Why my child will not be taking the MSP test
March 1, 2013 · Updated 2:35 PM
By Paul Sutton
My wife and I are Bellevue School District parents. However, we are opting our third grade daughter out of this year’s MSP state exam for moral and philosophical reasons.
Proponents of high stakes testing typically claim a causal relationship between the exams and student intellectual abilities. Thus, many schools use test data to sort kids into ability groups that too easily cause them to be stuck in remediated and tracked classrooms.
Our over reliance on test score data leads us to make over-simplistic and sometimes damaging assessments of our students’ abilities and motivations. It teaches our kids that who they are and what they’re passionate about are not as important as their test score.
Our reliance on testing also unearths other, more troubling claims related to school quality and educational policy. We use test scores to measure the quality of a school, yet there is no causal link between high stakes testing and student learning. Although a school’s moral character and compassionate school culture are significant factors for student learning, if that school scores poorly, we discount whatever success they’ve achieved.
Since the adoption of No Child Left Behind in the early 2000s, we have tested our students more than just about any other country in the world, yet we have not seen an increase in student achievement or student learning to match our investment or ambitions.
Ours is not an accountability problem. Ours is a socio-economic problem. Continuing to test kids, year in and year out, without doing anything about social inequity and poverty is like addressing a problem with your car’s transmission by adding air to your tires. Our over-reliance on test scores has become the brittle crutch we lean upon to support claims of our children’s intellectual abilities and educational successes.
In our maniacal obsession with high stakes testing, we have not only abandoned any hope of fixing the real educational problem, but also have abandoned the very things that are true and beautiful and meaningful about an education. Intellectual curiosity and creative zeal, compassion and heartfelt empathy, leadership and engaged citizenship, a search for one’s passions and purpose in life: these are the measure of a great education.
Those are the things I want my daughter and her school to prioritize in her education, not her composite score on the reading and math section of the MSP.
Paul Sutton lives in Bellevue.