DeKalb teen: Students would like to opt out of tests, but our grades would suffer

Parents are learning today that their kids will have to finish Milestones tests on Monday due to internet outages today.

Many parents and students are tired of the stress around standardized testing, which is at its zenith now in Georgia.

So, why don’t more of them opt out?

Here is an answer from Jordyn Seybolt, a junior at Lakeside High School in DeKalb.

Seybolt wrote this in response to a teacher’s urging on this blog last week that more students opt out of standardized tests:

By Jordyn Seybolt

I read the teacher essay on the Get Schooled blog advocating for parents to opt their children out of taking the Georgia Milestones. I agree we need to encourage the opt-out movement in Georgia. However, high school students have no choice but to take these tests.

Each Georgia Milestones test counts toward 20 percent of our total grade. So, if I refused to take the American Literature End of Course test, I presume the state would give me a zero for that percentage, dropping my grade significantly.

After the Georgia Department of Education released its testing schedule last week, my classmates and I became even more stressed over the End of Course Milestones because some of the tests overlap with our AP exam schedules. One scheduling conflicts affects every junior taking  the AP U.S. History exam.

The College Board released its testing schedule last year, setting the APUSH exam for the morning of Friday, May 6. According to the Georgia Milestone schedule released last week, all juniors must take Part III of the American Literature EOC in the afternoon of the same day.

AP exams generally run longer than predicted due to late start times or other human errors, so the APUSH exam will end after 11:00 a.m. Even if students have time to make it to our EOC test, we will be exhausted after three hours writing essays and answering multiple choice and short answer questions for the famously grueling AP exam. We will not be able to perform our best on these state tests, which is a huge problem since they count toward 20 percent of our grades.

The GADOE created two make-up days for students, May 9 and May 10, but those are still days when other AP exams take place, which means additional conflicts for some students.

I have sat through mandatory testing for years even though the tests seem designed to help the school district look good rather than help students learn.  I have seen many articles written by parents about opting their young children out of tests, but I don’t see many opinions coming from high school students.

Yet, I hear my peers in the hallways and at the lunch tables complaining about irrelevant and excessive testing, and how we all want a change. But, as teenagers, we all feel powerless in making that change.

A teacher sent me some excellent questions about the Milestones high school tests to which Jordyn refers:

  1. Unlike AP exams, we have no access to a released test — just two study guides. And these are horribly written. In the case of the American Literature Milestones/EOCs, students are given two articles to read and use to inform their arguments. However, there are no citations for the articles.
  1. We have no idea who is scoring these short answer and essay responses and how these responses will be scored (legitimately) in the time required. In our school districts, students are taking these exams on May 6 or May 8 or even later if they have conflicts that require them to make up the exam. But we are supposed to have the scores back in time for grade posting. How is this possible? How many juniors are taking the exam in the state? And how many written responses will be scored? Last year 529,000 students took the AP English exam; about 900 high school and college instructors scored one of the three essays for seven straight 8-hour days. Are the people scoring these Milestones essays using fake “exemplar” essays or real student essays? There is a difference. Anyone in the legitimate scoring business can explain this.
  1. What, exactly, are the expectations and scoring procedures for this state test that determines 20 percent of students’ grades, teachers’ job performance, and school funding?
  1. At the school and school district level, who schedules the exam times? College Board announces its testing schedule a year ahead of time. Juniors taking the American Literature end of course test are also scheduled to take the AP U.S. History exam on the same day.
  1.  How did the DOE determine that any information from last year’s test was valid? Students weren’t receiving grades, so how does all the qualitative research now driving public education pedagogy apply? If students lacked the “extrinsic motivation” so often discussed in edu-research, what determined that any information was valid?

