It’s relatively common to hear a student gripe about standardized testing. After all, the students are the ones who have to take the tests, not the teachers or parents. But when a teacher and parent speaks up against the testing policies, people tend to listen.
Jean Kirshner is a first grade teacher at Mammoth Heights Elementary in Parker and a mother of a Cimarron student and two Chaparral graduates. When she heard of House Bill 14-1202, a bill in the Colorado House meant to limit state testing, she spoke up.
“I am a big fan of quality assessment,” Kirshner said. “The information I get from quality assessment tells me how to adjust and plan my instruction. The bill would allow me to use assessments that inform my instruction and assess higher level skills in place of state mandated tests, which test lower level thinking and concepts.”
House Bill 14-1202 would allow school districts to choose which tests they wanted their schools to take. The districts can send a waiver to the school board for any test, excluding the state tests for third, eighth, and tenth grade English, the third and eighth grade mathematics tests, and the eleventh grade college entrance tests. The school district can then create its own assessment plan that align with its academic content standards.
On Feb. 17, President’s Day, Kirshner, along with Douglas County School District Elizabeth Fagen, stood up in front of a committee to show her support for the bill.
“High stakes assessments that focus on low level and isolated skills give my students the message that those skills are more valuable than the higher level thinking skills the assessments don’t address,” Kirshner said.
According to procon.org, it’s common for schools to use a quarter of their year to prepare for mandated standardized tests. Kirshner feels that this is time she could be spending with her students to improve the quality of their learning. She does this by assessing her students’ strengths and weaknesses with her own meaningful tests.
“State mandated tests take time away from instruction without giving us good information to inform our teaching,” Kirshner said. “That means we are spending twice the time assessing, which directly takes those minutes away from our instruction. Ultimately, that isn’t the best for our young learners.”
Since the bill would give more control over what students are being tested on, Kirshner can choose which tests will be best for her students.
“I want to use the assessments I know to give me good information and focus on critical thinking skills,” Kirshner said.
But ultimately, she supports this bill because she cares for her students.
“Yes, [students are being over tested], and by tests that don’t give us good information,” Kirshner said. “Every minute you use to assess a student is a minute taken out of your instructional time, and I feel protective of my instructional time for my young readers.”
Kirshner and teachers like her only want what’s best for their students, especially in their instruction. That’s why Kirshner has decided to speak up in favor of House Bill 14-1202: the amount of testing on students is just too much for anyone to handle.