California Teachers Association

May / June 2016

Issue link: http://educator.cta.org/i/686175

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Passing the Test San Diego educators help convince district to reduce testing O N M A Y 4 , the San Diego Unified School District announced a "significant reduc- tion" in high-stakes standardized testing at local schools. The move allows class- room educators to focus more time on teaching and learning, and rely on more meaning ful measures of student progress. " S an D i ego's educators are thri l l ed that the district listened to the concerns of nearly 7,000 educators who have said the current system of high-stakes testing is broken," says San Diego Educators Association (SDEA) President Lindsay Burningham. "[This] shows the power that educators and parents have when we stand together to support the true needs of our students." SDEA has been working on the issue since early last year. It passed several chapter resolutions calling on legislators in federal government and the district to eliminate unnecessary, irrelevant high- stakes testing. " There's been a big shift in the past year and a half or two years, educating the district, trying to include parents as much as possible," Burningham says. "Our members continued to pressure the district with our resolutions presented at school board meetings." SDEA also commissioned a survey that found that approximately 90 percent of district educators believe students are being harmed from overuse of standard- ized tests. It showed that students lost up to five weeks of instruction every year due to test preparation, taking and analysis. "Meaningful and useful assessments are by teachers on a daily and weekly basis," Burningham says. "e focus has been on educators being able to use their time in ways that are going to best meet the needs of their students." CTA President Eric Heins agrees: "e focus on standardized testing has nar - rowed expectations and learning. CTA believes teachers need the freedom to use a variety of teaching techniques that are culturally relevant to the diverse students they teach." He adds, "SDEA and SDUSD have taken a bold step in challenging edu- cational policies that adversely impact California's 9 million students." Several months ago, SDEA intensified its outreach to parents. "At the Reclaim Our Schools event on Feb. 17, teachers and parents did the walk-in in support of their schools spending less time testing and more time teaching and learning," Burn- ingham says. "Parent conversation [about overtesting ] started then. We leaf leted parents using CTA's opt-out fliers. Many parents are unaware that they have the right to opt out, and [unaware of ] what tests are used for. For example, the SBAC [Smarter Balanced assessment] isn't used in any meaning ful way." Ef fective at the start of the 2016-17 school year, SDUSD will: • S t o p d i st r i c tw i d e c o l l e c t i o n o f interim assessment data and Devel- opmental Reading Assessment test results (teachers won't waste class- room time entering/uploading data). • Replace irrelevant districtwide data collection requirements with real- time reporting on student progress for teachers to use as they need it to support learning. • E m p o w e r t e a c h e r s t o a n a l y z e s t u d e n t l e a r n i n g r e s u l t s , a n d re v i s e l e ss o n s t o m e e t i n div i d u a l student needs. • Support schools in developing com- mon formative assessment plans, identifying relevant measures that give insight and information about how students are developing. B u r n i n g h a m i s p l e a s e d w i t h t h e changes but knows that sustaining them and working for more change requires con- tinued collaboration. "I see it as a three-pronged par tn ership between the union, the school board, and district leadership," she says. Opt Out CTA has resources on opting out of state-mandated testing, including a handout for parents on their right to exempt their child from testing, and information to help educators understand state regulations governing what they can say to parents and families. See cta.org/optout. 48 cta.org SDEA members at Walk-In on May 4 hand out fliers to parents on their right to exempt their children from state-mandated testing.

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