Commentary by Alicia Caldwell from the Denver Post copied below in its entirety:
There is a direct relationship, I have noticed, between the complexity of a topic and the potential for nonsense to surround it.
That is exactly what is happening with the too-much-state-testing student walkout business.
The cold, hard facts are that state-required standardized testing in first through 12th grades takes 1.4 percent of a kid’s annual school time at most.
How about those hundreds of seniors in Boulder, Cherry Creek and Dougco who recently refused to take tests?
They’re being asked to spend a maximum of 0.6 percent of their school year on social studies and science assessments. Those numbers were compiled by the state Department of Education.
And the reason they’re even being tested as seniors is due to a collaboratively made decision to avoid overloading juniors.
Maybe those seniors would rather be doing other things, but another fact is that the science test is required by the feds as well as the state.
Seniors from Boulder’s Fairview High School protest Colorado CMAS school tests last Thursday. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)
As for the social studies test, a broad group of educators and others put the standards now being tested into place in 2009 with the goal of preparing students for college and careers.
And know this about the overlords who created the social studies standards: At least eight educators from Cherry Creek and Boulder Valley school districts were on the committee. That undercuts the argument that there was no local input.
It’s important to take a step back and understand why some of these standards came to be in the first place. It’s because Colorado students were having to take too many remedial classes when they got to college.
“By the way, you need to pay for those and you don’t get credit for them,” said Joyce Zurkowski, the state’s executive director of assessment, said of college remedial classes. “That’s not OK.”
What’s really going on here, in my opinion, is twofold. Local districts are layering their own assessments on top of those required by the state, adding to the total test time. That’s certainly their prerogative, but it adds up.
And there is a convenient convergence of political purpose between the far left, which would prefer no standardized testing — especially none tied to teachers’ evaluations — and the far right, which looks askance at state “intrusion” even while taking state education money.
It’s not radical for Coloradans to expect children to “understand (how) globalization changed the availability of human capital.” That is a competency expected of high school students in economics.
And it’s appropriate for high school students to be able to “use different types of maps and geographic tools to analyze features on Earth to investigate and solve geographic questions.”
Let’s have an honest conversation about what is going on with concern over testing and talk about reasonable solutions.
First, any attempt to use consternation over social studies and science tests to raise objections to Common Core ought to be seen as the political opportunism that it is. They are not part of Common Core, which involves language arts and math.
And make no mistake, that is coming. Do not be the slightest bit surprised to see an abolish-Common-Core bill emerge in the state legislature. Such an effort ought to be snuffed out.
Second, maybe there are ways to better structure and schedule assessments so they pose fewer conflicts with local tests and college boards. Perhaps some state tests can be pared down. Those are options.
One last thing: Those kids who say they haven’t been taught the material that is on those tests they’re protesting might consider asking themselves why and whose fault that is. I think they might find the answer is as close as their local board of education.
Now there’s something to get worked up about.
E-mail Alicia Caldwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @AliciaMCaldwell