Op-Ed Article – There was a time when kids were allowed, even encouraged, to be kids. They went to school, took the necessary exams to test subject knowledge, did homework, then joined their friends outdoors for a bike ride, a game of stick ball or a walk in the park.
However, as technology has boomed and society as a whole has evolved, life, in many ways, has become more complex for everyone, especially our children.
The advent of the internet, including social media influences such as Facebook and Twitter, today poses challenges for our children and teens that were unheard of years ago.
Cyber bullying is a very real and too common problem, as is sexting. School shootings have students on edge. The prevalence of alcohol and new and easily accessible drugs – both legal and illegal – add to the stress of ‘fitting in.’ Playing sports, such as football, baseball and soccer are no longer leisure activities designed for fun, but have become extremely competitive.
These challenges, along with the pressure to perform well in school in order to get accepted into college or other advanced programs, are forcing our children to grow up ahead of their time. Stress levels among youth today are skyrocketing.
Add to that list, excessive testing, which today has taken on a life of its own.
It seems regular curriculum exams, such as math, history and science tests, and state-mandated standardized tests are no longer sufficient. In addition to these exams, which I support, students in many New Jersey school districts are subject to a plethora of other types of testing as well.
For example, a school district in the northern part of the state requires benchmark testing every six weeks in preparation for the state-mandated NJASK (New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge) exam for elementary students. Teachers use these benchmarks for their Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) while the administration uses them for their teacher evaluations.
The same school district also requires its teachers to administer the non-mandated NJ STAR Math and Language Arts assessments every 2 or 3 months. The district uses the test to assess student growth and to determine if students are average, above average or below average in a given subject area. Certainly such additional testing is not limited to that particular district.
Add to the mix the federal Common Core State Standards in Math and English Language Arts which the state Board of Education adopted in June 2010. That same year, New Jersey joined the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), which will be ready for states to administer during the 2014-15 school year.
With these new standards, we could be looking at additional required testing.
It’s time to stop this “testing” madness and the burden it is placing on students. I have heard from several parents and educators who are becoming increasingly concerned about the amount of testing we are imposing on our school children. We need to ensure that we are not mandating so much testing that we are actually harming our students.
As a result, I will be introducing legislation that will prohibit the administration of tests other than assessments currently mandated by the state and federal government. Regular curriculum exams that test a student’s knowledge of a subject they are studying will not be affected. The intent is not to prevent teachers from teaching and evaluating a student’s growth.
On the contrary, the measure will allow teachers to spend more time teaching and preparing students for future success instead of teaching them how to take tests. Instead of arbitrarily administering non-mandated assessments, a board of education would be required to apply to the state commissioner of education to conduct any other additional assessments and justify its benefits.
As a parent of a public school student I have seen firsthand the impact of school testing on children who are stressed and reaching their breaking point. We need to find the balance that will allow our schools to prepare our children for success but, at the same time, lets our kids be kids.