May 2, 2021

Seth Lavin: I’m a Chicago principal. This round of state testing won’t tell me anything that matters.

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“First Person” is Chalkbeat’s platform for op-eds from people in the field. Last week Chalkbeat Chicago presented an op-ed from Seth Lavin, an elementary school principal in Chicago, who adds to the growing chorus of educators pointing out that the Big Standardized Test of 2021 is not useful.

I am the principal of an elementary school in Chicago. This month we welcomed 200 children back to school for the first time in a year. Two of them are my sons. They were scared, they were brave, and now we will ask them to take a six-hour test.

The federal government agreed to waive standardized testing last spring, but this year the answer was no. So in two weeks, we will take our children to empty gyms, sit them masked at spaced-out tables, and watch for two days while they take a test that answers none of the questions that matter.

We say we test to teach better, and that is true when it comes to teachers and their students. Teachers read with their children, tracking fumbled words and how well they understand the story. They give check-in slips in math to study how students are solving problems.

But teaching better is not why we do statewide testing. Results don’t even come back until the year is over. It’s especially hard to see how this year’s numbers will tell us anything, with half our kids still remote and no option to take the test at home.

We give these tests to make judgments: who’s up and who’s down, who’s red and who’s green. We give these tests because we pretend test scores tell us what it means to be a good school, a good teacher, a good student. But they don’t.

Lavin provides some thoughtful answers to those big questions. Read the full piece here.


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