Debate Team Hosts Panel
Thursday, May 21, 2015 11:55 AM

Eleanor Craig addresses the audience at Wednesday night’s panel discussion

On Wednesday, May 20th, the Northeast Middle School Debate Team hosted a panel discussion about standardized testing.  The panel consisted of nine people, four of whom are on the Northeast Debate Team: 7th graders Ginger Benson-Nicheallachain and Eleanor Craig, and 8th graders Kamia Wilson and Margret Ritschel.  They were joined by five other panelists: Cleveland Miller, a former Nighthawk and leader in an organization called s.t.a.r.t. (students together as allies for racial trust); Julie Landsman, a retired MPS teacher and accomplished authors with works published on equity and diversity; Sarah Lahm, mother of 4 MPS students and writer on testing, opting out, and progressive education; Mary Cecconi, Policy Director of Parents United for Public Schools; and Terry Faust, who spoke about witnessing the inconsistencies prevalent in the ways these tests are assessed as someone who scored student written standardized tests for Florida, Ohio, and Arkansas.

The evening began with each panelist sharing their experiences with standardized testing.  Particularly resonant were the student accounts of experiencing a high level of test-related anxiety and realizing how demoralizing it can be to be told their academic experiences have been, by some standards, reduced to “just a score”.  A large part of the discussion also focused on the negative effects on students, the multiple ways standardized tests capitalize off socioeconomic and racial inequities among students, and how teachers are being pressured into teaching a curriculum that does not align with their district’s standards.  The panelists also offered possible solutions for ways to ensure students are receiving fair and equitable assessments so student growth can be measured in a way that aligns with district standards and accurately measures multiple aspects of a student’s true proficiency in a specific content area.

 Audience members were encouraged to submit questions for the panels, and it drove the conversation well into the evening.  The panel concluded shortly after 8:30pm when speakers and audience members met in the cafeteria to continue the conversation over refreshments.  It was a very informative evening, and from what several community members reported, it sounds like a lot of attention will be directed toward standardized testing for years to come.