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An Open Letter to the Somerville School Committee

Why we should not remove standardized testing in the schools.

I wish to weigh in on tonight’s discussion about the possibility of eliminating standardized testing throughout Somerville’s public schools. I regret that I am unable to attend in person and consider the perspectives of others, but hope you will consider my position when making your final deliberations on this matter.
While I am opposed to the endless preparation and focus that has become pervasive in our public schools with regard to standardized testing, I do feel that some yardstick to prove we are moving in the correct direction is absolutely essential to the maintenance and improvement of our educational process. I also wish to highlight the intensified needs of certain high-risk categories of student, like English language learners and those who may need special education services to succeed. Certainly it is not in the best interest of these young people that we remove what may be the last safety net to prove they have yet to be well educated.
I would suggest that the problem lay not in the testing of students, but in the unwillingness to teach proper curriculum and simply test without all the hoopla. Endless cycles of test prep and performance anxiety for both teachers and students are the enemy, not testing. If the testing material is worthy of being learned, it should be in the daily lessons and is either absorbed or not. Test prep must be significantly shortened but under no circumstances should all testing be eliminated. If the issue at hand is that the material being tested is not considered appropriate, then other testing should be employed. There must be some measurable accountability or we will not know what methodologies and teaching styles are working for our varied populations.
In my professional life as a Special Education Advocate, I frequently use test results from standardized testing to illustrate exactly where in the educational process a child is failing to progress. These results can sometimes represent the very last chance to make a concrete case for services, to improve outcome. I would urge you to consider this before making any blanket decision to eliminate testing.
You have many difficult decisions to make in shaping the face of education in Somerville. I hope you will chose not to take away the valuable tool of standardized testing so that we can see failing students and intervene, as well as continue to know our strengths and weaknesses for planning purposes.
Thank you for your attention,
Kimberly Rego
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