The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Our Readers Speak

April 22, 2013

Our Readers Speak — Monday, April 22, 2013

Focusing on test is hurting our students

West Virginia’s public schools are plagued with many problems, poverty and its far-flung consequences coming near the top of the list. However, having taught in Fayette County for six years, I recognize that the greatest danger to our schools is the obsession our government has toward standardized testing, in our case WESTEST 2.

It’s a terrible, terrible shame that instead of broadening our children’s impressionable minds by exposing them to the wonders of learning, full of creativity and exploration and expression, we drill into them the importance of WESTEST and spend nearly every valuable moment of class time devoted to preparing them to take this one test. Teachers (and I was one of them) feel our hands are tied, that our bosses are telling us what to teach, when to teach it and how to teach it, all in the name of higher test scores.

I was absolutely appalled when I read in Monday’s article what Summers County High School, a school recently placed on the priority list for poor test performance, is planning on doing to “fix” the problem of low student achievement. Rewarding students who perform well with an enrichment class and essentially punishing those who perform poorly with remedial instruction is taking a bad situation and making it worse. There is already too much emphasis placed on this flawed, arbitrary test. To add yet more weight by determining students’ class schedules is ludicrous and will only succeed in eliminating whatever enjoyment is left in school for our at-risk students.

Here’s how you truly fix our schools. One, give teachers control over their own classrooms again. They know more about teaching than some politician ever will.

Two, look at standardized testing as part of a whole, not the end-all be-all of learning. I know with every ounce of professional training, classroom experience and common sense that I possess that these tests assess how well students are prepared for a test, not how much they’ve learned.

Three, investigate the underlying causes for low achievement. This is a complex piece of the puzzle that hasn’t been adequately addressed because solutions will require time, money and smart ideas. What legislator wants to delve into that can of worms when it is so much easier to look at a black-and-white standardized test score? Therein lies the problem.

I am so dismayed with the directions our schools are taking that I am seriously considering homeschooling my 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter when the time comes. I want their education to be one that takes advantage of the available technological advances and uses their teachers’ training and love of learning to its best potential.

More importantly, I want school to be a place where they want to go because learning is fun, not where they go every day to prepare for a test at the end of the year. Sadly, I don’t see these changes anywhere on the horizon.

Stacy Wickline Stump


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