Education

Want to have a say in state testing reform? Take the survey.

High-stakes test reduction in North Carolina is one area Superintendent Mark Johnson and his critics have found common ground.

Still, Johnson is being peppered with criticism about the value and professionalism of a survey he has asked parents, teachers, administrators and the general public to take. The survey is designed to give stakeholders an opportunity to share thoughts about changes they’d like to see made to the state’s testing program.

Suzanne Parker Miller, a community organizer for N.C. Families For School Testing Reform, said the survey is flawed.

“My biggest problem with it, besides that its not professional work, is that it [the survey] automatically assumes there will be more online, tablet and computer testing, which is problematic because that is not the best testing method out there,” Miller said.

She noted that at least one question appears to be missing a word, which makes it difficult to interpret and answer.

“There’s one question that doesn’t read right,” Miller said. “I had to leave it blank because I couldn’t understand what they were asking. It’s just not professional.”

Here is the question Miller referenced:

Despite her concerns about the survey, Miller said she encourages everyone to answer the one question that gives respondents an opportunity to comment.

“Absolutely take it, absolutely respond and give honest feedback,” Miller said.

The survey asks slightly different questions depending on whether the respondent identifies as a parent, teacher, administrator or member of the general public.

Miller said she took the survey for parents and was forced to leave many of the questions blank because she couldn’t answer them.

Meanwhile, Johnson had this to say about the survey in a mass email:

“We want your input for the creation of this new program. Too often in education, leaders don’t ask teachers what they think before designing new education initiatives. Not for this program.

We are designing this from the classroom up, not the state bureaucracy down.

Our accountability professionals created this survey so that we can get your guidance. Your answers will drive their work to take full advantage of our opportunity to completely transform our system of testing. Your responses are anonymous.”

North Carolina has made advances this year in reducing the number of standardized tests students must take.

Over the summer, North Carolina became one of four states the federal government gave permission to change the way it tests reading and math skills of elementary and middle-school students.

And Gov. Roy Cooper announced signed into law the “Testing Reduction Act of 2019,” which will reduce the number of state and local standardized tests students take and eliminate the N.C. Final Exams starting in the 2020-21 school year.

Such testing, the argument goes, has not improved student achievement, is an unreliable measure of students’ performance and is a waste of valuable instructional time.

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