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Standardized assessment has gone OFF the RAILS

By: Jessica Salute, Teacher and WTU Building Representative at Stanton ES and DC-CORE Member.

Standardized assessment has gone OFF the RAILS in this country. It has for a long time, but I want everyone to have a concrete example. In my 19 years of experience, standardized assessments are a tool to show how much students struggle and judge/put the blame on teachers and school admin, not actually DO anything to improve them.

DC voters- please follow me and the WTU in the next city election. It’s time for a new mayor and City Council Chair.

I woke up at 5am, today, Sunday, to grade an assessment I gave my students Friday. I wake up so early so I can try to get my work done and have some free time to relax on the weekend. After 2+ hours of grading this one assessment, I still have a good 3 hours of work left.

It's a phonics assessment with 25 discreet skills to grade. We knew this material was far above my students' current skill level, but we proceeded as directed by the district.

We have a new tool in my district, Mastery Connect. It is a tracker for assessment data connected to Canvas. They have the unit assessments loaded already and supposedly all teachers have to do is input the data, or in some cases kids can actually do the assessments online, but without 1 to 1 tech, and with very young kids, that's REALLY difficult. It's better to do it on paper and then input scores.

For this phonics assessment, I have to input 25 individual data points for all 26 kids. Luckily I have two small classes, but they COULD be 20 each- so 40 X 25. That's a lot of data entry.

Mastery Connect DOES give a student % and class average at the end- great- ANOTHER tool that shows the vast majority of my class is severely below grade level. I knew this already, because we have given multiple other literacy assessments in the first 3 weeks of school. (Last year I calculated the time and we spent about 40% on standardized assessments in the 6 week Middle of Year period- during VIRTUAL, at that!)

The MOST important tool for a teacher is to know the average for EACH ITEM. Then you know which discreet skills the majority of your class needs to be retaught. The reports from Mastery Connect don't show this. You can download an Excel spreadsheet but it doesn't even have the skill or # of item identified, you have to identify that yourself. It doesn't have the average by skill, you have to do this yourself. So, after two hours of data entry, this tool gives me practically nothing to use to improve my instruction.

I'll say it again- standardized assessments are a tool to show how much students struggle and judge/put the blame on teachers and school admin, not actually DO anything to improve them.

TEACHERS need to be the center of decisions like, "Which tool should be purchase to help our classrooms and teachers?" NOT district personnel at central offices that typically only taught for a few years. Any teacher would notice this flaw right away. This is why I have gotten more involved in my union.

I hope to find out how much $ was used to pay for Mastery Connect, but I also know that the teachers in my district HAVE NOT GOTTEN THEIR $200 Office Depot cards YET! They were issued the first week back, and the majority didn't WORK. They were cancelled and never given back. Central Office still hasn't given a reason or a date when we will get this resource our contract mandates we have.

Taxpayers- you should NOT be ok with your city officials using your money this way- especially seeing how much $ we got for COVID relief.

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