Time for testing

Published 10:24 pm Monday, November 17, 2014

Suffolk schools, like many across the commonwealth, have found themselves in a Catch-22 situation when it comes to student testing.

The state’s mandated Standards of Learning tests are necessary to gauge student progress, and teachers and the school system, alike, are judged, at least in part, by the performance of their pupils on those tests, so the teachers understandably spend significant time and effort making sure their students know and understand the material that will appear on the standardized tests.

But focusing on performance on the standardized tests means teachers have less time to delve into areas that might be secondary to those tests and less time to spend on remedial work with students who are struggling with the basic concepts. Adding to the frustration they feel over those matters is the fact that the school system requires a significant number of tests to assess students’ level of readiness for the actual standardized tests.

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A group of teachers from Creekside Elementary stated what was on the minds of many, if not most, Suffolk teachers during a School Board meeting in October, when they asked board members for a new approach that would reduce the number of interim tests cutting into valuable instruction time.

School administrators seem to have heard the call and are at least attempting to respond to it. Superintendent Deran Whitney reported earlier this month that administrators have met with several groups of teachers to discuss the concerns raised by the third-grade teachers from Creekside.

“I think one thing we all agree with is our students are being tested too often,” he said, echoing the primary concerns raised by the teachers. “But it’s a matter of maintaining that balance and making sure they are prepared for that (state) assessment.”

Among the suggestions being considered, he said, is a plan whereby students would take shorter local interim tests, building to longer ones as the state standardized testing dates approach. The plan could help avoid wearing students down and preserve vital instructional time.

It’s likely that more than one solution to the problem will be discovered by the time the School Board considers the matter again. That’s what happens when smart people committed to a positive outcome put their heads together and look for a solution.

And that’s the kind of thing that can improve any organization — especially a school system.