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Standardized testing in a non-standard time

To the Editor:

As a public middle school teacher in the great state of North Carolina, I could expound for pages about the standardized testing model in our public schools. I hold many strong opinions about it, the administration of, and how the scores are used.  

However, I am not writing as a teacher. I am writing to you as a parent.

My daughter is in tenth grade at a school that is on the block schedule. Since March 13, 2020, she has had 22 potential face-to-face instructional days. Two of those were made into remote learning days when we had Election Day and a hurricane causing high winds and a flooding threat to our roads.  

Twenty days of face-to-face instruction.  

Since March 13, 2020.  

Fortunately, we are in Haywood County and our leaders rallied the troops and our teachers transitioned to online learning within days of going remote last spring. My issue is not with the quality of instruction she has had — Pisgah High School has some incredible instructors.  

My issue is not even with the number of face-to-face days she has had with our hybrid model.  

My issue is that she is going to be evaluated with an End-of-Course test that was designed to be based on a curriculum that was taught over at least 90 days of instruction. Then, that score has to be computed with her grades for the rest of the term. My daughter, who currently has A’s in her classes, could conceivably be dropped to a B or a C for her final transcript. And it could happen not because she has not worked hard in the class; not because her teachers have failed at doing their job; and not because she did not learn the material. It would be because there is not enough time to cover 90 days of instruction in less than 30 days so she could be testing on material they simply did not have time to cover. 

Not only is her grade lying in the balance, but the limited, precious, valuable class time she could have scheduled is being sacrificed on the altar of the “Almighty EOC.” Classes must be re-arranged and schedules altered to allow us to test safely.  

And while we are on the subject of safety. Currently, she attends school every other week with the same group of students in small classes where social distancing is potentially possible. Just two weeks ago, Gov. Cooper asked us to keep our traditional Thanksgiving gatherings to 10 people. Businesses must limit the amount of people they serve. Yet, high schools are having to request waivers to be able to test for 10 days instead of 5 to maintain safe environments. This whole testing scenario is absurdity at its finest.  

My child, through no fault of her own, is having to take a test that could adversely affect her transcript, in the middle of a pandemic. This is senseless.

I understand that federal guidelines limit some of your decisions. Ideally, EOC and EOGs would once again be waived for the 2020-2021 school year. I understand that is not likely to happen despite what is in the best interest of the students being served.  

At a bare minimum, though, please waive the requirement that the EOG score be counted in the final grade. The scores being obtained will be skewed negatively, I predict, simply because of the stress and trauma associated with everything that has happened since last March. There is no reason, whatsoever, to include these in a way that likely will be punitive to many of the students who are trying their best and their teachers who have done nothing short of miracles with what they have been given.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and please remember — do what is best of the children.

Karma Shuford

Canton

(Editor’s note: Karma Shuford, a middle school teacher in Haywood Counmty, submitted this letter the the N.C. State Board of Education concerning End of Grade/End of Course testing this year and asked that we publish it as a letter to the editor.)

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