By Laurie Borkon, Vice President of Government Affairs
Today’s students are the most tested in history. Teachers feel the pain of over-testing more than most, because they directly witness its effects on their students. They see firsthand the stress many students experience when they sit down to a high-stakes test. Perhaps worse, they feel the loss of precious instructional time when their students take yet another test that does not immediately inform their teaching.
Although the issue of over-testing students is not news to those who work in and around education, it still does make the news—almost daily—as parents, educators, and legislators question whether we are simply spending too much time testing students and preparing them for standardized tests.
And they are right to question the sheer number of tests, but this is just the latest round of a longstanding tug-of-war between student testing and instructional time. In fact, it was this very quandary that led to Renaissance’s inception in 1986. We were driven by one core idea: teachers need data that saves instructional time.
This week, Renaissance is dealing with the tragic news that our co-founder, Terry Paul, passed away after a battle with cancer. Terry was the true definition of a visionary. On a personal level, Terry was a pillar in my life.
Terry Paul spearheaded the development of fast computer-adaptive tests (CATs) for the classroom, nearly 20 years ago, before most people even knew what a CAT was. To Terry, saving teachers time in the classroom was a calling and the bedrock of his life’s work. Under his guidance, by the mid-90s, Renaissance had developed highly efficient computer-adaptive tests, the Star Assessments®, to ensure that teachers themselves would have access to their own reliable and valid data on student performance—in minutes. With a laser focus, Terry continually sought to refine computer-adaptive testing to yield the most information in the shortest time possible, with the very intentional goal of striking a balance between information and time. Terry Paul was decades ahead of his time. The rest of us are still catching up with him.
Since those early days, under Terry’s leadership, Renaissance has devoted many years and significant development resources to creating the fastest and most reliable assessments, and that work is ongoing. Star Assessments are built for speed and rigor. Terry insisted. He foresaw the burden of over-testing decades ago, and this is the reason products developed under his leadership continue to stand the test of time and only grow more relevant for today’s teachers.
May his memory be a blessing.
Laurie Borkon holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with training as a reading specialist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to Renaissance, she was a staff researcher at UW-Madison and spent several years working at the middle school level.