On October 20, PBS NewsHour aired a segment by Gwen Ifill that profiled Seattle teacher Jesse Hagopian, who is leading a boycott of the Smarter Balanced tests that are aligned with the Common Core in Washington state. Unfortunately, her reporting left out some important details that allowed Mr. Hagopian’s claims to potentially mislead viewers.
Jesse Hagopian: Studies have shown that kids will take some 113 standardized tests now in their K-12 career. It’s just become completely over the top. It’s become a multibillion-dollar industry to sell exams to children in order to rank and sort them. And it’s become really a test-and-punish model.
Gwen Ifill: The tests are part of the Common Core standards adopted by 24 states and the District of Columbia to improve student achievement and teacher performance.
FACT: The tests Mr. Hagopian is urging parents and students to opt out of represent one English and Language Arts and one math end of year test in grades 3-8 and in grade 11, which amounts to 14 tests—not 113.
FACT: Smarter Balanced tests aligned with the Common Core replaced outdated Measurements of Student Progress tests.
Ifill failed to point out that these new “Common Core” tests—or Smarter Balanced, in the case of Washington state—actually replaced and did not add to the outdated, fill-in-the-bubble Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) tests. Smarter Balanced tests do a much better job of measuring critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills than the previous model.
It is also worth noting that these new tests did not increase the amount of standardized testing Washington students were required to take. In fact they are designed to make testing better, fairer, and fewer.
FACT: Tests are used to support teaching and learning, not “test and punish.”
The Smarter Balanced tests in Washington are not used to “test and punish” as Mr. Hagopian claims, but are part of a system of multiple measures to identify schools that are struggling to make progress for students, and to target supports where they are most needed.
This system is not based on a single test score, but includes student performance in reading, math, writing and science; student growth in reading and math; and career and college readiness measures including graduation rates and students earning dual credits.
FACT: Standardized tests take up less than 2 percent of class time.
Smarter Balanced tests are part of the required summative tests given every year in English and math. Students spend, on average, 1.6 percent of instructional time or less taking these tests. Additional tests may be required by some states and school districts, which in too many cases can be burdensome and unnecessary, but are not part of the Smarter Balanced tests that Mr. Hagopian is asking students to boycott.
Jesse Hagopian: Never before have there been more parents, students, and teachers resisting these exams and the standards that they come shrink-wrapped with, and it’s been breathtaking to watch.
FACT: Parents support yearly tests to ensure their children are receiving a quality education.
According to a recent poll commissioned by Education Next, 67 percent of people said they support testing students annually in reading and math, with 21 percent opposing it and the remaining 12 percent of respondents being neutral. Two-thirds of the parents polled support tests.
Also according to PDK Gallup, 57 percent of the public believe that tests are “very” or “somewhat important” in measuring school effectiveness, and 67 percent say that using tests to measure what students have learned is “very” or “somewhat important” for improving public schools.