The following remarks were provided to the Board of Education on September 12, 2018 by BFT President Cathy Campbell.
Dear Board Members and Superintendent Evans,
I’m here tonight as part of the collective voice of our elementary school members, to express very serious concerns about proposed new, computerized assessments in grades K– 4. We have both process and content concerns, and we very much appreciate your attention to these concerns this evening.
Let me begin with our content concerns. Students will lose significant instruction and intervention time if the proposed assessments are implemented. We want to be sure the Board knows that is completely unrealistic to believe that these tests will take only 20 minutes per student to conduct, especially in TK, K and Grades 1-3. It takes significant time with young children to distribute computers, get students, many of whom cannot yet read, logged on, show students how to hit “Admin” and “Next”, show them what to do if they need to stop mid-test and show them how to get started. All of that must happen before the 20-minutes for the test begins. In addition, BUSD plans to implement this test in an untimed way, so it may take many students more than 20 minutes, and the class will have to wait until everyone is done in whole class settings in the upper grades.
It is CRITICAL to understand that our TK, K and 1st grade teachers will not be able to give this test “whole class”, no matter what time of year we are in. Students in those grades will have to be tested in 1:1 settings, or very small groups, which means that either the teacher is not teaching, or the Lit Coach or RtI Teacher is not doing intervention. Students will lose both instructional and intervention time, and this will have a disproportionate impact on our most underserved students. The amount of lost time will be much more than 20 minutes per student.
In order to justify any major loss of instructional or intervention time we need to know for sure that any new assessments fill a critical need, and that they are the very best option available, and that leads me to our very serious process concerns. We believe that continuing to make and accelerate progress toward closing our opportunity gaps is the critical need in our district, but we need to make sure that all efforts we take in that area do not harm the very students most in need of support.
The wisdom of teachers, literacy coaches and RtI intervention specialists was not availed in this decision. These are the people who work with the children every day, and who provide the critical instruction and intervention that will allow us to meet our goal. Their ideas, practical knowledge and sincere motivation to improve were not called upon in this major decision that impacts their teaching and their students. They were not given an opportunity to understand the need being prioritized and to offer possible solutions that would limit the impact on instructional time, preserve intervention for students, and align with our new Phonics curriculum (and with possible new needs around dyslexia screening). They were not given an opportunity to ask questions, to receive information, to see how this idea fits with other assessments already given, to talk about ways to test only those students for whom there are concerns, and to have professional dialogue.
Let me be extremely clear: If teachers and teacher coaches are consistently not given a chance to have input into decisions that affect them and their students they will become demoralized and they will leave BUSD. We have seen this time and time again with teachers who choose to leave other districts and come to BUSD. This is also not the first time we are coming to you this year with major process concerns. We urge you to take heed.
We ask that this decision process be reconfigured. Teachers and literacy coaches should be active and valued participants. Various options for which type of assessment to use--and when and how and for which students--should be presented and discussed. The opportunity costs for teaching and learning should be measured and carefully weighed. Teachers should be adequately trained. Logistical and technical challenges should be predicted and mitigated in advance. A smooth, not sudden, roll out should be planned.
A collaborative process and decision, including our highly trained, experienced and talented literacy coaches and teachers, will yield the best outcome for students--which is the goal we all share.