Education

Imagine children thinking they’re ‘dumb’ because they performed poorly on standardized tests. One teacher said it happened at her school.

Meredith Pinckney, a Wake County middle school teacher, said excessive testing harms students.

“I’m dumb, I’m dumb, I’m dumb.”

That’s how Wake County teacher Meredith Pinckney said some students reacted after learning they’d performed poorly on end-of-grade tests last year.

“I teach at a school that is low-performing, and last year was my first year there, and we got our test scores and we gave them to our students, it was the worst day of my teaching career,” Pinckney said. “We had students standing in the hallway sobbing because they’d gotten 1s and they felt like they were inadequate.”

Pinckney was one of several dozen teachers who attended a “community conversation” Saturday to discuss the impact excessive testing has on students and teachers.

She spoke candidly with N.C. Policy Watch about how some students reacted last year after receiving their scores on state end-of-grade tests.

“They kept saying I’m dumb, I’m dumb, I’m dumb,” Pinckney said. “I told them you’re not dumb because you did bad on a standardized test, you just did bad on a standardized test.”

In North Carolina, scoring Level 1 on end-of-grade tests shows a student has limited command of the subject area, while a Level 2 shows partial command. Levels 3, 4 and 5 show sufficient, solid and superior command of subjects respectively.

Pinckney teaches middle school agriculture and biotechnology, an elective, so students don’t take end-of-grade tests in the subjects she teaches.

But as a test administrator, she sees first-hand how standardized tests impact students and teachers.

“In the weeks leading up to the testing, you feel the tension in the building just rising and rising and rising, then it’s finally test day and we do that and it’s over and you would think we’d feel better, but then we get test scores,” Pinckney said.

Teachers from across the state attended a community conversation to discuss the impact excessive testing has on teachers and students.

Dane West, a middle schools social studies teacher from Lee County also attended the community conversation on excessive testing.

West said testing “weighs” heavily on students.

“It shows up in how the view school,” West said. “They’ve been told since they were very young that testing was important and that in order to succeed they have to pass the test.”

Both Pinckney and West are realist when it comes to testing. They acknowledge that some testing is needed, but agree steps can be taken to streamline it and to reduce student and teacher anxiety.

“We can remove some of the pressure and some of the consequences that go along with it,” West said. “Make it less stressful, not like it’s determining the rest of your life.”

He said students’ mental health is harmed by the pressure of excessive testing.

“I know the mental health of my students is more important than the numbers that they get on those tests, and right now it’s affecting their mental health,” West said.

Pinckney said there is “value” in testing students, but the state’s needs to rethink how it’s done.

“I would like to see our testing cut down to a minimum,” Pinckney said. “It’s just too much. The tests are too long and they’re written in a way that many of my students are having a hard time even comprehending what the questions are even asking.”

The community conversation was hosted by N.C. Families for School Testing Reform (NCFSTR), Save our Schools NC and Jen Mangrum, a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Noted educational policy analyst Diane Ravitch weighed in via Skype.

Ravitch said federal and state leaders have given too much weight to standardized tests. She said such tests are often flawed and shouldn’t be used to measure student and teacher success.

“The appropriate use of testing is diagnostic,” Ravitch said. “Tests today have no diagnostic value whatsoever, so standardized testing is being totally misused to judge everybody for accountability purposes and it’s not supposed to be used that way.”

Jen Mangrum, (Left) a UNC-Greensboro education professor who is running for State Superintendent, chats with State Sen. Floyd McKissick (Right), a Democrat who represents Durham, during Saturday’s community conversation.

In North Carolina, State Superintendent Mark Johnson has announced new initiatives to reduce the amount of testing currently required of students in North Carolina’s public schools.

Johnson has pledged to reduce the number of questions on tests, reduce the time students must sit for tests, change testing policies to reduce the stress at schools, work with local leaders to reduce the number of locally required tests and push to eliminate tests not required by the federal government.

A survey about testing conducted by Johnson’s office found that 78 percent of the roughly 42,000 parents who responded said their child takes too many tests. Seventy-six percent of teachers who responded said North Carolina’s public school students were being tested too much.

And the State Board of Education is weighing the elimination of the state’s fourth grade exams in science and social studies and the fifth-grade exam in social studies as way to reduce the amount of testing in North Carolina Schools.

Commentary

Is this the dumbest statement yet about the National Anthem controversy at ECU?

