Campaign literature in River Forest expresses concern because we have no schools rated “exemplary.” The history of designating schools as “exemplary” began with No Child Left Behind, continued under Race to the Top, and now the Every Student Succeeds Act. What these all have in common is reliance on high-stakes tests.

Based on standardized tests, schools are rated as exemplary, commendable, under-performing or lowest performing. Communities with high concentrations of poverty, students for whom English is a second language, or those with significant special education needs must all be part of the subgroups, with unrealistic goals and punitive responses for lower performance.

There is a great deal of money involved in the process. Imagine the profit realized by the developers of standardized tests, test preparation materials, etc. Political contributions by these organizations are significant and longstanding.  

Parents should realize that, under this test-driven approach to education, many districts “teach to the test,” emphasizing subjects that are tested while decreasing creative arts. Entire wings of schools with high-quality and stimulating Industrial Arts classes have been decimated.

How valid are these tests deemed so crucial? Long before COVID-19, many of the top universities in the nation determined that SAT and ACT test results were not a good indicator of college success. Rather, grade point averages were far more valid and reliable. In 2019, the University of Chicago made these tests optional. Curriculum Based Measurements are effective and reliable and provide the blueprint for our teachers regarding mastery and needs. There are highly effective ways to achieve accountability.

I consider the River Forest public school system to be exemplary in the true sense of the word. High-stakes tests and Common Core will eventually be replaced. I hope we will not judge our schools by meaningless, anxiety-provoking standardized tests.

What schools really need to focus on now is the mental health crisis created by the isolation and losses our kids have endured. Increased music and art and less emphasis on tests will help alleviate anxiety. Let’s not fail our students. They are not pawns to be used for hidden agendas.

Patti Marino, River Forest

Join the discussion on social media!