02/12/2013 01:49 pm ET Updated Apr 14, 2013

CPS: All Testing, All the Time

Keep pulling up plants to check on the roots, and the plants will never grow. This statement is completely logical and yet the powers that be in the Chicago Public School system believe otherwise. CPS insists that its students be incessantly checked via standardized tests, to see if they are learning. It seems like the only way CPS feels confident assessing children and teachers is by collecting an array of scores, scores they feel accurately reflect what is happening within the district's schools. Simply put, CPS seeks a numerical description of a student. It insists that each student be tested and then retested and then just to be sure re-retested, and then because of some OCD-esque need to check just one more time, re-re-retested. CPS has lots and lots of test scores, lots of numerical data. What CPS does not yet have, is an accurate picture of its students, it's schools, it's teachers or it's administrators. The emphasis on testing has succeeded in one very important thing though, driving the curriculum. As a parent of children in CPS, I will tell you, kids are being taught that the most critical aspect to their education, that by far the most important thing for them to learn, is how to score as high as possible on a standardized test.

Students who are struggling academically get tested even more than their classmates, because the beatings will indeed continue until the morale improves, or something to that effect. Just last week select students were pulled out of my fourth and sixth grader's classrooms, to take, yet again, the MAP test, one of many standardized tests. All students took this particular test earlier this year and now, some students had to take it again. No one announces why these kids are being pulled out to retake this test, but the entire class knows why. They certainly aren't getting pulled out to go to Disneyland. May as well shine a big follow spot on them as they leave the room "this kid did not score well in reading or math." It's humiliating for the students, but CPS will get their tests scores and isn't that what is really important here, the scores? Meanwhile, the classroom teachers are in full ISAT (that would be another standardized test) prep mode, getting kids ready to score as high as possible on THAT standardized test. So students are prepping for a test weeks away, because they, their teachers, their school and their principal will be judged on those scores, meanwhile kids are being pulled out to retake a different standardized test, one that they took a few months ago, to see if they have scored any higher. It is testing overlapping testing.

CPS has said that testing students is the best way to catch a struggling kid from falling through the cracks. CPS isn't wearing the catcher's mask, though. They've assigned that position to the teachers. Assessment tests are being whipped at teachers like an automatic fast pitch machine. Classroom time is being eaten up teaching to the tests. There is little time for a teacher to sit down with a kid, figure out why they are not learning, address it, work on it, and help the child make some progress. Continuously requiring children to prep and sit for standardized tests is not the same at teaching them. What's more, the scores derived from all those tests do not give the school board an adequate picture of any child, struggling or exceeding. For a CPS to really get a good idea of how children are doing academically, CPS would have to allow its teachers to spend time with their students, working and observing them during daily classroom work. Kids improve with help, not with testing.

As a mother I have frequently used a thermometer to see if my kid has a fever. Never has a doctor said to me "you just keep taking that kid's temperature over and over and over. The more often you read that number on the thermometer, the better idea you'll have of what ails them". What they have said is "keep and eye on your child. Watch how they react and response. If you notice these certain symptoms, it's an indication of this ailment, which we will then need to address." See the difference? Watching, observing, trying a few things... this tells you about a child and their potential problems, not constantly taking their temperature.

If a CPS really wanted to ensure success for all of its students, it would ditch the copious standardized tests, lower the classroom sizes and require every single child to have an Individualized Lesson Plan. Of course that is too costly and children are just not worth the expense. It is far easier and cheaper to test, and retest and test again. Those test scores will not give anyone an accurate picture of what is going on in the schools. Those test scores will not help a struggling kid learn a better way to study. Those test scores will not encourage any kid to think creatively or independently. Those scores of test scores will never tell CPS what they need to know about a child and their academic success or failure. Those scores will tell CPS all they truly WANT to know though. CPS wants to know numbers, and they've got those in spades.