Standardized Testing, TCAP, Common Core and Why it All Sucks.

The TCAP standardized tests (aka the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program) have finally wrapped up for the school year.

Have you seen the clip from the Stephen Colbert's Report yet? (You can find it here.) Kind of sums up how I feel about Common Core and the testing procedures. He just doesn't swear as much as I do when I talk about them. Because they are completely &#$*%@* ridiculous.

Essentially, students have to stop learning in about March or earlier, so the teachers can start teaching the test. Curriculum and routines are disrupted so they can concentrate on test preparation. According to the Coalition for a Better Education website, " Roughly one-third of our instructional time is habitually swallowed up by District testing, surveys, and mandates." (http://www.thecbe.org/issues.html) While that may not be an accurate estimate for all schools, it's still a healthy chunk of time each year. Which in itself is concerning; let's stop what we're doing, you know, that whole teaching crap, so we can administer these tests to see where our students compare to everyone else. Because as we all know, kids are exactly the same.

It seems pretty obvious. Why is it so difficult? And then there's the cost...various sources estimate that it costs about $55-70 just to administer the test, per kid (not including preparation time/costs). According to the Colorado Department of Education there were 854,265 kids in our public schools in 2012. Factor in the average 10,000 new students enrolled each year and you have nearly 875,000 students. Think about that for a minute; while I would have failed miserably at the TCAP math tests, even I can figure out how much that equals. On the low end, that comes to nearly $50 million. Imagine all the pencils that would buy.

I have yet to talk to a teacher who is a proponent of these tests. One jokingly mentioned that she has to stumble around when she passes them out, with her eyes closed because the teachers aren't allowed to look at them. And I had to laugh when I saw this:

That's my handsome 4th grader, balancing his pencil during his TCAP test. See that white area? That's where the test was physically cut out of the picture, and then pasted to a plain white piece of paper before it was sent home. So, why? To prevent me from getting out the magnifying glass and selling the information? Maybe that's not such a bad idea...there seems to be a lot of money to be made in this whole testing process.

Wait, officer, please! I swear I wasn't selling the TCAP...it was just cocaine! And guns!

If we put aside the fact that the test is based on the ridiculous assumption that all children learn and test the same, and ignore the amount of money that it takes to administer these tests, there's still the aspect that I take the most issue with; the child's emotional health.Yes, I get it. Tests are supposed to be stressful. Especially for seniors taking the ACTs, or college finals or blood tests or pregnancy tests. You know, for the things that can actually affect your life. Not every kid is academically gifted, nor do all kids test well. The schools hype up the test for so long, telling the kids how important they are, over and over, until even the calmest kid is going to be affected. And how about the kids that already struggle, and/or have anxiety issues? My son came home twice during the first week of testing because he ended up in the nurse's office with severe anxiety attacks. And one day I couldn't have forced him to school, even if I had tried. Which I didn't, because a 10 year old boy should not be crying and throwing up over a test. In fourth grade.

To make it worse, they set up a "carnival" for the students that achieved so many points on their testing. So not only did he have to worry about the test itself, he had to worry that he'd miss the carnival if he didn't earn enough points.  

It's a law that the child has to take the test. A law. We are now free to put marijuana in our cookies, but we are not allowed to make the decision as whether or not our child will take part in these tests? And what happens when we do opt out? This and this, and there are more and more cases being reported where truancy officers have been dispatched to the homes of the children who have opted out.

From the Colorado Department of Education, if a child is out sick or misses a session:
"...they are not allowed to have recess or lunch with their classmates until they have made up the missed sessions."
And  this: 
" Schools may treat parent refusals as unexcused absences and schools are not obligated to provide alternate activities for students whose parents refuse the state assessment."

Because obviously that is the best way to instill confidence and make sure our children are getting the education they need. So, what can we do? Something needs to be done.

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