McCrory_budget305-aThere have been a lot of ridiculous and irresponsible (and even dangerous) responses to the peaceful protest undertaken by some members of the East Carolina University marching band during the playing of the National Anthem at a recent football game. As a story in Raleigh’s News & Observer highlighted once more yesterday, the bizarre claims of an ECU professor that the protest somehow provides her with license to carry a loaded firearm onto the university campus is high on the list.

Today’s winner, however, in the competition for lamest and most illogical statement has to go to Gov. Pat McCrory for his laugh-out-loud observation in the same story that “I believe it’s extremely inappropriate for ECU protesters to kneel during the National Anthem. Politics should be kept out of sports.” (Emphasis supplied.)

Really? Politics should be kept out of sports?

Uh, excuse us Governor, but have you ever been to a big time sporting event? Even if one sets aside the fact that the very playing of the Anthem to begin with is an inherently political act, it’s almost impossible to go to one without being bombarded by politics.

This is especially true at NASCAR races where conservative politicians are regularly given access to the microphone to address the crowd. After that, the events are almost invariably kicked off with an explicitly Christian (and conservative) prayer, followed by various military displays — a flyover or parachute landing or something similar. Many of the cars on the track contain political messages and ads. The big Memorial Day race at Charlotte Motor Speedway each year is frequently an extended commercial for the military and hawkish foreign policy. Similar scenes are also a regular feature at big-time football games.

But heck, we don’t have to tell the Governor this. During his time in politics he’s appeared at countless sporting events to “throw out the first pitch,” play in a golf tournament pro-am or otherwise show his mug in an effort to garner a little free publicity for himself and his agenda. A quick Google search produces dozens of images of the Guv out there keeping politics out of sports at various events.

The bottom line: If protesting ECU band members have any doubts about the appropriateness of their actions, they need look no further than to the actions — if not the words — of their very own governor for confirmation that their protests are completely appropriate.

Commentary

Rand Paul disagrees with NC GOP leaders on voter suppression; calls it a “dumb idea”

Sen. Rand Paul - Photo: Facebook

Sen. Rand Paul – Photo: Facebook

North Carolina’s Governor and state legislative leaders have indicated that they will appeal today’s Fourth Circuit ruling that enjoined two key voter suppression provisions that they helped enact in the 2013 “monster voting law.” Interestingly, however, this position runs directly contrary to several strong statements by one of the nation’s most prominent GOP presidential contenders, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

As MSNBC reported yesterday:

Backed by the Supreme Court, Republicans are looking to crack down on early voting. But one of the party’s potential 2016 front-runners doesn’t sound like he’s on board.

“I think it’s a dumb idea to spend a lot of time on Republicans trying to change early voting,” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told the Associated Press in an interview published Tuesday. “My position is I want more people to vote, not less.” Read more

Uncategorized

Gov. McCrory, Rep. Wells and Rep. McElraft vie for dumbest quote of weekend

It was a banner weekend for dumb quotes from North Carolina political leaders.  It’s hard to pick the worst one but here are the nominees.

1) Governor Pat McCrory.  McCrory appeared at the Maine Republican Party Convention this weekend where he shared a lobster lunch with Governor Paul LePage and praised him with this declaration.

Other governors throughout the United States so much respect him because he says what needs to be said.

LePage is a Tea Party governor who has repeatedly made headlines with a series of offensive statements like comparing the IRS to the Gestapo and the Holocaust, charging that a Democratic state Senator “claims to be for the people but he’s the first one to give it to the people without Vaseline,” and saying that President Obama hates white people.

Politico called him America’s craziest governor, detailing many his outrageous statements and decisions. (If you want to read more lunacy from LePage, check out the list of LePage quotes the Bangor Daily News put together last summer.) Read more

Uncategorized

Three Dumb Things that Happen if NC Rejects Obamacare’s Medicaid and Health Exchange

Bills filed in the NC Senate and House today (See SB4) declare that NC must reject federal grant money to set up a Obamacare health exchange and that NC should not expand Medicaid that is 100% paid for by the federal government over the next three years under Obamacare (and 93% thereafter).  There are plenty of consequences here for NC, but here are three main ones:

1.  NC will have to return most of the $74 million federal grant it just got to help set up the exchange.  The majority of this money is to be for modernizing the state computer systems under Medicaid.

2.  Only legal immigrants under 138% federal poverty level will be able to get help with health care costs while 500,000 of NC’s citizens under 138% federal poverty level will be barred from getting affordable health care under Medicaid. Read more