2016-04-14 / Letters

To the governor: The way we test children is lacking

To the editor: (The following letter was sent to Gov. Paul LePage, from Denise D-Entremont, school test coordinator at Biddeford Intermediate School.)

I am writing to voice my concerns about the MEA testing that is currently being administered in all Maine public schools. This letter is meant to address my own personal concerns and doesn’t necessarily reflect the concerns of the district. First, I am not at all opposed to Common Core Standards as I believe we are a mobile nation and all students in the United States should have the same high standards. I am opposed to the testing methods we have used to measure these standards. Second, I want to thank the Biddeford School Department as at the Intermediate School we had the computers we needed as well as the Internet access we have needed to support the testing. I know the technology folks really worked very hard making sure we were ready for the test.

I have many concerns about this test but I will cite my major ones:

 We asked children who have been in the United States for less than a year and speak another language (our ELL population primarily speaks Arabic) to take the math portion of this test without any accommodations. The math portion of the test is primarily reading word problems. I ask any one of you to take a test in Arabic and be successful. It is so sad to watch children who are working very hard to acculturate and learn a new language sit at a computer with no idea what the screen says. If the child has been here more than a year, they must take the reading and writing portion also. My question is – what are we measuring? Personally, I believe this is cruel.

The test design and directions are the same if you are 8 years old or 15 years old. The test design expects elementary age children to be proficient at manipulating the computer as well as being able to type. Frankly, at the elementary level, we still teach children to read and write using books, pencils and paper. Many of our students show their math work by drawing out pictures, etc. They were not able to use the strategies they have been taught while completing this assessment. My suggestion would be that the assessment should be pencil and paper for grades three through five, at least.

 We were given projected times that each session should take. Based on suggested times, we thought the test should take about six hours: three reading sessions, two writing sessions, two math sessions. Many of our students took double the time resulting in about 12 hours of computer testing. Biddeford Intermediate students have been real troopers, but is it really necessary to test this long to determine what a child knows?

 This is the third new assessment students have had to take in the past three years: NECAP, Smarter Balanced and now MEA. I ask that you take the time to really develop a child friendly, developmentally appropriate assessment that levels with children’s skills. Students at my school have lost at least five reading classes and two math classes to complete this assessment that really measures a child’s stamina at using the computer and looking at a screen.

I just ask you to remember that there is a child taking these assessments. Please make the assessment one that has value and gives teachers information.

Denise D’Entremont, school test coordinator Biddeford Intermediate School

Return to top