Guest Opinions

Idaho State Board of Education members should experience ISAT exam

A school’s old ISAT card.
A school’s old ISAT card.

It’s testing day in Room 10. Earlier in the week I sent an email home to parents letting them know which days in April and May we will be completing our state-mandated ISAT tests. I reminded each to make sure their child gets a little extra sleep, has a protein-filled breakfast, and receives a big hug, kiss and supportive word as the little one leaves for school each testing day.

Before lunch, I reminded my third-graders that the state tests are very important. We talked about how their teachers next year will see their scores, as well as mom and dad. I told each one that they are very smart and will be very successful with the test if they focus and take their time. “Don’t hurry. The test is not timed. We will give you as much time as you need to complete each test.”

Down to the computer lab they go. Their test session is one hour and 45 minutes long. During the English Language Arts test, they will be asked to evaluate, compose, infer, justify and support their answer. One hour and 45 minutes later they come back to me, exhausted. The bad news? Most of them finished only half of the 42-question assessment.

My students are 9 and 10 years old. They must complete four of these four-hour tests in the next four weeks. Most will spend 16 hours (or more) in testing.

The new ISAT test format (also often referred to as the SBAC) is a direct match to the Common Core. This new format asks students to do more than pick a multiple choice response. This new format really requires kids to think. I appreciate the new format. I want to know that my students, after seven months of instruction, can do more than make an educated guess. I understand the importance of students in grades 3-12 completing the ISAT exams. It is important that we see each child’s academic achievement level and be able to compare each child with students from around the state and the nation.

But, 16 hours of testing? Forty-two questions on the ELA exam? Doesn’t that seem more than a little extreme?

I challenge the State Board of Education members to come and sit next to one of my students as they complete one of their ISAT exams. Better yet, come and sit for the remaining three tests. Take the test right alongside one of my students. As an adult, that task would be exhausting enough ... now put yourself in the place of a 9- or 10-year-old.

Please, please revise the ISAT exams so they are reasonable and allow students to do their very best work.

Jackie Meyer, a teacher in the West Ada district, has been an educator for 34 years, serving as an elementary school principal and a teacher. In 2010, she was selected as the National Distinguished Principal for Idaho.