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Rep. Tom Miles: It's Time to Let Our Teachers Teach Again

While the nation has seen the majority of states steer away from the mandatory testing system that has shackled our classroom teachers and students for over a decade, Mississippi is still stubbornly hanging on. This, despite the fact that only a handful of states are now using mandated tests to determine whether or not a child should be allowed to graduate.
For the second year in a row, I have filed a bill to abolish all the statewide testing used as exit exams for our students and replace this testing with the ACT test.
Last month, I asked my social media friends what improvements they would like to see in our public education system. Not surprisingly, the one thing everyone seemed to agree on was that it is time to eliminate mandatory state testing and free up teachers so that they can do their jobs. While we’ll never get back the many hours that our professional educators have spent working to tick the checkboxes on this imposed system, we should now turn our attention on a way to dismantle this idea that state tests are the final determiners of whether our students can succeed. Or, whether or not they can proceed to the next level of their education.
We all recognize that public school teachers feel the need to “teach to the test” because theirs and their school’s success ratings are directly correlated to their students’ performance on these tests. We know that test taking has evolved into such an important part of a student’s education experience that special programs, performances, and curriculums infuse every aspect of school life with the “importance” of these tests. There is something fundamentally wrong with forcing our teachers to “teach to the test” while ignoring important concepts and learning opportunities related to their subject matters.
Why use the ACT test instead of state-mandated exit tests?
First, the state pays for all juniors to take this test. Using the ACT will drastically curb the test-taking industry that takes valuable taxpayer money to continue the mandated programs.
Second, no college asks what a student made on their state exit tests; they ask what they made on their ACT. If a so-called purpose of the state exit tests is to make sure students are ready for college, the ACT will tell us that. And teachers can get back to making sure our students are exposed to as much information as possible instead of narrowly focusing on state testing criteria.
Many educators recognize that some very smart students are just not good test takers. Their anxiety at test taking time affects their scores, and some students dread the test taking so much that they would rather drop out of school than complete the exit exams. In these cases, the tests are resulting in the exact opposite results they should.
I am hopeful that my idea will be supported by my colleagues.
It’s time to let the teachers teach.

(For more information on this idea, you can vist www.fairtest.org.)
Rep. Tom Miles serves as State Representative for House District #75 in Scott and Eastern Rankin Counties.

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