This Is Just a Test: Our Lawmakers Should Take the New 3rd Grade Tests

I have been a teacher for 40 years. I have long decried the over-emphasis on testing which began back in the 1980s. Like most teachers, I am not against common standards; there should be some commonalities in what we teach throughout the nation.   I am not against testing; we need to assess what our students know and how well we are teaching them.

But we have reached the point at which we are sacrificing too much time and effort to testing. The recent release of information about the new Indiana ISTEP is alarming. Twelve-plus hours devoted to one test for our third-graders? The Indiana Bar Exam takes 13 hours. How can we justify spending nearly the same amount of time testing 8-year-olds?

I frequently bitch about this on Facebook in posts which generate lively discussions and passionate responses from my “friends,” many of whom are teachers. One of the most frustrating aspects of my bitching is that it is just that—bitching. I don’t know what to do. It seems so hopeless, and it just keeps getting worse. And I, like Hamlet, paralyzed into inaction by my lack of ability to find any productive way to respond to the situation, just “. . .unpack my heart with words. . .” and do nothing.

Well, I still don’t know what to do about it. But someone recently invited me to “like” a Facebook page: Legislator Education Testing Challenge. I urge you to do the same. The mission of this group is to encourage our state legislators and Board of Education members to return to their home districts, sit in with a third-grade class, and actually take the ISTEP. What a revolutionary idea, to actually familiarize yourself with something you are forcing down the throats of others. Many of these policymakers have no clue what they have endorsed, what they have mandated. They have not read the test; they have not seen what hoops teachers must jump through to prep their students; they have not experienced what an 8-year-old goes through during such an exam. If they had, I strongly suspect they would change their minds.

I see no reason not to ask our legislators to do this, and no reason they should object. Yes, I do see a reason they will object: embarrassment. But what better way for them to thoroughly understand the ramifications of such an important decision? They should want to do this if they are genuinely concerned about education.

Yeah, I know, it’s not going to happen. My outlook is bleak. Too many incredible teachers are not being allowed to teach the way they know is effective; they are leaving the profession in frustration, driven out by the mandates of people who have no idea what works in the classroom. But I can’t give up hope. It’s too important an issue. It’s a good fight, and I am happy to at least add my name to some of the groups who are making noise about it.


Mark Wright
Author: Mark Wright

After almost 40 years teaching high school English—most of them at South Vermillion—Wright now teaches composition part time at ISU. A member of the Wabash Valley Musicians’ Hall of Fame, Wright and his Band—The Crowe Committee—have become a popular attraction in the Terre Haute music scene.

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