Reader Comments 0

56 comments
CCTF
CCTF


Here's something for you.  The AP ECON exam does not have the same material on it at all as the ECON EOC.  Students who take AP ECON still have to take the ECON EOC as well.  So the teacher essentially has to cover two different curriculums in one year in order to prep the students for two high stakes test in one class. It is insane!


bu22
bu22

Beyond the HS grade issue, the state is intending to enforce passing the Milestones for promotion.  I think I saw on here last year that about 40% of the APS and also DeKalb and Clayton kids didn't pass.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@xxxzzz OMG!  The state is actually trying to keep students reading at a 4th grade level from being promoted to the 11th grade!!!  They can't do that!!! How are APS and DeKalb and Clayton ever going to get kids out of the 4th grade???

class80olddog
class80olddog

I also wanted to opt out of class in school, but my grades would suffer...

class80olddog
class80olddog

Apparently lots of student opt out of class these days, but they get socially promoted anyway...

jerryeads
jerryeads

The evidence seems to be mounting that the Millstones are, well, worthless junk. Just like CRCT. We might as well just buy a Roulette wheel (with numbers from 1-800) for each school, let 'em spin it for each kid. It'd be quicker and LOTS cheaper. And for those of you like several posters below who seem to believe that the only purpose of school is for kids to learn to hate learning, the wheel should be just as stressful and just as unfair as badly made and scored low-bid tests.

We've been doing this useless minimum competency crap for nigh on fifty years, people. The National Assessment of Educational Progress  - NAEP - hasn't , well, progressed. The scores on that pretty decently made test haven't budged. While I absolutely expect that the mindless knee-jerkers downtown will continue to spend absurd amounts of the budget on Millstones and many other worthless endeavors, it would sure be nice if we could use those bux on some things that would make schooling better. 

Einstein is credited with saying that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  We sure qualify.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@jerryeads Einstein should have added " it is also insanity to take something that is working, change it to something that doesn't work, and then refuse to change it back."  But then again, he didn't have to worry about being PC.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@jerryeads "The National Assessment of Educational Progress  - NAEP - hasn't , well, progressed"  are you saying we spend four times what we used to spend per student and we haven't progressed?

bu22
bu22

@jerryeads Or they could use the more heavily vetted national test instead of their home grown one.  I looked at the example for our grade with a teacher and she thought the reading looked more like a graduate school reading.

insideview
insideview

I agree the SLOs are a mess. Students and parents today need to stop whining. Everyone takes tests. LSAT, MCAT, SAT, I don't hear anyone demanding to " opt out " of these tests. We are raising a generation of students who think everything should be convenient or easy. It's called growing up. I am not supporting high stakes testing, I think  they are flawed  and untimely, but I object to all the whining, take the test, and get over it. Life is hard!

class80olddog
class80olddog

@insideview Oh, yes - now people want to see colleges that admit students without having to take those dreadful SAT tests.  Just wait, pretty soon you will see people complaining about lawyers having to pass the bar, engineers having to pass professional certification, or doctors having to pass a licensing exam.  God help us all then.

Starik
Starik

@class80olddog @insideview Military recruits have to pass the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) to discover what they're qualified for in the service and see if they learned enough in high school to handle training. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

Yea, I always wanted to opt out of tests in high school, too.  I especially wanted to opt out of semi-finals and finals in college, also.  I don't understand why the teachers and professors wanted to know if I had learned anything. 

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@class80olddog I never had a problem with testing, but I am not sure the tests I took in college or high school said very much about my depth of understanding of the material. I took almost all multiple choice tests. I would have preferred essays as I like to write. There are repetitive tests now in Georgia, and we ought to look at saving both time and money by correcting that. I also think the SLOs are a mess and need serious review. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@MaureenDowney @class80olddog It's funny - I always noticed that the students who listened in class, did their homework and studied did really well on tests.  I also noticed that the goof-offs who never studied were the ones who did poorly on their tests.  Weird.  From the comments on here, you would expect students who had well mastered the material to make failing grades on the test...

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@class80olddog @MaureenDowney I agree that going to class, doing the readings and studying lead to good tests grades -- when the teacher creates the test.

But the state tests -- especially these new ones that are really being field tested still -- may not align as well with what kids learned. And, as poster CCTF notes above, high school students taking AP Econ also take the state Econ end-of-course test, which does not align to the AP curriculum. 

