Recently, there was controversy surrounding the decision of Principal Brandon Davis of the Cora Kelly School for Math, Science, and Technology to call parents of low performing students on the SOLs and inform them of their right to opt out of the test. While Mr. Davis has been somewhat vilified for this decision I think it should be a call for us as a community and as a state to push for testing reform. Principal Davis is a decorated administrator who has had a successful career in education in the City of Alexandria. The fact that our testing system put him in a position where calling a specific group of students’ parents, with the aim of reducing the number of those students who took the SOLs not only made logical sense for both the students and the school, but even seemed like the right thing to do. While it has been shown that Principal Davis’ decision likely had little effect on the reported scores for the school, as a student and a person I can understand why he made the decision he did.
Our system is a positive feedback loop where a school earning accreditation ultimately puts them in a better position to serve all of its students, and failing to do so, even as a result of students who genuinely need more attention and help, puts the school at a disadvantage of doing so.
It’s time to give teachers and administrators in Virginia more input on standardized testing, so teachers are teaching to the students and not to the tests, and more importantly, calling for change in a system that is failing the students it’s aiming to help.