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Education

Mandatory bi-weekly assessment tests at CPS get pushback from teachers, parents

student test exam
Ben Mullins

Students at Cincinnati Public Schools have been receiving bi-weekly tests in core subjects since at least early October, a practice instituted by the Board of Education. But teachers and parents are pushing back against the assessments, which they say interferes with learning time.

"Teachers are insulted, demoralized and terrified, but they are fighting for their students," said Karen Imbus, field representative for the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers. "That is why they are taking a courageous stand against the two-week assessments and braving increasingly harsh threats of discipline, which are a poor substitute for effective leadership."

The assessments are given in every core subject, and the board of education says they're ungraded "temperature tests" to see if students are retaining information.

Interim Superintendent Tianay Amat says the district agrees that high stakes, standardized testing is not most beneficial for students, but that's not what the assessments are.

"They are temperature checks that allow teachers to personalize student instruction, in real time, and these are best practices ...The output is impactful, allowing for personalized instruction for each student," she said.

For instance, she says there has been over a 20% increase on scores at Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School since testing began.

The board says the tests take 2-10% of class time to complete. But the CFT says the online assessments take about 19% of class time.

Maggie Nelson is a CPS teacher and parent concerned about the impact of the tests.

"My child is losing out on precious instructional time with her amazing teachers," she said. "And I don't even understand why... I believe that if you don't make the right decision to stop the assessments and you don't give teachers a voice, the parents should be notified when the testing is taking place and have the right to opt their child out."

Julie Sellers, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, said the tests also do not align with what students are learning or standards they're expected to master.

The CFT released a letter on Facebook Thursday saying the union told CPS leadership on Oct. 13 it will no longer administer the tests.

"While administering these tests would actually mean less work for teachers, our members are refusing to administer them, because they reduce critically important instructional time, negatively impact students' mindset regarding assessment, and actually hinder learning for students already struggling to catch up to grade level," the letter says.

As a result, school principals were allegedly given an email about disciplinary measures, including termination, for teachers not giving the tests.

Sellers says that's fueled a "toxic culture" at the district.

"On a daily basis, teachers are having anxiety breakdowns due to the stress ... Both principals and teachers are being threatened on a regular basis," she says. "This is not acceptable, and it is not how anyone on this board should want any CPS employee to be treated."