It was only a month ago that, fresh off the 2012 state-wide Connecticut Mastery Tests, Bridgeport’s $229,000 part-time superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas, announced that Bridgeport’s students would be given yet another battery of standardized tests at the beginning of June.
Despite a massive school budget deficit, in which Vallas was forced to lay-off teachers and other school personnel, it was announced that Bridgeport was able to come up with the money needed to pay for another round of expensive standardized testing. Word out of the Central Office was that Vallas had gotten “a good deal” on the tests.
According to a memo sent to teachers in the last week of April, Vallas and his traveling entourage of education reformers, said that they had determined that, “traditionally, instruction wanes after the administration of the state tests. Unfortunately, this “lull” in teaching and learning deprives our students of much-needed academic support.”
The purported purpose of more standardized tests, therefore, was to keep teachers on their toes and prevent them from “lulling-off” for the rest of the school year.
Meanwhile, Vallas wrote to students and parents informing them that “since the State tests are given in March, there is almost three (3) months of learning and hard work that is not measured in the test results. As a result, you, your teachers and principals do not always get credit for the real progress you have made and your teachers and principals often do not have the information needed to make decisions about who needs additional help over the summer and where to start things off when schools re‐open at the end of August.”
So to parents, the tests weren’t so much to keep teachers focused, but to help the school system service the students by giving them “credit” for the extra 90 days of learning, while determining “who need additional help over the summer.” [It makes one wonder how on Earth school officials have been able to determine who needed summer school over the past hundred years or so].
Although Vallas promised the students and parents that the Bridgeport School System would “continue to post any updates and answer questions about the new round of testing on Bridgeport’s “Youth on the Move” website, nothing more was ever posted.
Now, the latest news is that Bridgeport’s system-wide standardized testing will be given the week before the end-of-the-year final exams, a period normally reserved for reviewing the materials that have been covered throughout the school year.
So rather than give Bridgeport’s students the opportunity to review and prepare for the tests that actually matter (the exams that translate into grades), Bridgeport’s corporate school leadership will be eliminating that critical instructional time so that students can take a standardized test similar to the one they took only ninety days ago.
Then, and only then, can students in Bridgeport take the exams that produce the year-end grades.
If the content of these standardized tests are the same as they were 90 days ago, then the process is a complete waste of time and money since fundamental scores aren’t likely to change much in such a short period of time.
If, on the other hand, these new tests cover different information, then they are a complete waste of time and money because the Vallas administration never told teachers what was on the tests so that they, in turn, have never had the opportunity to help students prepare for them.
One thing that is certain though, this entire duplicate testing program has taken away from teaching the actual curriculum and the ones who will suffer the most are Bridgeport’s school children. (And we wonder why parents and students feel disengaged from their schools).
Meanwhile, the rest of us are left to pick up the financial tab for this gross absurdity.
The one thing we do know is that if Bridgeport’s standardized tests scores go down or student grades suffer, it has nothing to do with the teachers, the fault will lie directly with the outside administrators who have come in and screwed things up even more.