That doesn't sound like a big deal but then kids end up with essay questions on topics they never had in class. It happens. 

redweather
redweather

I have a sneaking suspicion this student's teacher helped with the blog article, which is just one reason why teachers' assessments are not always the best indicator of student performance.

However, AP students should not have to sit for a Milestones test in the afternoon of the same day they spend the morning taking the AP. That's just plain asinine.

worriedaboutthenumbers
worriedaboutthenumbers

I have no problem with standardized testing as a concept, but it would need to be a valid test. The milestones is not. It's crappy, and way too much time and emphasis is spent on it. Stop the madness already. 

atlanta spirit
atlanta spirit

Fact:  some schools in the Atlanta area will never produce high percentages of high scoring students.  This is because there is no culture of achievement in their dysfunctional homes.  Welfare has broken up homes and quashed the thought of working hard.  Obviously there are lots of exceptions to this rule but the march towards the complete break down of families goes on.  Do you think waves of kids who will not pull their pants up are going to study for a test?  Now their is no need to cheat or study or make excuses for low test scores.  The left won in these areas and now they will reap what they have sown. 

Pam McBride Sewell
Pam McBride Sewell

This was a thoughtful well-written article. I could feel this students pain!

TMichaels1331
TMichaels1331

It would really be beneficial for all legislators to visit an elementary school in their district while the testing is going on, just to get a pulse of what is really happening.  If they came into my school, they would see 8 year olds trying to type multi-paragraph essays on a computer, in a language that they have not mastered, responding to articles and stories that they are unable to comprehend.  It is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous waste of time I have ever seen, and a galling waste of taxpayer money.  

Standardized tests AND CCRPI don't give anyone one speck of information except they rank schools by poverty and tell you who has the most Hispanic or poor African American students. They tell you what the U.S. Census already produces - which zip codes have the highest number of families where the adults are not educated, where they didn't graduate from high school, where the kids don't go to preschool, where the median income is at or below the poverty line.  Where families are from other countries, probably illegally.  There is an absolute correlation between those indicators and the test scores of the students.  The travesty is that we have to waste millions of dollars for decades, to say the same thing over and over.  Some day, somehow, this lunacy will end - the NCLB testing era and its Race to the Top aftermath, and maybe we will wish we had done something different with the money, something that actually helped our state or our country in some real way.  

redweather
redweather

@TMichaels1331 "It would really be beneficial for all legislators to visit an elementary school in their district" and brush up on their English and math.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@TMichaels1331 "There is an absolute correlation between those indicators and the test scores of the students" - yes, you are correct.  There is a CORRELATION.  Not causation.  Poverty does not CAUSE poor test scores.  I lived in poverty when I was young and had great test scores.  Unfortunately, the bad choices that often cause poverty (dropping out of school, using drugs, teenage pregnancy) also cause issues that lead to poor scores in school.

TMichaels1331
TMichaels1331

There. Are. No. Teacher. Unions. In. Georgia.  Not sure why this is so difficult to comprehend.  There are none.  There has never been a teachers union.  There are teacher organizations (PAGE, GAE) but they are simply spectacularly ineffective lobbyists of legislation that supports teachers and that is the end of their usefulness.  They support students and schools throughout the state in various ways (academic bowls, scholarships) and can answer employment legal questions, but that's it.

Legong
Legong

It's embarrassing that a blog supposedly focused on better education is so in the tank for the teachers' unions. 

The need for accountability isn't going away.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Legong If it is in the tank, stop reading and posting the SOS.


I'd like to see some accountability on the part of our state legislature, national legislature, state and federal DOE.  


We desperately need accountability from ALL stakeholders, not just teachers.

Legong
Legong

@Wascatlady @Legong 

What we and the system desperately need is parental choice. Failure and its apologists ... 

We have more than enough of!

