Letter To The Editor: Tardy Tests

By ELLEN BERNSTEIN
APS Union President

Earlier this week, APS announced that it would be unable to administer the Public Education Department (PED) created End-of-Course Exams (EoCs) in Elementary and Middle Schools. The PED failed to create the EoCs in a timely manner, making it impossible for districts like APS to reproduce all of the exams for each grade level in time for the testing period.

Teachers and students in elementary and middle schools were ready to shift their work away from testing and focus back on real instruction. The PED wasn’t about to let that happen. It delivered thousands of copies of the test to APS. It seems that the PED will move any mountain to ensure our students are over-tested—even when the tests are not ready on time.

According to Secretary Skandera, tests like the EoCs are necessary because they hold teachers accountable. As an educator, I find it infuriating that Skandera believes EoCs should be used to hold us accountable even though she can’t meet her own deadlines in developing the tests.

It appears that Secretary Skandera’s brand of accountability is a one-way street.

If she held herself to the same “standards” to which she holds teachers, she would have to admit that her failures go far beyond the EoC debacle. She would have to face the fact that she is an “ineffective” leader and that, under her direction, the “D” in PED stands for Dysfunction.

Educators are not surprised. We know Secretary Skandera is not qualified for the job because she is not an educator. If she were, she would understand that, in education, deadlines matter.

If a teacher fails to prepare materials, ready the classroom, develop lesson plans, or submit grades for report cards on time, students’ learning needs go unmet—real consequences.

If a teacher fails to meet the numerous and ever-increasing federal, state, and district requirements in a timely fashion, they could lose their job and their license—real consequences.

When Secretary Skandera and the PED fail at doing their job, there should be consequences.

My guess is that Secretary Skandera is probably thinking, “Come on, Ellen. You shouldn’t hold me accountable for one test.” Well, Secretary Skandera, you are finally feeling what it’s like to be an educator.

We are held accountable for tests we didn’t create and for situations we cannot control: poor test taking conditions, missing accommodations for special needs students, and test questions that do not measure what is being taught in the classroom. Teachers are held accountable for it all.

The reality is, every teacher knows that real accountability isn’t about a test. It’s about reaching every student and meeting their educational needs. With all the time teachers and students spend on testing, this keeps getting harder and harder.

Yes, Secretary Skandera failed to create the EoCs in a timely manner, but that is not of ultimate importance. What is important is that Skandera’s over-testing agenda is robbing our students of precious learning time and experiences. For that, Skandera must be held accountable.

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