Over the past several years, one topic in the K-12 discussion has seen bipartisan consensus: the overuse of standardized tests.
Nevada Spends $16 million from the General Fund on state testing, and districts spend a significant amount of staff time and resources on administering these tests. That money would be better used for classroom instruction or to safely reopen our schools.
Not only is there an associated cost, but NSEA is concerned that the policy on student assessments, teacher evaluations, and school star ratings will compromise recommendations in the guidelines for a safe reopening and operation of schools.
These mechanisms have failed to foster the improvements in either achievement, or student engagement they were intended to deliver.
With a continued reliance on these old schemes, students and educators will have counter-incentives to come to school when sick; to teach to tests instead of teaching and reinforcing health and safety; and to maximize numbers and time in classrooms, even when that may be outside of the guidelines.
Given the situtaion with COVID-19, NSEA recently sent a letter (below) to the Superintendent of Public Instruction Ebert requesting that the Department of Education cancel statewide assessments for all Nevada students. This includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment for Grades 3-8, Science Assessments for Grades 5, 8, and 11, the spring Measures of Academic Progress assessments for Grades K-3, and End of Course Examinations for Grades 7-12.
Accountability - A Shared Responsibility
Schools, teachers, and students should all be held to high standards, and NSEA believes that accountability should be shared by schools, education employees, policymakers, and parents - with the ultimate goal of helping every student succeed.
Taxpayers and parents have a right to know that their money is being spent appropriately and that schools are doing their job. However, expectations for student achievement must be in line with the investments that states and communities make in public education. Calls for raising student performance must be accompanied by additional resources for up-to-date textbooks, quality teachers, and smaller class sizes.
In addition, any discussion of accountability must take into account how well state standards and expectations are aligned with - that is, consistent with - curriculum, instructional materials, and classroom practices. After all, it's not reasonable to hold students accountable for lessons they have not been taught.
Finally, NSEA believes that all schools that receive public money -- including charter schools and private schools receiving vouchers -- should be held accountable to the taxpayers and communities they serve.
Standardized Tests - Only One Piece of the Puzzle
In recent years, states have increasingly relied on standardized test scores as the most important and in some cases only measure of whether or not schools are meeting expectations. NSEA does not believe that standardized test scores should be the only factor in determining progress in student learning.
- At best, standardized tests can measure only certain kinds of student learning -- and can't give a complete picture of what an individual child needs.
- Comparing standardized test scores across schools, districts and states doesn't take into account important differences in school funding or parent and community support to help students succeed.
NSEA believes that standardized testing should be only one component of accountability. A good accountability system uses multiple measures to determine progress:
- For teachers, evaluations are a more rigorous and thorough accountability system than standardized test scores.
- For students, the assessment also should take into account classroom assignments, grades, scores on teacher-developed tests and other performance measures.
- For schools, assessments should take into account graduation rates, progress on standardized tests (as opposed to just raw test scores), and other measures.
Standardized tests should be used to guide instruction by helping identify gaps in learning and groups of students who need the most help. But test scores alone should never be used to punish students, teachers or schools by cutting funding, closing schools or firing teachers.