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@Wascatlady  In our county, parents have a choice.  They can choose charter, magnet, or programs of choice for their children.  In our school of almost 97% poverty, guess how many choose to send their children somewhere else...NONE.  So what you really want is choice SOME parents -the parents who already have the means to go somewhere other than their "zip code" school.                                                                 While I am on my soapbox - we are, by many measures, considered to be a "failing" school, but I would put our faculty up against any in our county.  Your definition of "failure" is based on one metric - an invalid and unreliable test.  Think about it...your 8 year-old logs in to take a test and gets the message "You have completed this test."  Your child has to stop, raise a hand and get the teacher, who then radios for a technology specialist, who then radios the AP so she can make a phone call to the district office and is told to call the testing company, connects to the company and hears the message "you are 45th in line to speak to a customer service agent,"  she waits until she finally gets someone on the phone, finds out what to do, radios the technology specialist, who then goes and fixes the problem.  Then your child, who has been sitting patiently for 30 or more minutes, can once again attempt the test.  Do you really think he/she is going to now be able to concentrate on the test????  And this result is going to tell me if our teachers are good? are our children learning?  REALLY?



class80olddog
class80olddog

@elementary-pal @Wascatlady It is not the test that makes yours a "failing school".  You most likely would be failing because of numerous reasons  - what is your attendance and tardiness rate?  What is your discipline like at the school?  How many grade levels behind are your students?  How many students who fail do you "socially promote" each year?  Your school is failing because is has bad students and parents and you do nothing to let them feel the effects of what they choose.  If they choose not to come to school, fail them, and retain them, and let them drop out at sixteen.  It is what is going to happen anyway (unless you give them a diploma made worthless by having no standards attached to it).

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady @Legong All teachers have choices - they can fail their students, they can retain them, they can keep them after school for punishment.  They can give them grades that truly reflect their learning and work.  Lots of choices - the same as parents.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@elementary-pal @Wascatlady "They can choose charter, magnet, or programs of choice for their children."  So there are charters that are not just extensions of the traditional schools (start-up charters)? Do magnet systems accept everyone who applies?  What are "programs of choice"?  Of course, any parent can just pick up and move to a better school district, right?  Or send their kids to private schools, or home-school.  Lots of choices.  Just make sure you leave your tax money with our failing system.

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

You need to learn a new song! But, just so you know...fewer than 5% of our students have missed more than 10 days of school.  Most of our students ride the bus, so being tardy is not a problem.  Discipline is handled appropriately for 5-11 year-old kids.  (and yes, I have suspended students when needed)  We retain students when it is the most appropriate placement.  We scheduled many retention meetings today. 

Asking "how many grade levels behind" our students would require 550 answers since each child is considered individually, and like any school, some are behind, some are ahead, and some are right on target. 

How dare you make the assumption that our kids are bad!You have no idea how hard our kids work.If you want to know why we are labeled a failing school?When you compare our lowest quartile to the state average, there is a difference that is greater than someone high up in the ivory tower decided was appropriate.Now think about that.If we raise the scores of our lowest quartile of students, the state average will also increase.So when compared, there is still an unacceptable difference.Ever feel like you were pushing a very large rock up a very large hill????


As for making a choice about coming to school...elementary students rarely make that call.  And finally, the last time I checked, it is the job of teachers and administrators to teach students what they need to know.  At no time should we be rewarded for the number of students who fail.  Our purpose is to take the children who struggle and do what is necessary to help them learn.  There is no joy in a child failing at learning. 




elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@class80olddog @elementary-pal We do have start-up charters in our system.  Charters accept students in a lottery, magnets accept students according to available space, and programs of choice require students meet a certain criteria.  PoC operate like a school-within-a-school.  No, many parents do not have an option because they cannot afford to transport their kids to another school.  However, in our situation, we have parents who bring their kids to us by choice from another "zip code" school.  So, we must be doing something right. 

