With testing season once again upon us, I wanted to share why I have decided that my eighth-grade son will not take any of his SOL tests this year.
I don’t take this decision lightly, as it could impact his teachers and school.
My son most likely would have passed all his SOLs. However, the state of Virginia will record my “refusal” of his SOL testing as though he failed the tests, which makes no sense but seems designed to discourage parents from opting-out their students.
Since the SOL tests are required for high school graduation, this is my last chance to take a stand.
As a parent I never liked SOL testing, but didn’t realize just how detrimental it is to our children’s education. However, since switching careers and becoming a teacher, I have now seen firsthand how standardized testing is destroying the public education experience for many students.
My reasons for refusing to have my son take the SOLs:
• There are too many tests. Did you know that in Virginia students take 34 standardized tests before they graduate? (Actually, we’ve had a small victory, as this number recently was reduced by the Virginia Department of Education — let’s hope this is a step in the right direction.) Starting in third grade, school often becomes a monotony of test prep, monthly or quarterly benchmark assessments, and computerized testing sessions.
• You can’t measure an entire year’s learning with just one test. We should be using multiple assessments throughout the year to judge a student’s mastery of a subject. Collecting materials in a portfolio for each student would be a much better display of their learning growth throughout the year, rather than relying on one single test. Just think of all the factors that could cause a student to “fail” the SOL, even if all year long they have shown mastery of the content material. What if they don’t feel well? Didn’t eat a good breakfast? Had a fight with their mom, dad or sibling right before coming to school? Didn’t get a good night’s sleep because they share a bed (yes, a bed, not a bedroom — there are students in this situation) with one or two of their siblings? There are so many circumstances that could impact a student’s performance on test day.
• The curriculum is too dense, forcing teachers to follow such accelerated pacing schedules that students often gain just surface knowledge, rather than a deep understanding of a subject. Teachers must often rush through a topic just to get it covered, often creating limits on truly creative thinking and discussion about a subject. This quote from Dr. Peter Gray, Ph.D., research professor at Boston College, and author of “Free to Learn,” makes sense: “… it is no wonder that children have become ever less creative as our schools have become ever more centered on testing and evaluation.”
While I do apologize to my son’s teachers and school if his “refusal” to test causes issues, I don’t apologize to the Virginia Department of Education or to the federal education regulators who are the real demons in enforcing the standardized testing movement.
S.D. Smarrelli, The Plains