Teachers fret over new standardized tests
The impending arrival of new state standardized tests, the challenges of disruptive students and a lack of resources, and the pressures of teacher accountability for student performance were all topics raised in a more than two-hour informal meeting Saturday morning between District 51 School Board members and citizens.
More than 50 people, mostly teachers, rotated in and out of the meeting in a packed conference room in the back of Main Street Bagels, 559 Main St.
Board members Greg Mikolai, Tom Parrish and Ann Tisue were on hand to ask and answer questions and hear concerns from audience members in the standing-room-only crowd.
Teachers shared various concerns about the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers tests that will replace the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program standardized exams in spring 2015.
The tests will be taken on computers and ask questions in line with newer state curriculum guidelines, but some teachers argued their kids aren’t ready to drop the pen and paper or take on more rigorous standards.
Students are expected to know certain things at particular grade levels for the assessment of readiness tests that are not currently taught, but Orchard Mesa Middle School teacher Mary Meyers said she was told the district does not have the resources to change curriculum to make students better prepared.
Mark Gomez, a teacher at Mount Garfield Middle School, said his students took a practice test and couldn’t even get halfway through the questions because the online format and navigation system was so foreign to them.
“It’s nothing like the kids have ever seen before,” he said.
All of that worries Wingate teacher Christy Anderson, partly because of a new statewide evaluation system this year that judges half of a teacher’s effectiveness score based on individual student growth on testing.
“That’s going to affect my family if my kids don’t pass the test,” Anderson said.
Concerns were also raised about teachers having the flexibility to teach students basic concepts when new regulations require certain concepts be learned in certain grades without a natural bridge between them, a perception that accountability rests on teachers more than parents or students, and an insufficient amount of time with half-day kindergarten students.
Several in attendance praised recent school board discussions about strengthening student discipline efforts and changing the cut-off date for entering kindergartners to turn 5.
Board President Greg Mikolai said Saturday’s meeting was informative and will become the first in what he hopes are monthly coffee meetings with the community.
“(The meetings will be) open to everyone. This isn’t about meeting with one group of people, it’s about meeting with the community,” he said.