Starik
Starik

There must be a way to judge, as accurately as possible, the performance and potential of kids at every level.  Grades are the least reliable measure; they are almost entirely subjective, depending on the teacher and the school.  An "A" at a poverty-ridden school will not, can't be, equivalent to an "A" at a high-income school filled with bright kids, supportive parents and excellent teachers.  Perhaps we should step back and rethink the number and type of tests we require, just as we should rethink the way we educate kids.  What worked before - in the 19th and early 20th century, isn't working very well now.  We need to do this as a nation, not as individual states and school districts. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Starik " Grades are the least reliable measure; they are almost entirely subjective, depending on the teacher and the school"  That is why the push to more standardized testing.  When you have 11th graders reading on a 4th grade level, yet they passed all their classes, something is wrong with the grading system.

southerntchr
southerntchr

Furthermore, these tests have very low cut scores and expectations, so if you are an AP student who can score high enough on an AP exam to receive college credit, you will do fine on this test. Your school needs your high scores for its CCRPI.

southerntchr
southerntchr

Your school sets the date based on a generous window from the state. Your school is responsible for the conflict.

HIbought theRefs
HIbought theRefs

@southerntchr The school and the state should be cognizant of the AP schedule. It's posted well in advance and frankly, the system should be working to REDUCE such conflicts.  EOC Testing in this state is a joke, given the low cut scores, but deliberately setting the dates to conflict with the highest-level coursework (the AP Classes) is ridiculous.  


ParentTeacher
ParentTeacher

These tests are a waste of time.  States and other outside groups want to use the scores to evaluate teachers as well as students but they can have 30% error when used this way.  As a teacher, they give me no valid information that can be used.  Further, student's usually score really close to their current class average so it rarely affects their grade.  


So what is the point of these tests.  It is another opportunity for state cronies to siphon off funds to corporations further draining an already thin budget.


So sick of it all, I will be spending my summer looking for a new career.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@ParentTeacher "student's usually score really close to their current class average so it rarely affects their grade"  Really?  Is that how you get an 11th grader who reads at a 4th grade level?  If he scores a 20% on a test that has a 70% "cut", do you give him a "D" (when he should get an "F").  Or is the problem that these kids have failing grades ("F's") all through school and are promoted to the next grade anyway?

ParentTeacher
ParentTeacher

@class80olddog @ParentTeacher Do you teach?  Do you even have any idea what you are talking about?  In a high school, student's tend to score about the same as their class average.  I never said no student's fail.  

class80olddog
class80olddog

@ParentTeacher "already thin budget" - but four times what we spent per student in the sixties (adjusted for inflation).

class80olddog
class80olddog

@ParentTeacher @class80olddog Maybe you meant "in my high school" or maybe "in most high schools".  So you are saying Carstarphen's example of the 11th grader in APS that was reading at a 4th grade level probably earned and was given failing grades but just promoted anyway under the PC rule of "keep all ages together"? I don't understand your confusion on this subject.  You claim that test scores reflect grade average and yet we hear of these cases of students in higher grades who obviously have failing scores - so what are their grades?

elementary-pal
elementary-pal

@class80olddog @ParentTeacher  Just wondering...how many computers did you have in your school in the 1960's?  How many federal rules and regulations did your school have to follow?  How many special education students did you have? 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@elementary-pal @class80olddog @ParentTeacher We didn't have computers - but we had typewriters that probably cost more than today's computers.  We had a computer punch-card machine that was half the size of a VW and probably cost a LOT back in those days.  We also had driver's training cars with double brakes.  We did NOT have interactive white boards that teachers did not use and computer access that only works when you are not taking a test on it. We didn't have to follow Federal Regulations, since we did not take Federal money (the only way they can enforce something like IDEA).  And we did not try to "mainstream" SPED students by putting them into a calculus class for the to be around regular students, then provide them with a full-time individual teacher.  We also never tried to bring a student into the school who had to wear a diaper - those were taught "reasonable" skills in a setting where regular instruction was not affected, and where appropriate medical care was given in a medical facility, not in a school. Oh, and lastly, we did not have to try to teach kids English when their native tongue is Spanish, because we were not required to teach people in the country illegally.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@elementary-pal @class80olddog @ParentTeacher The typewriter I learned on in the 8th grade sold for $225 in 1960 - that is about equivalent to $3000 in today's dollars. We also went to schools where all the classes were held in brick and mortar buildings and did not rely on "portable classrooms".  So we had a lot of expenses back there, also - we just chose to spend the money on certain things and not others.  We did not give student's free lunch unlike today where they give parents food stamps and then give the students free lunch.