as well as legislative action or an executive order from Gov. Jared Polis.” No waivers = no federal education dollars.

Locals are more concerned about the value of testing.

For the record, not a single educator nor mom I spoke with favors standardized tests on a good day. These aren’t good days.

One local mom, who is home schooling this year, said testing is a stressful situation especially in the elementary years.

Perchik asked, how can you expect kids to perform while they’re stressed out and breathing through masks?

Amanda Thompson, a local with 14 years of experience in Colorado public education told me, “The tests aren’t designed to show what kids know. The tests don’t match up with the curriculum.” Thompson has two master’s degrees in education, and she was a test administrator for a district with 64 schools.

The Colorado Education Association says 63% of Coloradans want fewer standardized tests. The professional organization estimates as much as 30% of classroom time is spent prepping for and taking tests. Their research shows eight of 10 voters think that should be no more than zero to 20% of classroom time.

A former local administrator told me that next school year will be all over the map. There will be kids who flourished and kids who didn’t progress during the pandemic, with online classes and hybrid learning environments.

Thompson said, “There are a lot of (teachers) who get paid more for results. How are you going to measure that in a pandemic, when a lot of the kids are being schooled outside the building?”

Several districts in the state pay teachers based on student test scores. So testing isn’t just stressful for kids, it’s stressful for teachers who are being graded on how kids managed to learn in a pandemic.

Kelly Brady is a teacher with 10 years of experience. She is campaigning to pass HB21-1161. Her third grade class has been in-person four days per week. She says she and her class are “lucky.” Still, she has observed “regression academically … socially (and) emotionally … over the past year.”

Thompson, Brady and all the moms concurred. Teachers know how their students are doing and don’t need standardized tests to tell them what they already know.

Brady wrote in an email, “We are data-collecting machines at the local level and know very well where the students are standing. Each day the students will spend on the CMA … will take away from the precious and limited class time we have this year.”

Thompson called the standardized testing “bogus.” Perchik called it “foolish.”

The Denver Post reported CMAS was canceled last year. The last year for which you can find testing results on the Colorado Department of Education website is 2019. Some would argue the CMAS test is an important, valuable, diagnostic tool. No one I spoke with would agree.

Contact our Rep. Julie McCluskie, julie.mccluskie.house@state.co.us or 303-866-2952, and Gov. Jared Polis, governorpolis@state.co.us or 303-866-2885, and urge them to support reduced CMAS testing this year.

Brady wrote, “I think we need to ask ourselves what are the most important actions we need to take for the mental and academic health of our students and question critically whether the CMAS should be at the top of the list.”

The home schooling mom said she hopes the state will give each and every child some grace.

Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf lives in Silverthorne. She is a certified ski instructor and an award-winning journalist. Contact her at sdnknopf@gmail.com.

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