Laurel teachers concerned with amount of standardized testing

Laurel teachers concerned with amount of standardized testing

A group of Laurel High School teachers on Thursday asked the Prince George's County Board of Education to cut back on the amount of testing put upon students, including the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

Six teachers from Laurel High testified during the public comment period of Thursday's board meeting at Suitland High School, speaking of student despair during tests, the 11-hours worth of PARCC testing in recent weeks, and the disruption this has caused in their classroom.

In addition to the comments from Laurel High School teachers, two teachers from the Robert Goddard Montessori School also testified regarding the burdens of standardized testing.

PARCC tests are the standardized tests that have replaced the Maryland School Assessment this year as part of the state's adoption of Common Core. Unlike the MSA, which was a paper and pencil test, the PARCC test is administered online.

Tom Miller, a math teacher at Laurel High, said the goal of Thursday's testimony was to encourage the Board to advocate state officials do away with PARCC, refuse administering the PARCC in Prince George's County, or refuse the benchmark exams throughout the year that are intended to prepare students for the exam.

Speakers received hearty applause from the crowd that filled the Suitland High auditorium.

Miller said that the typical 10th grader spends about 16 hours in a testing room during the PARCC tests and more than 11 hours of that is actual examination time.

Special education teachers argued that testing time has replaced their time with teaching students how to even use a keyboard to be able to take the test, let alone prepare them for life after high school with the challenges they face.

Cheryl Davis, an English teacher at Laurel, pointed out that SAT exams only teak four hours, an Advanced Placement test takes three hours, and exams for admission into law or medical school take three hours.

"What is possibly on the test that can take 11 hours?" she said.

Davis also said there is a "shroud of secrecy" around the exam, criticizing the fact that teachers cannot see the exam prior to the test and the monitoring of students' social media accounts for PARCC questions.

Two students in Maryland were recently caught posting PARCC questions on social media by Pearson, the education publisher administering the exam.

Some educators in Prince George's County aren't the only ones concerned with the amount of standardized tests students are taking.

In Howard County, 82 percent of educators surveyed in the Howard County Education Association's annual job satisfaction survey said they believe too much time is spent on administering standardized assessments.

Nearly 4,000 school system educators, counselors and support staff personnel participated in the survey, more than 57 percent of the 6,800 eligible employees.

Sharon Campbell, an English teacher at Laurel, believes the amount of testing she administers has caused her to become an obstacle to teaching, adding that school systems have been drowning education with the amount of testing.

She ended her public comments to the board with a quote from her grandfather, who was a farmer.

"A farmer cannot fatten a pig by weighing it," she said.

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