SLO Tests: What the Teachers and the Students Think

Shannan O'Neil, Editor-in-Chief

It was noted by all teachers that almost all students hated these SLO tests, or the baseline tests as some teachers might have called it. There was virtually no incentive for any student to take these tests the right way.

The initial problem with these tests wasn’t the difficultly of them, because we weren’t supposed to know any of it anyway. It was the concept that you’re given a test in the beginning of the year on things you’ve never learned but are going to learn, then you will be given the same test at the end of the year not to show your growth but to show your teacher’s teaching skills.

What irked a lot of students here, as well as many other places, was that there was even a Physical Education assessment. “Physical Education is incredibly important, but how can the state or a school board pin a student’s mile run improvement on their P.E. teacher?” says senior Marie Sgroi.

To remain objective here, I asked a lot of teachers from Wantagh and from other districts as well their opinions on the matter.

“I think the written concept is great,” says a teacher choosing to stay anonymous for this interview. “I just would rather not be blamed for the lack of student improvement because some kids choose to not learn, or are simply incapable to learn. Also [Wantagh] doesn’t have a bad teacher problem; it’s other districts that have the problem. We don’t have to worry about it here, I don’t think. We have good teachers.”

Wantagh High School has a 99% graduation rate and a 98% college attendance rate. Take a school like Wyandanch High School where the poverty is prominent and the graduation rate is a low 71%. There are many things that factor into those results; 77% of households are single-mother households with 2 or more children.

“I have nothing against these tests other than the fact that they’re insipid,” says my mom, a 4th-5th grade Special Education teacher in New York City. “There should be a modified test for each school district and maybe one for each class type as well.”

The state has been using the malapropism “rigor” to describe their teaching plans and their challenging goals for students, probably meaning to use the word “vigor.” Either way, is that truly how testing works?

Off-topic to the more general standardized testing issue, Dr. Donald Sternberg of Wantagh Elementary School offered his opinion in an editorial with incredible points that can factor into teacher improvement.

“Excessive testing is unhealthy… What would the impact be on their self-esteem and self-worth at such a young age?” he wrote. “Teachers statewide are worried that their relationship with students might change when they are evaluated based upon their students’ test scores. Teachers want to educate students, not test prep them for job security.”

To read more of Dr. Sternberg’s incredibly well-written and well-thought-out editorial go to http://merricklife.com/issue/thursday-october-4-2012/article/dear-parents-guest-editorial-by-dr-donald-sternberg-wantagh-elementary-school.

Whether or not the SLO tests are good for the student and for the teacher, they’re not going away any time soon. So buckle up kiddies and do your best!