There is a growing controversy surrounding standardized tests in public schools throughout the nation. Many students, parents and even teachers claim the tests are a waste of valuable time that could be better spent learning what they need to learn. In many schools, up to a week of class time is spent just preparing students to take the standardized tests, often with questions that have nothing to do with what they are learning in school.
School districts say they need the tests because it impacts their funding and supposedly reflects on how well the school districts are doing their jobs. Here in northern Kentucky, a number of school districts had very poor showing on their standardized tests several years ago and were placed on probation. If they didn’t improve their test scores, they were subject to be taken over by the state.
The pressures of performance on the standardized tests are driving some school administrators to cheat, turn in false scores or in this case, just throw out scores.
Dallas Jackson is Superintendent of the Forest Hills School District in nearby Cincinnati and he has become the focus of a standardized testing scandal. About a month ago, a number of teachers sent a letter to Randy Smith, President of the school board, claiming that Jackson had thrown out numerous test scores.
Among the allegations made against Jackson not only involved him throwing out test scores, but teachers say they have been bullied by Jackson into changing semester grades. They claim Jackson threw out all 100 test scores at the school his son attends because his son failed the test. When the story broke, the local media tried to contact some of the parents of students at the schools, but many of them were afraid to talk for fear that Jackson would retaliate against their children.
The letter sent by the teachers reads:
“The teachers of Turpin High School are very frustrated and enraged about a situation that came about during the first semester exams of the 2014-2015 school year. We would very much like for you to investigate this situation and determine that action is necessary.”
“Exams were given December 17 and 18, graded and posted within a week. Report cards were distributed on Jan. 21. After receiving the report cards 5 weeks after the exam was taken and exam scores were posted, Dr. Jackson saw his son’s grade on the exam and then decided to pull all students exam grades from that course at Turpin High School. He then determined that due to the number of failures on the exam that the exam was invalid. This exam, or a form of this exam, has been given in this particular subject area for the last 8+ years. This year the exam was only 10% of students’ semester average that appears on their transcripts. Dr. Jackson decided that all 100 exams should be thrown out and not counted in the student’s semester average. Dr. Jackson’s son was aware of his father’s actions and told other students at the school that ‘his dad was taking care of it.’ In the end, the two teachers of the subject area felt forced to come up with a solution to the exam ‘problem.’”
“Was Dr. Jackson acting as superintendent when he pulled the scores of this particular subject? Would Dr. Jackson do this for any student? Does Dr. Jackson already randomly pull exam scores from different particular subjects to determine if the exams are valid? Is Dr. Jackson an advocate for all students or just his son? If Dr. Jackson’s son had passed the exam, would Dr. Jackson have pulled all of the scores to compare grades and determine if the exam was valid? If Dr. Jackson was acting as a superintendent, advocating for any student, would the student know about it and be able to tell his friends? Is this the role of the superintendent? Is this ethical?”
“If Dr. Jackson is acting as a parent, can any parent access the grades of other students in the district? Can any parent find out the failure rate for an entire subject’s exams? Can any parent see individual student scores on an exam like he did? Can any parent then take a top down approach to dismiss exam grades for an entire course based on the data they accessed? This seems to be an obvious violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.”
“We, the teachers of Turpin High School, feel so strongly that this is a total abuse of power that we do not want it to be swept under the carpet. We do not want any other teachers, coaches or building administrators in this district to be bullied into changing grades, discipline of students, or members of athletic teams. This situation is out of bounds and is not the only other instance of bullying by our superintendent. We would like you, the Board of Education of the Forest Hills School District, to investigate this situation and show your support for the teachers, staff and building administrators who work so hard day in and out for our students.”
Smith has hired a private investigator to look into the alleged claims. They hope to learn the truth as soon as possible and will take appropriate action as warranted by their findings.
I’ve been arguing against standardized tests and this provides another reason why they should be eliminated. When I was in school, we didn’t take standardized tests, but then teachers were allowed to teach more of the truth and what’s important than today’s public school teachers are allowed to teach.
Far too often, teachers and students will spend up to a week trying to prepare students to take the standardized tests. Then, as in the case above, they will spend 2 or more days of actual testing. In many cases, the material on the standardized tests have little to do with what the students are really learning, which is why the school will waste a week trying to prepare the students. Then the schools are graded on the tests scores, which really have little to do with the actual success of failure of the school’s teaching.
Think about it this way. How many employers would be willing to spend a week training their employees to do something that has little to do with their jobs? Further, how many employers would then like part of their revenue depend upon how well their employees did on the wasted week of training? That’s basically what’s happening with standardized testing in our public schools.
For the most part, standardized testing is counterproductive, a waste of time and taxpayer money and as such should be done away with. Had there been no standardized testing, perhaps Superintendent Jackson would not have been tempted to do what he did just to make his district look better so as not to harm their funding and he would be in the mess he’s in now.