Another Voice: Testing...1...2...2

May 14, 2011

I am writing this primarily as a parent, but also as a teacher in Hood River. As a parent, I am becoming increasingly frustrated - and frankly, dismayed - at the preponderance of Oregon state academic testing in our public schools.

Basically, from mid-March through late May most of the resources in many Oregon schools are now devoted to administering a battery of state tests, and oftentimes retesting kids up to three times. That's right; kids are allowed three shots at the subject matter tests.

Moreover, even kids who pass the test are often encouraged to retake tests if they have not "shown enough growth" from a previous year. Schools are rated on both passing percentages, as well as yearly growth averages.

Kids are constantly being pulled out of classes to take tests. This not only makes it difficult for students to stay on top of current assignments, but oftentimes leaves half the class empty such that teachers really can't teach new material to the kids who are left in the classroom.

Computer labs are booked solid for weeks, making it extremely difficult to utilize computers for classroom assignments. Computers basically become testing portals.

Teacher aides, many of whom are specialists in working with kids with academic difficulties, are often called upon to proctor tests, which takes them away from their vital role within the classroom.

As a teacher I am essentially forced to play this game. Were I, or any other teacher, to take a stand and only test kids once, for example, we would then put ourselves, our school and school district at a distinct disadvantage when the state compares our results to those schools that utilize all three testing opportunities.

Basically, schools are using the tests to garner a favorable report card from the Oregon State Department of Education, rather than using a system of testing designed to illuminate both students and teachers to areas of academic strengths, and weaknesses, and retool instructional practices and curriculum accordingly.

The current system is not good educational practice; does not help teachers plan or improve relevant instruction; nor does it help students in any meaningful way.

Oregon state testing is completely out of control. It is a broken model. It has degraded into little more than a political shell game. Worse, the kids have become the pawns, much to the detriment of their educational opportunities.

Let me state that I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with administering standardized state tests to kids; nor do I take issue with being held accountable, and students being held accountable, for the results of such tests. As a parent, I have no issues with my children taking tests, and being held accountable for their performance.

Having said that, the Oregon Department of Education needs to do a much better job clearly defining the material the kids will be tested on, eliminate the multiple opportunity option and restrict the testing window to a few days near the end of the academic year. Clear goals, one shot, one brief time window - done.

If you have similar concerns, I hope you will join me in contacting the Oregon Department of Education.

Eric Cohn is a parent and teacher who lives in Hood River.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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