Why testing should matter to us all

By Kristi Pollard

As a representative for bringing business to Grand Junction, I’m always looking for ways to make our region a place for business and industry to thrive. I can’t do that by flying blind. I rely on data to see where we’ve been and to forecast where we’re headed.

In this regard, schools and businesses are identical. Both need reliable data about their performance to adjust strategies and tactics. Continuous improvement is the name of the game.

That’s why it was so distressing to read the recent Sentinel article about School District 51’s ongoing problem with parents opting their children out of state tests. More than a third of our schools had so many opt-outs that they received no performance rating from the state.

While that may sound to some like meaningless bureaucratic jargon, it has real and direct negative impacts on our schools, our district, and our children. Here’s what District 51 Chief Academic Officer Tony Giurado told the Sentinel:

“We want information about how our district is performing on those common indicators so we know how we’re doing, so we can continue to grow and improve. I think this whole situation has made it very challenging to have a sense of where we are as a district and where we need to improve.”

It’s quite simple, really. If we want to know how Mesa 51 schools and students are doing, how they compare to other schools and districts across the state, and how we can improve the education we deliver to our children, we need all of our students to participate in the state assessment.

Some parents are frustrated by what they see as over-testing, and understandably so. In years past, the pendulum swung too far and Colorado was over-testing its kids. But over the past couple of years, Colorado has done a good job of scaling back required state testing.

In 2015, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law two measures that eliminated most high school tests, and significantly reduced social studies tests across the board. It was one of the largest reductions in testing of any state that year.

It’s also important to recognize that as both parents and taxpayers, we want to hold our schools accountable for providing our children with the education they need if they’re to become contributing, productive citizens.

Parents: We can’t have it both ways, pushing for accountability in our schools and against testing.

In fact, we need parents to stand together in holding the line for test-based accountability. There’s a bipartisan bill pending in the Legislature right now that would ensure the ninth-grade assessment is aligned with the 10th-grade assessment (currently the PSAT). Supporting this legislation is the right thing to do for Colorado’s kids.

Let’s be clear. We all want school to be engaging, meaningful, and relevant for our kids. No one wants to see their children spending week after week on standardized tests. But that’s not the current reality in Colorado public schools.

As one district educator told the Sentinel:

“People want accountability, and this is accountability. I hope parents trust us and when they hear why it’s important, they’ll be on the same page.”

As a parent, I believe I know what is best for my children. But I also know their dedicated educators are making every decision with my children’s best interest and brightest future in mind. If they place such value in these test, I trust them and will be opting my children in this spring.

Kristi Pollard is the executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership.


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