High Stakes! Really?

Stephen BroadwellWhile “high stakes testing” is sometimes used in connection with assessments, there are only two types of high stakes tests for New York students; one is if the medical doctor tells a parent, “We want to run some tests on your child.” That is high stakes! The other tests that truly matter are the Regents exams. Failure to successfully pass the Regents exams connects to graduation. That could be considered stressful!

All the other required tests, including the Grade 3-8 assessments, are simply a "snapshot in time." A student’s score on the 4th grade state test in April will not impact his/her advancing to 5th grade. The results will be an indication of how well students in our school did on the test compared to other students across the state who took the same exam. It is solely one more tool of many, one more piece of evidence, and one more measurement that we as educators can use to assess the success and/or growth of our students.

Some parents and others make the argument that the English Language Arts and math state tests are too stressful for students. In reality, our children are assessed all the time. In school, we provide grades and spelling tests, math quizzes, and reading tests so that we have valid data to report to parents each ten week marking period on report cards. Parents want and expect this feedback. Outside ofschool, some students' skills are assessed each week in the public eye through athletics. They compete against other students their age from other schools or towns. They compete in front of their parents, grandparents, and friends. Do we really care if they win every game as a nine-year-old in the local town league soccer program? Not really. We expect and encourage our children to “Practice and Do Your Best.” We cheer them on, celebrate their successes, and talk with them about how to improve based, in part, on their performance.

An athletic game or contest, just like a statewide assessment, is one event in time. It does not always show all the successes one has achieved throughout the year. However, it is important to be tested both on the athletic field as well as in the classroom to see how an individual student actually measures up at this point in time with his or her peers. Testing, like athletic contests, allows students to showcase what they have learned. It is equally important that as adults, both teachers and parents, we keep the results in perspective and realize it is one piece of evidence.

Let's use some common sense, encourage our students "to practice and do their best," and use the results of the student exams for what they are really intended - an objective snapshot into the success of the student at that moment and a general comparison as to his or her range compared to the state average.

Stephen Broadwell is the Superintendent of Schools in Willsboro Central School District.

Follow Us on Twitter