The latest session of the Colorado legislature gave me some moments of pause.
I am a fifth-grade classroom teacher in northeastern Colorado and an active advocate in state and national efforts to implement high-quality standards and assessments. For the past three and a half years, I have been a part of reforming our public school system.
I can appreciate the lens through which bills were considered this session. It’s understandable that students, teachers and parents are worried about the amount of time spent testing students. As a result of the compromises made in the Colorado legislature, the reduction and streamlining of testing demonstrates a better understanding that assessment is not, in and of itself, a bad thing.
High-quality assessments can provide rich information about how students are performing on college- and career-readiness standards. It’s the deluge of other unnecessary and redundant testing that is of greater concern. The legislature seemed to find a reasonable balance in testing requirements.
With this in mind, I urge caution in throwing out the good with the bad.
We simply can’t stick with what we have always done. America must innovate with our students to make sure they’re ready for the global marketplace that awaits them.
Education is the path to a better future for our state’s children. Our students need clear guidelines, expectations and paths leading them consistently and reliably toward what lies ahead. The Colorado Academic Standards, which build off of the Common Core State Standards, are clear, concise and provide direct alignment to the skills and knowledge our students need to be successful after high school.
To toss these academic standards would be a waste of valuable time and resources. Most important, it would hurt teachers and students in all schools across the state. We must give our talented and committed educators the time to learn and implement the standards. This doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that requires practice and revision, but it’s one that is truly worth it.
High-quality assessments ensure that we are not wasting students’ time, but instead that they are taking a test that is worthwhile and provides them, and us, with the right kind of information to support ongoing growth, learning and success both in and out of the classroom.
Our students of today will be our leaders in the future. We have a responsibility to give them honest, objective and accurate feedback about how they are progressing. From this information, we teachers gain valuable insight into the deeper needs of our students and can then plan the necessary lessons to support them as they acquire new and important knowledge and skills.
Prior to the adoption of the Colorado Academic Standards, kids were often taught using low-level worksheets and simplistic texts. We’d then follow that up with poor-quality, low-bar tests. This process resulted in an educational system that did not keep pace with the world around us.
Now, educators have come together to write quality standards and tests that result in exciting changes to our instruction and practice. We have standards that provide opportunities to challenge students to think and solve problems. We have college- and career-readiness tests that actually measure those same important skills.
Let’s make sure that we commit to improving the quality of our schools through careful consideration and compromise that keep the interests of our students first. When we ask students to take risks, we don’t want them to give up, so why should the adults who educate them have that option?
We need to stay the course with the standards and assessments that qualified educators worked together to create for our kids, and we need to embrace the reality that learning and growing sometimes require tough challenges.