There are few hotter potatoes in education at the moment than standardized tests. Depending on whom you ask, they are either drowning our students and teachers or illuminating the path to educational equity.
But what do you know about standardized tests? What do they measure and how well? Is the information they generate useful? And how did they get to be such hot topics?
You have a couple of chances to hear divergent opinions on the subject. The first takes place tonight, Thursday, Feb. 13, at Sanford Middle School in Minneapolis. AchieveMpls and Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) are co-hosting the first of six upcoming “Our City, Our Schools” meetings, this one focused on data and testing.
Presenters will include Dr. Eric Vanden Berk, a MPS research specialist; Megan Olivia Hall, 2013 Minnesota Teacher of the Year and current teacher at St. Paul’s Open World Learning Community; and Taylor Rub, a special education teacher at Brightwater Montessori Charter School and former MPS teacher.
The idea is to have the audience hear an objective overview of testing, and then from a proponent and a skeptic. I don’t know any of the panelists in the aforementioned lineup so I can’t tell you who will fill which role, but I can tell you from personal experience that AchieveMpls, MPS’ nonprofit partner, does a terrific job facilitating useful conversation.
Our City, Our Schools runs from 6-8 at Sanford Middle School, 3524 42nd Ave South.
The second panel and community discussion, “Standardized Tests: Are They Helping or Hurting?” will take place Sunday, Feb. 16 at First Covenant Church of Minneapolis, which is located at 810 S. Seventh St. The panel will take place at 6 p.m. and a facilitated conversation will follow at 7.
University of St. Thomas Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds will moderate a panel that I’m proud to join. It, too, will offer divergent thoughts on testing.
The president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, Mary Cathryn Ricker has called for a clause in the union’s next contract with its district curtailing standardized tests. Joining her will be Daniel Sellers, executive director of MinnCAN; Chris Stewart, executive director of the African American Leadership forum; and Portia McLean, an adjunct professor of linguistics at Concordia University and the University of Minnesota.
If you recognize any of the names on that list, you might guess where they stand on some of the questions swirling around the testing debate. Me? You’re going to have to show up to find out for sure, but I’ll tell you that this is one topic where my parent hat and my reporter hat don’t fit comfortably on my head at the same time.