Mar 4, 2013
08:26 AM
Connecticut Today

Descending into March Madness


As most Connecticut residents with school-age children are undoubtedly aware, today marks the beginning of "March Madness," a.k.a. the annual Connecticut State Mastery testing.

I saw this story this morning in The New Haven Independent regarding it, talking about the massive effort being undertaken by educators to rally students to do their best on these standardized tests, the results of which are integral in determining future Federal funding.

As noted in the story, these tests "provide a major basis—though not the sole basis—for the annual grading of teachers, principals and schools. Teachers’ and schools’ fates can rest on how much students improve on the tests."

And that's what I spent much of breakfast this morning explaining to my two sons who are taking the tests even as I type this—that these exercises are measuring their teachers and schools more than it's measuring them. As a matter of fact, in the face of the robocalls we've been receiving from their respective schools systems urging us to make sure that they get a good night's sleep and are fully prepared to meet the challenges of the tests, I had to remind them both that their actual results on these tests are in no way, shape or form held against them, and that they can get zeroes on the test and it will not make any difference for their academic futures. The grades are not on their report cards and nothing will happen to them if they fail.

As municipal budgets continue to tighten and educators scrape for every dollar, however, the pressure on schools to perform well on these tests will continue to increase—hopefuly, we won't see a repeat of the CMT score-changing scandal that was uncovered in 2011 in Waterbury's Hopeville School, (as first reported by the Waterbury Republican-American). But it's clear that teachers and administrators are very concerned on making sure they do everything practical within their abilities to ensure that the keep funds coming. Hence, the pep rallies, concerts and other "Up with CMT"-type events.

Of course, as kids, my sons are just happy that they are not going to have any homework for the next two weeks, and that basically, it's a coasting period during the school day, full of lighter activities to help reduce test stress. You know, because being off extra time during Hurricane Sandy and the recent blizzard hasn't already damaged curriculums this year, they need another two weeks of reduced learning.

Sorry, but less education during a time in our history when we're struggling to keep up with the rest of the world is a real concern for many parents, myself included. Better solutions need to be found—obviously, I'm a little partial to the story we ran back in February about school reform—but I would say that something needs to change, or we can expect more and more March madness as we go forward.


Descending into March Madness

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