Spring testing season is approaching. Schools and teachers again face penalties if their student scores do not continue to rise.
The result: more school districts are saying "no" to university requests to place student teachers.
This unexpected consequence of No Child Left Behind legislation and testing fever first appeared in Tennessee. That state was "lucky" enough to receive $500 million in the national Race to the Top grant competition. The strings attached to that money forced Tennessee to require teacher tenure to be tied to ever-rising student test scores.
Each year, principals must evaluate teachers on their students’ learning gains. Tennessee teachers will lose tenure status if they score low two years in a row. To gain tenure, a teacher must score in the top for two years in a row.
With their pay and jobs dependent on student scores, teachers and school administrators are no longer gambling that student scores might drop in a classroom where they are training a student teacher. In an Associated Press report, a spokesperson for the Williamson County School District in Tennessee explained why schools cannot risk taking a student teacher: "It's your classroom, and you are being evaluated based on your students' performance."
While Kansas has not yet tied pay and tenure to student test scores, Kansas is being required to move the last steps toward 100-percent-proficient-by-2014 under No Child Left Behind. The only hope for relief from this insane goal is to apply for a waiver. U.S.D.E. Secretary Duncan has made it clear that any waivers will require a state to tie teacher evaluation and tenure to student scores. It is not certain if enough Kansas schools will agree to a performance pay system so Kansas can apply for a waiver in January.
Either way, Kansas is headed for gun-to-the-head teaching. Student teaching will be pushed aside.
Already in Kansas, teacher preparation programs are finding it more difficult to place student teachers for the spring 2012 semester. Spring is testing season and more Kansas schools are rejecting student teacher requests. The drill-and-kill test-preparation will reach fever pitch after students come back from Christmas vacation. And every school lives in fear of not making "AYP."
Regardless of effort, more schools will fail to reach the goalpost that continues to move closer to requiring 100 percent. Secretary Duncan predicts "failed schools" will reach 80 percent.
The solution to this insanity does not rest with waivers or value-added schemes.
The problem is overtesting.
And the solution rests in the hands of Kansas parents.
Kansas parents of schoolchildren have the right to opt their children out of state assessments. If the number of students participating in the Kansas testing drops below 95 percent, the data are no longer considered valid for NCLB.
Across the country, from Washington State to Florida, parents have the opportunity to bring an end to the test madness and force the federal educationists to stop treating our children as lab rats. In some states, parents do not have the right to opt out because the high school diploma is tied to the exit exam.
But in Kansas, parents can end this madness, rescue their children from test oppression, and let a new generation of student teachers get back into the classroom.
This spring, tell your school that your child will not be taking the Kansas assessments.