About ten years ago when I was in Iowa, a middle school principal decided that her students weren’t trying hard enough on the state tests. So she set up a fun end-of-year field trip to the amusement park and told the students that whomever didn’t do their best during assessment season couldn’t go. I asked her how many students didn’t get to go, and she said less than a dozen. I asked her how she decided who didn’t do their best, and she said, “We can tell when we walk around during testing sessions.” I asked her how she thought those extremely few students felt as they were singled out and left behind at school while everyone else in the school was having fun. She didn’t care about those students’ well-being. All she cared about was the message that she thought she was sending those few students about taking their academics seriously. I invited her to consider that perhaps that wasn’t the message that they were receiving. She didn’t hear me. As you can imagine, it was a pretty depressing discussion.

Fast forward to 2023 and here we go again, also in Iowa. The Maple Valley – Anthon Oto Community Schools have decided that their high school students aren’t taking the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) seriously enough. So they are now tying ‘proficiency’ on the 11th grade ISASP to high school graduation. Students who aren’t ‘proficient’ in all four ISASP areas (yes, all four!) must either then show ‘proficiency’ on NWEA’s MAP assessments (which isn’t really measured by MAP; it has to be imputed) or write a letter to the school board explaining why they should be allowed to graduate anyway. See the images below for the letter to families.

So if you’re a student in this community who is a poor test taker, you can’t graduate – even if you’ve passed all of your required courses – unless you somehow show ‘proficiency’ on all four of the standardized tests anyway or grovel to the school board and hope that it is merciful. This is terrible and has absolutely no place in education.

Your thoughts?