. . . .The new performance pay system included in the recently ratified teachers' contract begins in the fall and also relies in part on test scores, with the biggest bonuses available to teachers who can show growth in student achievement.
Some parents and teachers say that the fixation on tests is sucking the oxygen from basic classroom instruction and other activities that enrich school life, such as field trips.
"They're not learning when they're taking a test," said Mary Melchior, a parent leader at Langdon Education Campus in Northeast, who added that test preparation and testing periods should not count against the 180 legally required days of school. "You're effectively reducing the number of days that kids have in the classroom."
Crystal Sylvia, a social worker at Bruce Monroe Elementary, called her school a "test factory" in arecent essay. During DC CAS and DC BAS periods, an "all-hands-on-deck approach paralyzes the school so that no other important issues or responsibilities can be appropriately addressed," she said.
Erin McGoldrick, Rhee's chief of data and accountability, rejects the testing-vs.-instruction argument as false. She said assessments, when used properly, can only improve teaching.
"I see assessment as not different from instruction," she said. "I see it as core to good instruction. Assessment gives you information to use in instruction."
Rhee said: "I think testing gets a bad rap sometimes. Consistently assessing our kids is going to lead to more information about what they are learning and mastering and what they are not."