Editorial: N.C. schools' chief sloganeering won't help improve students' achievement

Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019 -- If school children were voters, the N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction's clever sloganeering about ending school testing would garner swoons from the electorate. But they don't vote. Their parents do pay taxes and what they don't like is students who underachieve. Merely testing less doesn't mean students will learn more. Adequate funding and high standards for all public schools will.
Posted 2019-01-22T02:54:05+00:00 - Updated 2019-01-23T12:51:39+00:00

CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019; Editorial #8383
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Mark Johnson, North Carolina’s superintendent of public instruction, has taken to the campaign trail and declared: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to test anymore!”

Rather than taking to the stump, he’d be helping public school students more by pressing the state legislative leadership for the resources to make sure kids are progressing in their learning.

If school children were voters Johnson’s sloganeering would garner their ballots. But they don’t vote. Their parents do pay taxes. What they don’t like is students who underachieve. Merely testing less doesn’t mean students will learn more.

We’d like to think that Johnson discovered the legislative leaderships’ approach to testing hasn’t advanced basic skills or increased learning. Maybe he’s realized more emphasis is needed on tracking improvement in scores rather than the actual score. End of grade tests come too late to help those students who haven’t grasped the material.

Tests are a part of life. They needn’t be torture. But reasonable testing used strategically to help students learn -- not just give a school a grade or a teacher a bonus – is an appropriate part of a quality education.

We support frequent testing that gives teachers an indication of how well students grasp current material followed by a commitment of time and resources to provide support so these students don't fall behind.

Those resources include:

  • Quality teachers who are paid commensurate with the skills required for the job and expectations demanded.
  • Current and adequate instructional materials and textbooks for every student.
  • Up-to-date facilities that accommodate 21st century learning.

Grandstanding and cleaver soundbites may capture a headline but don’t amount to much education headway.

If Mark Johnson really wants to show he is interested in supporting teachers' work and helping improve student learning, he’ll step off the campaign trail and march across the street to the Legislative Building.

He’ll let them know in direct terms he’s fed up with their political posturing and demand they provide the resources to public school teachers and administrators that can help improve student achievement and learning.

Testing is NOT the problem.