Sound Familiar? A Complaint About Excessive Testing in Detroit

Excerpts from a letter from a Detroit Public Schools Federation of Teachers Official:

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Dear Dr. Byrd-Bennett:
We are getting a lot of feedback from teachers concerning the overwhelming  amount of testing and progress monitoring they are required to do. While  each of the assessments may have merit, taken as a whole they leave too
little time for instruction. Teachers throughout the district are asking  “When do we have time to teach?”
In addition to the regular curriculum, students are assessed using the Star  Math and Star Reading programs. They work on individualized lessons and  assessments through Accelerated Math and Accelerated Reading. Three times
per year students take a battery of benchmark assessments including up to  five Dibels assessments, Burst, and TRC. Throw in quarterly Q tests that  take two class periods per day for four days each quarter, and two to three
weeks of MEAP testing, and it’s no wonder teachers want more time to teach.

In between benchmarks, teachers are asked to print up to 80 pages of Burst  lessons every two weeks. These lessons are to be taught to the lowest  achieving four to five students in each class for a half hour per day. Some  schools don’t have enough toner to print these lessons, others don’t have  enough copiers, and nobody seems to have enough time. One teacher estimates  that a quarter of her instructional time is devoted to these assessments and
progress monitoring.
On a weekly basis, teachers also are asked to do time-consuming progress  monitoring for Dibels and TRC. Much if this work is done with one student at  a time. While our teachers are doing their best to keep the rest of the  class doing meaningful work, it is not possible to properly monitor and  coach the others while you are testing  individuals.
Two common themes emerge from discussions with teachers throughout the  district. First, these assessments all have some merit individually, but  together, they are too much. Second, we as teachers can handle all this, but  our students are suffering.
One teacher told me that for one day, she ignored Burst, Dibels, TRC,  Accelerated Math and Reading, and all she did was teach. It was the best day  the class had all year! The saddest thing is, this didn’t happen until the  third week of October, and she had to ignore directives to make it happen at  all.

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