Where in all of this testing is a benefit for students?

Dear Bill and Melinda,

Below, one of our readers responds to our blog postMy name is Andrea Rediske, and I am Ethan Rediske’s mother. Please Pass #EthansAct! #EyesOnDOE

“The tests given to our children claim to be criterion referenced meaning that all students should be able to provide a correct response to any question on the test. Yet the questions for these are ‘field tested’ each year doubling the testing time. The test makers then exclude questions that most students answer correctly. The tests are not criterion based.

If you were to be required to administer tests to special needs students, who cannot read the questions or the reading passages upon which the questions are based, your heart would break for them. They are subjected to taking the same amount of time testing as peers who are capable and know they have no chance of ‘passing.’

Each and every year the state department assesses performance on the tests of the entire population who took the test, and then manipulate the ‘cut score’ number of questions answered correctly to pass. In Literacy 11th grade AR state exam the cut score has been raised each year. At last calculation this score equals an 85%. The test is to be based on a minimum standard of performance. Should that equal a B, a student can pass a class in most systems with a 60 percent. None of what is happening makes any sense.

The benefits are going to the test makers, internet providers, and the computer companies whose sales will sky rocket when Common Core testing requires all students be tested online.

How many of our special needs students have access to computers, can type, and read from a computer screen? How many schools have the needed resources to test every child in every grade online?

Where in all of this testing is a benefit for students? Does anything change instructionally, based upon test data at a state or national level except for more constricting sanctions?” ~ Tins Hayley

Lloyd Lofthouse wrote a review of Diane Ravitch’s book, Reign of Error  in his blog post “A Bloody Rain of Terror on Teachers, a book review of Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error” .  Lofthouse discusses the nation’s two testing policies – No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top:

“But “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” demands that every child finishes first and on time—something that has never happened in the history of any country in the world. These two Washington DC programs supported by the critics of public education are impossible to achieve and are nothing more than a bloody path to guaranteed failure.”

“…impossible to achieve and are nothing more than a bloody path to guaranteed failure.

Bill and Melinda, can you answer Tins Hayley’s question please?

We repeat: “Where in all of this testing is a benefit for students?”

We want to end all high stakes testing.  In the meantime, let common sense prevail and join Opt Out Orlando to pass #EthansAct in Florida, then in every state. (Click on #EthansAct link to support this bill in Florida.  Look for your “Opt Out” options across the country at http://www.UnitedOptOut.com . )

Susan and Katie, Teachers and Co-authors of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates


About Highlighting Members' Needs

We are running for the following Renton Education Association positions because we believe in the following planks: Becca Ritchie, Candidate for REA President, Nelsen Middle School, Computer Tech Susan DuFresne, Candidate for Primary Executive Board, Maplewood Heights Elementary, Integrated Kindergarten ✅  Demanding a healthy work-load/life balance. ✅  Bargaining competitive professional compensation. ✅  Challenging the status quo test culture with: Less is more! ✅  Emphasizing our professional expertise. ✅  Prioritizing equity and access for all. ✅  Utilizing 2-way 21st century communication tools. ✅  Acting in solidarity with all unions. ✅  Supporting ALL members. ✅   Implementing developmentally appropriate K-3 curriculum/assessment.
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10 Responses to Where in all of this testing is a benefit for students?

  1. According to information from the American Psychological Association, potential negative consequences of high stakes testing need to be identified and minimized, as well as monitoring the impact, particularly on racial and ethnic-minority students or students of lower socioeconomic status. Special accommodations may be needed to ensure that test scores are valid for students with disabilities. Test developers should include students with disabilities in field testing and document the impact of particular modifications for test users. –Has this ever been done? Challenging students, having high expectations for them, encouraging them to reach their full potential, does not mean that they should be able to show the same proficiency in the same time frame on the same tasks in the same format (primarily multiple choice) as students without the various obstacles that students with special needs are dealing with. Anyone who has ever worked with children would know this. It is a travesty that those foisting these unreasonable and harmful practices on teachers and children not only shield themselves from reality but treat with disdain those who are trying to provide meaningful instruction to all students.

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Good morning, Sheila ~

      Are you a teacher? If so, can you please let us know what you teach? We’d be happy to post your comment as a letter. Or would you prefer that your letter be anonymous?

      Thank you for your comment!

      Susan and Katie

      • Hello, I am a retired teacher from the RI School for the Deaf. I taught ELA in the middle school and high school until retiring in the fall of 2011. One of the events that precipitated my decision to retire was that the RI Dept. of Education labeled the RI School for the Deaf a Persistently Lowest Achieving School, based largely on students’ scores on the standardized state assessments. I’ve been researching the Common Core and high stakes testing for several years. The info from the American Psychological Association in my comment was from the work a former colleague of mine is doing as part of her responsibilities with the RI Teacher Advisory Council. She is researching the impact of high stakes testing on students with disabilities. Even with accommodations, the necessary scaffolds are not in place to validly evaluate the learning of many special needs students, due to the sophisticated linguistic demands of the tasks. Also, testing students at their grade level, as opposed to their actual academic level as determined by specially trained teachers and written into their IEP’s, cannot possibly provide meaningful information for teachers to use to benefit the students. Appropriate diagnostic testing is essential to provide program supports and to challenge the students in their zone of proximal development. High stakes one-size-fits-all mass administered, grade level testing accomplishes nothing beneficial, and only gives a false picture of failure.

      • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

        Good evening, Sheila ~

        Thank you for your two great comments! We have combined them into one letter to Bill and Melinda here:

        High Stakes Testing, Special Education: A False Picture of Failure http://wp.me/p3CDkl-ve via @TsLetters2Gates

        Please share your letter widely! We have posted it on our Facebook page as well.

        We must speak up for all children and as a special education teacher and ELL teacher, Katie and I appreciate you standing up for our children.

        In solidarity,

        Susan and Katie

      • Thank you for validating my concerns and for combining my comments into such a cohesive letter!

      • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

        You are most welcome, Sheila! I was tempted to add to Helen Keller’s quote as a special note to Bill & Melinda:

        “The only thing worse than being Deaf, is having hearing but not listening.”


      • Susan, That quote from Helen Keller fits the Gates’ of the world, but Deaf people generally do not consider themselves disabled. They have their own unique culture and a very sophisticated sign language. Their difficulties come from a society that is unfamiliar with the accommodations that allow each unique individual to make his or her way in the world. As they say, Deaf people can do anything but hear.

  2. Strauss, Valerie says:

    ​How can I reach Sarah Blaine?


    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Good morning, Valerie,

      Early on the West Coast for me here… I am working on the contact information you have requested. 🙂

      Look for a reply soon.

      Susan DuFresne

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:


      I am sending you Sarah Blaine’s information in an email.

      Thank you,

      Susan DuFresne

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