California schools’ testing frenzy

English teacher/soccer coach at Orland High who is sick of current public education testing procedure in the state

Sat-9, STAR Test, SAT, PSAT, High School Exit Exam, High School Proficiency Testing—the list seems to never end. Not only that, the list changes every few years as well, and the sheer amount of class time it takes to administer the tests is ridiculous. Our state’s, and our nation’s, obsession with testing is one of the major problems in our educational system today.

Talk to any parent. They can hardly tell which test means what. One year the major test is the STAR, the next year it is Sat-9 (which are the same), and then we have the good old SAT itself. Last year we had the High School Exit Exam (HISEE), now called the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam). I guess the old one sounded too much like a fit.

You may wonder where all these tests come from. The SAT and PSAT come from a company that has marketed itself into a huge moneymaking operation. But for years, the public thought it actually had something to do with public education. The other tests originate at the California Department of Education. That’s where the trouble begins.

One might think the Department of Education is chock full, ha-ha, of ex-teachers who decided, after years in the classroom, to pursue a higher education and really make a teacher’s voice heard at the state level. This is not true at all. At the state level of education you will find most of the decision-making employees are people who have spent little or no actual time in the classroom. Some have received teaching credentials, some have even taught a few years, but many have never taught in public education at all.

Why not? The reason is simple. Being a day-to-day teacher is too demanding for many people. It is much easier for some to receive a doctorate in education, get a job at the state level, and earn a lot more money than a regular teacher while at the same time being in a position to dictate educational policy. I have spoken to state department workers who said they observed in classrooms for two weeks one year! Each believed this really put them in touch with today’s educational arena.

Carry this one step further. It is not just tests the state thinks up for its schools either; it is also curriculum, textbook adoption, educational code, the whole ball of wax. Everything taught in our schools does not originate in the “trenches” from everyday teachers, but rather from individuals divorced from the reality of classroom life. Nearly all of our reforms come from an even more distanced place: politicians.

State Assembly and Senate members sponsor most of our “reform” bills. Although many of these bills lack real understanding of the needs faced in public education, once in a while one comes along that does. AS 2347 is one of them.

Assembly Bill 2347 radically changes the way we presently test. Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg’s bill would help make sense out of the state’s assessment system. It would keep mandated testing away from instruction time, make sure tests reflect state and national standards, prohibit test results from being used to drive school rewards and exempt English language learners who have not shown English proficiency, but still ensure schools live up to state standards.

For any of you who are tired of the present testing situation, now is the time to urge your Assembly and Senate member to support AB2347, which has been introduced to the Assembly Education Committee.