Thursday, March 31, 2011

North Carolina Parents Lead Resistance Against New Tests

Parents with children in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) District are fighting mad over the sudden announcement of 52 new tests to be rolled out next week. The purpose of these tests is to measure teacher effectiveness. Parents want the school district to find other ways to evaluate staff that does not require excessive testing on their children. Parents are requesting to be pulled out of the testing. The school board will not permit opting-out; however, parents are saying they keep their kids home if they have to.

While North Carolina legislators attempt to reduce the level of required testing, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District announced it will trial 52 new tests. The school district has paid $1.9 million to design new year-end tests in reading, math, science, and social studies for grades K-8 and end-of-course exams for all high school classes. Kindergarten through second grade students will be tested one-on-one in four subjects - reading, math, science, and social studies. The test lasts one hour; for a class of 22 students, that is 44 hours of time spent on testing. An adult reads the question and the student replies or circles an answer. There must be another adult present during the testing to ensure teachers do not cheat. Schools are asking parents to volunteer to cover classroom instruction while the teacher conducts the testing.

While the CMS school district faces a shortfall of $100 million, anticipates layoffs of 560 school personnel including 400 teachers, and the closing of 10 schools, it used $1.9 million from its 09-10 budget for test development and projects ongoing costs of $300,000. CMS Superintendent explained that this testing initiative prepared for the new national exams being prepared by the federal government. National exams? That piece of information is creeping out.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a "big fan" of CMS Superintendent Gorman. Duncan said that like CMS, the vast majority of school districts across the nation are being forced to do more with less.
“These are just tough times… There are no easy answers. That’s reality, and it’s not going to change anytime soon. We can either cry about it or we can figure out how to use every single dollar wisely and how we can create innovative partnerships and bring in the philanthropic community, the business community, and how we engage parents in different ways,” he said.

If there are even more new tests coming down the pike, how is this test development and example of using money wisely under such budgetary constriction?

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