By Dr. Lance Gibbon
Parents across our nation are raising concerns about the overemphasis on standardized tests for students, including our state’s new Smarter Balanced Assessments.
They worry that developing a love of learning is being sacrificed for test preparation and that the pressure of state-mandated exams is draining the joy out of classrooms.
I share these concerns, both as a parent and an educator.
This year, the online Smarter Balanced tests based on the Common Core standards will be given in Washington State.
Unfortunately, students have not had even one year of instruction under the new standards.
In fact, this is the third set of new standards and tests we’ve seen in six years. In a 2014 national pilot of the new tests, only 40 percent of students passed.
Nevertheless, current 10th-graders will be required to achieve certain scores on these tests to graduate.
When I ask adults what they remember most from their school days, tests rarely come up.
What they recall are individual teachers, class projects, school performances, sports, activities; and, most of all, mentors who believed in them. This is what leaves a lasting impact on students and helps shape who they will become.
In Oak Harbor, we believe our students benefit most from balanced and varied learning opportunities that meet their individual needs and interests.
Thanks to our community’s investment, we have been able to enhance the development of strong math and literacy skills with engaging academics, career technology classes and elective opportunities that help students discover and pursue their passions.
Despite the state’s failing to implement the new standards in a thoughtful or measured manner, we must move forward and are committed to maintaining balance between strong academics, enrichment opportunities and mandated assessments.
We must ensure each student graduates from Oak Harbor possessing both the skills necessary to be successful and a love of learning. Along the way, we hope they create and cherish many lasting memories of their time in our schools.
Lance Gibbon is superintendent for Oak Harbor Public Schools.