Keck: Standardized testing should not be minimized, discarded

Posted 4/21/22

By now you know that I am the SUSD Governing Board candidate whose platform is “Andrea for Academics.”

I am the only candidate who’s spoken at Governing Board meetings about the …

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I am anchor

Keck: Standardized testing should not be minimized, discarded


By now you know that I am the SUSD Governing Board candidate whose platform is “Andrea for Academics.”

I am the only candidate who’s spoken at Governing Board meetings about the need for our superintendent and staff to be held accountable for achieving specific, aggressive, measurable academic targets.

Therefore I was most interested to see the attached letter sent last week from Superintendent Menzel to our SUSD employees about standardized testing. I believe the attitude presented therein should concern every parent and taxpayer.

First, let me say that I don’t know anyone who has said that test results are, or should be, the only measure of a school system’s performance. There are many quantitative and qualitative factors needed to fully describe what a graduating student requires in order to be successful. I don’t believe standardized test scores are the only measure of success, nor have I have ever implied this in my discussions.

I have, however, talked a great deal about them, because I believe they are a significant measure of success.

It’s imperative in managing any organization to look deeply at objective, quantitative data about its performance and ask important questions. One needs consistent, widely-used, standardized tools in order to do so. In this case, how do SUSD’s academic results compare to similar districts — locally, nationally, and internationally?

Why do SUSD students’ proficiency scores go down significantly from elementary to middle to high school? Why doesn’t SUSD have more high school students at grade level? Why does Chandler now perform 11 percentage points better than SUSD in 10th grade English when three years ago it was only 2 percentage points better (2021 vs. 2018)?

The main job of SUSD is to properly educate our youth; to teach them to “Read, Write, and do Arithmetic” as the old saying goes. How do we know whether we’re achieving our number one goal if we don’t examine consistent, objective measures of academic performance over time?

Dr. Menzel states: “I have yet to see employers requesting test scores as a condition of employment, and test-taking is not a skill that employers list as desirable for their future workforce.”

Employers may not request test scores, but many colleges — the next step for many SUSD students — certainly do. MIT just announced they’re reinstating ACT and SAT tests as an admissions requirement. It will be interesting to see how many other colleges do the same in the future. SUSD should be proactive, not reactive, in properly preparing its students for this possibility. With only 43% of students who took the ACT exam meeting the college readiness benchmarks (Class of 2020), SUSD has a lot of work to do for its students to be competitive.

We can agree that employers don’t ask for the test scores. But employers, as well as colleges, certainly do expect high school graduates to have the academic skills these tests are measuring — 10th grade levels of English, Math and Science. Sadly, in 2018-19 (the last year tests were given pre-COVID) the majority of SUSD high school students didn’t. Only 46% of SUSD high school students were proficient or better in these subjects. This is unacceptable.

Menzel: “So much emphasis has been placed on test results that it adds undue pressure to our students and staff.” “Best wishes to all who are involved in this process — soon it will be over…”

Really? Our students and staff can’t take the “pressure” and it will be a relief when testing is over? If SUSD students, to whom we’re endeavoring to provide “world-class” services per the district’s new strategic plan, can’t “take the pressure” of these tests how will they possibly take a high-stakes LSAT, GMAT, bar exam, or medical board test? And SUSD employees can’t “take the pressure” of using objective academic performance results as part of their employment evaluation? That doesn’t seem “world class” either.

I have an autistic granddaughter, so I know a lot about student anxiety. However, the job of the district is to prepare students for the real world, and that includes learning to deal with stressful situations. That’s life. This is done through acceptance, not avoidance, of hard things. Even for students like Holly.

After these tests “….we can resume our efforts to finish the year strong.” Exactly how will we know that our students finished the year strong? What exactly ARE the measures of success, and how do our students stand with them?

The best schools in Arizona, and arguably in the country, the BASIS schools, outright state in their Mission/Values statements:

  •  High-stakes summative tests that assess content mastery and learning skills are foundational for learning.
  •  The evaluation of teacher performance must be based both on classroom instruction and on student learning results of high-stakes assessments.

They embrace standardized testing, for students and staff.

Yet the tendency for those in charge of our district (from board members to the superintendent to administrative staff) is often to do just the opposite — to diminish standardized testing, avoid in-depth analysis of results, and avoid accountability for achieving specific academic targets.

When light is shed on SUSD’s substandard academic results, the response is often to deflect — blame the test, test-taking strategies, say it’s just a point in time (the exact same point in time as every other public school in Arizona), student and employee stress, etc. — rather than acknowledge that problems exist and implement aggressive plans for improvement.

Determining whether a SUSD graduate is properly prepared to succeed in their next chapter involves many elements, both quantitative and qualitative, for sure. However I will remain undeterred in my belief that a significant element — one not to be minimized nor discarded — is standardized testing.

You can learn more about my platform and qualifications at VoteAndreaSUSD and sign up for updates there. Go to “Articles and Videos” to see my comments at the Board meetings about academic achievement.

Editor’s Note: Andrea Keck is seeking candidacy for the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board in the upcoming Nov. 8 general election.


2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • jason.alexander

    Another article that seems based on a search of the AZ Republic, rather than any actual hands-on experience. Has Andrea Keck served on any school committees? Had any conversations with Senior Staff or Board Members? Stepped foot inside an SUSD school? Based on her stream of arm's length statements, abstractions, and personally knowing how she works (and divides teams) via her command-and-control approach, she is 100% the wrong choice for SUSD.

    Thursday, April 21 Report this

  • xway.mike.norton

    I am always amazed how despite admitting she knew absolutely nothing SUSD until November 2021, Keck now believes she's an expert in all things related to our District.

    One tidbit to consider. Keck didn't report the names of her campaign donors in 2021. Why? Probably because she hasn't yet figured out how to fill in the blanks on that simple form, yet. Even with the help of her lawyer paid with campaign funds, Tim LaSota.

    Keck is not remotely close to being qualified to govern our school district. And she proves so daily.

    Friday, April 22 Report this