Shaker and Sen. Sherrod Brown are On The Same Page

Students, parents, teachers and administrators alike criticize redundant testing at press conference


Mimi Ricanati

Social studies teachers Sarah Davis and Tod Torrance and SHTA President John Morris listen as Sen. Sherrod Brown addresses the spike in standardized testing.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown agreed with teachers, parents, students, and administrators about the issue of unnecessary and redundant standardized testing at the June 8 press conference at 11 a.m.

“So I feel like this is great news,” said Robyn Eisen, Shaker parent and co-founder of Test Mania, a group of Shaker community members dedicated to reducing the excessive testing that was recently introduced to Shaker schools. “Sherrod Brown is definitely listening to the concerns of the parents, teachers and students and trying to implement policies that are effective and that will be helpful.”

Shaker parent and PTO member Jenny Kaffen, along with English teacher Jody Podl, were also instrumental in the formation of Test Mania. Both spoke at the press conference.

“Our group, Test Mania, was created this year to inform and to advocate for change because the latest testing regimen has stymied us all, to say the least,” said Podl in her speech.

Sen. Sherrod Brown speaks at the press conference event with English teacher Jody Podl and concerned parent Jennie Kaffen.
Mimi Ricanati
Sen. Sherrod Brown speaks at the press conference as English teacher Jody Podl looks on. Podl and concerned parent Jennie Kaffen also spoke.

Although the reaction to state testing started with just a small group of determined people, it has gained support among members of the school board, Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr., and even Brown.

In his comments, Brown outlined the SMART Act, which would allow for the elimination of duplicative and inefficient testing through grants to states for use in evaluating their testing programs.

Eisen and other members of Test Mania welcome the chance for government action.

“This has been a horrible year for testing, and we basically had to go through the bad in order to say, ‘This was so bad,’” she said.

Although it’s been a long time coming, “our voices were actually heard,” said Hutchings, “and now we have a U.S. senator coming in to speak on behalf of the same issues that we’ve addressed in our community. So it is a very refreshing, exciting and affirming time for the district.”

Hutchings also affirmed his support for the SMART Act, which he said will provide “supports to kind of decipher which assessments are most appropriate.”

Social Studies teacher Tony Cuda has seen firsthand the need for an intervention such as the SMART Act. “I want teachers to be able to handle their classes the way they want to,” he said. “We put our students through a rigorous testing schedule as it is, and when other people are piling on other tests, it goes beyond rigor.”

“The pendulum has gone the wrong way. We were at a place where there were teachers who, maybe, weren’t doing as good of a job as they should’ve, students who weren’t learning, and not enough was being done,” Academic Lab teacher Bonnie Gordon said. “Now, we are just way, way, the other way, and negatively impacting learning.”

Among students, discontent has been brewing over the sharp rise in state mandated testing. Rachel Podl, freshman and daughter of English teacher and Test Mania advocate Jody Podl, summed it up. “[Testing] certainly affects me and my peers. I know that everyone feels strongly about how much it affects the time we get in the classroom,” she said.

The school board, as well, has been “pretty shocked at the amount of effort and time has gone into either the tests, whether it’s at the district level, or the scheduling,” said School Board President Bill Clawson. “We’ve been pushing to . . . reduce the amount of testing. What Sen. Brown’s suggesting should provide a few more tools to help states start culling the amount of testing that’s going on.”

Although the SMART Act would provide relief through governmental action, Cuda believes that “this is not about politics. Everyone has kids going to school, everyone has kids that are being tested.”

“What Sen. Brown’s doing is raising awareness,” said Clawson. Testing is not “the only part of the story” in Shaker schools, he said.

Podl said the event helped bolster existing views. “I’m certain that it validates a lot of the opinions that are going around. It’s good to see that someone like Sherrod Brown stepping up and saying that we should be concerned,” she said.

“I want to be able to share my support,” said Hutchings, “to say that this is really a good move.”


For a full story about the SMART bill and the testing press conference, click here.

To read the full text of English teacher Jody Podl’s speech from the event, click here.

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