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Paul Rolly: Critics give Granite's testing program an F

Published February 17, 2014 9:49 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

At least one junior high teacher in Granite School District says her job has been threatened if she does not submit test results from a district-required online exam by Friday.

Ann Florence, who teaches English at Wasatch Junior High, says she is not the only instructor who has resisted the Acuity testing program the district uses to measure student progress in English, math and science.

And, she says, it is the latest battle between the district and teachers who argue they are saddled with testing that takes too much time and does little to help educate their students.

Linda Mariotti, assistant superintendent of Teaching & Learning Services, says the complaining teacher is speaking for herself and that most of her colleagues do not agree with her criticisms. The district maintains the program is a valuable tool that teachers can use to zero in on students' strengths and weaknesses.

District spokesman Ben Horsley said Florence's claim that she would be fired for not turning in test results on time is an exaggeration. He said that offense alone would not be grounds for termination. But if it were part of a pattern of noncompliance, it would be a factor.

Florence is not the only instructor I spoke with who has problems with the Acuity program.

Mariotti says Acuity is part of a district-wide platform that tests students three times a year to determine their progress. She says it is an essential asset for teachers to see the curriculum areas on which they need to focus.

Critics allege it is more of a tool for the district to show state education officials and legislators the progress they are making throughout the year than it is an assessment guide for teachers.

The complaining teachers say the testing regimen is cumbersome and takes them away from instruction. But Mariotti says the online questions are mostly multiple choice with a small portion devoted to short written responses.

Some Advanced Placement teachers say the tests are a waste of time because their students are already beyond those subject matters. And resource teachers say their students need to be brought along at their own pace rather than one dictated by progress tests.

Granite is the only Utah district that employs the full complement of progress tests, including the online Acuity platform, but Mariotti says officials from other districts have expressed interest in Granite's program.

Critics say the increasing number of required tests is a response to legislative attacks on public education and pressure from lawmakers who want to link funding priorities and even teacher pay to the results.

prolly@sltrib.com