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Parents And Teachers To CMS: Tests Are Waste Of Time And Money

http://66.225.205.104/LM20110413.mp3

Parents, teachers and students crowded into the CMS school board meeting last night to speak out against a new round of tests that would help determine teacher pay. Several board members repeated their support for Superintendent Peter Gorman's "pay for performance" plan, but a few said it was time to stop the testing and evaluate the program. A couple hundred people showed up last night carrying signs that read things like "Testing up, Budget down" and "No Teacher Left Behind." Cards to send to the school board and state lawmakers to protest "pay for performance" were circulating throughout the crowd. Kristan Magas took a few to pass out at her kids' schools, Park Road Montessori and Sedgefield Middle Montessori. She said this new round of tests is just too much and that last week's trial run wasted a lot of learning time. "It was stressful and long and frustrating," said Magas. "They didn't get to have their specials which is art and other things. The teachers were taken out. It just sounded like a mess." Phyllis Washburn, a science teacher at West Charlotte is of a similar mind. She said testing and evaluation has its place. "But sometimes some things are overdone," said Washburn. "It looks good on paper and for those people in charge of that sort of thing, they want more and more data. But whether or not it really shows you everything about a student and their teachers' teaching, this pay for performance, for example, I don't think it does." CMS is administering the new tests with hopes of gauging how effective teachers are at getting their kids to learn. The tests are costing the district nearly $2 million left over from last year's budget. By 2014, CMS wants to use these test results along with other measures possibly such as classroom evaluations and student surveys to help determine teacher pay. About thirty parents, teachers and students spoke out against the testing during the meeting's public comment time. Many of them criticized the district for spending money on tests while cutting teachers, and creating an environment that encourages teaching to the test. Later in the evening after most parents and teachers had left, the school board discussed the testing. "We have a long way to go to explain what we're doing in a way that benefits our students," said Chairman Eric Davis. In that vein, he asked Gorman a few questions. "Dr. Gorman, one of the clearest ones I've heard and I feel as a parent is of what benefit are these tests to my child's education?" "First thing I can tell you is that they'll guide and inform instruction," replied Gorman. "Right now we don't have data in very many of our classes to look at and evaluate how we're teaching, what we're teaching, where there are gaps for professional development." Several board members pledged their support for the testing and the pay for performance program. But four board members, including Tom Tate had misgivings. "I don't think I ever envisioned what 52 new tests was going to feel like and now that we have them I don't much like how it feels," said Tate. A couple board members urged the district to stop the testing and evaluate the program. The district plans to administer the final versions of the new tests in May and June.