High-Stakes Standardized Tests And Madison Public Schools: Do Recent Reforms Makes Sense For Us?

On Dec. 4, an advisory council will present its findings to the Madison Board of Education. All parents are strongly encouraged to attend. "The implementation of recent legislation will have a profound impact on the quality of your child


From Madison Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Scarice:

Education reforms over the past decade have made a significant impact on the educational experiences of our children, some for better, some for worse.  None has been more impactful than the increased reliance on high-stakes standardized tests within state and federal accountability systems.  Most recently, the Connecticut legislature passed a package of reforms that dictate specific teacher and principal evaluation policies.  Within this framework, districts are called on to not only use high stakes tests for district and school accountability, but also for individual teacher and principal evaluations.

In response, the administration of the Madison Public Schools formed a Superintendent's Advisory Council to review the educational research on using high stakes tests in teacher and principal evaluation.  The district sought to determine, not only if the research supported this practice, but also, the impact this practice would have on students and the quality of education.  Would such policies incentivize "teaching to the test" and a narrowing of the curriculum?  Would this legislation increase  levels of anxiety among students and teachers?  Is there sufficient research to support the efficacy of this practice? 

Forty five professional educators in the Madison Public Schools culled through volumes of research and literature to answer these questions.  On December 4, this advisory council will present its findings to the Madison Board of Education in the Brown Middle School Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.  All parents are strongly encouraged to attend.  The implementation of this legislation will have a profound impact on the quality of your child's education.  By attending the meeting on December 4 you can get accurate information to advocate for your child's education.

Daria Novak December 02, 2012 at 02:54 PM
All children need stimulating environments to thrive. Why should these bright children be an under-served, isolated community? I agree there's prejudice, but that doesn't make it right or permit us to make them the new disappeared. When my child was going to her 24-month-old checkup her 3-year-old brother was talking loudly in the car. She said: "Mommy, tell Chris to be quiet. I can't stand all the cacophony." Due to her environment by age 4 she understood fluently (at an age appropriate level) French, Chinese & Arabic. By 2nd grade she was using words like ichthyology. Although she had a really great teacher that year, her classmates were not in the same place academically. She was bored & learned little. Work she already knew before entering school was given daily & she viewed it as a punishment. I met with our head of the public schools whose answer was "keep your kids home for 2 years to allow the others to catch up!" It shocked me! I was told if my kids were on the low end of spectrum with the EXACT ISSUES they would be served. If a plant isn't watered it will wither & fail to grow to its full height or produce fruit. We are letting the best minds in this nation waste on the vine. This price is too great. I'm not an advocate for throwing money at schools, piling on administrators, or spending w/o justification. Attempts to level the playing field by dumbing down education to fit a core student body are unjust & bad for America.
Alison W. December 04, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Don't fool yourself into thinking that the children on "the other end" of that spectrum you are talking about get all kinds of amazing services that are not available to the "brightest minds". In many cases parents of kids getting special education services need to advocate and fight for those services just as you are doing here. To compare special education services that students receive because they have a disability to gifted programs, is a bit of a stretch in my opinion. In many cases we are talking about kids who need extra support just to make it through the day socially, academically etc. There is a big difference between that and honors courses and enrichment programs. I'm not saying those programs aren't needed or shouldn't exist, or that those students don't deserve to have the best education they can. I would just be very careful about comparing them to the services that special education students receive. Not apples to apples.
Daria Novak December 04, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Alison, gifted children often, as you say of those on other end of the spectrum, "need extra support just to make it through the day socially, academically etc." Talk with school guidance counselors in Madison. They deal with gifted kids who have trouble handling the school day. There is a reason 20% of gifted children in America drop out. Twenty percent is a huge number to refuse to serve! The falsehood is some people think that if a child is gifted intellectually, the kid will simply get school and survive. This is NOT the case. There are NO funds in CT for those who can't make it through the day without help if they are on the high end of the scale. BOTH ends of the bell curve deserve to be educated to the level of their ability and to be helped in learning how to deal with a world that operates at a different speed and in a different way than most understand it. Americans need to stop worrying about political correctness and start educating all children. That is apples to apples education. By losing 20% of our best minds we lose scientific discoveries, great musicians, writers, and those who could one day cure diseases. We need educators to examine the data and address this issue. That is what is most cost effective for our country.
Amanda Kaplan December 05, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Repeating over and over again that 20% of gifted children drop out does not make it true. http://giftedexchange.blogspot.com/2008/09/are-20-of-high-school-drop-outs-gifted.html?m=1 The real issue with high stakes testing is that the results are used as justification for privatization of school management. This probably would not happen in Madison but it is a constant threat to urban schools. Education 'experts' (charlatans) line their pockets with our tax dollars and actually worsen our educational system. Charter schools syphon money out of town budgets and essentially starve the public schools to educate a carefully selected population for show. The entire situation sickens me.
Daria Novak December 05, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Amanda, look at research from respectable organizations such as the Davidson Institute for Talent & Development or Linda Silverstein's work, which back up my statements. Whether or not I used that percentage more than once has nothing to do with the veracity of the information. I agree with you that we throw way too much money at our schools & often use it in the wrong places within the system. Administrators have their hands tied through over-regulation, state law, union deals, & other methods that leave little room for improvement. We've dropped to #25 in the world for science & math. We must fight for our kids & make positive changes to the system where it is not working. Teacher unions are both good & bad. They end up protecting incompetent teachers. I've seen it happen. We also have teachers who take an incredible amount of leave annually sticking our kids with multiple substitutes who may or may not be equipped to handle the lessons of the day. There also are great teachers who love their vocation and do it well. Urban schools qualify for grant money and extra funding from the state that suburban areas don't receive. When compared to many suburban schools, urban ones often spend more per pupil than we do. We don't need to throw more money at the situation, we need to be doing the right things with our tax dollars AND also hold families accountable for sending children to school prepared to listen and learn so our teachers can do their job.


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