Washington Post – A national resolution protesting high-stakes standardized testing was released Tuesday by a coalition of national education, civil rights and parents groups, as well as educators who are trying to build a broad-based movement against the Obama administration’s test-centric school reform program.
This is the latest in a series of recent initiatives taken around the country by academics, educators, parents and others to protest the use of student standardized test scores for high-stakes decisions, including teacher and principal evaluation, student grade promotion and high school graduation.
The high-stakes testing era started with the advent of No Child Left Behind in 2002, and though NCLB has largely been discredited, the Obama administration’s policies have expanded the use of test scores as assessment tools not only for students, but also for teachers and principals.
Many researchers in the assessment field have warned against using standardized test scores for high-stakes decisions, saying they are unreliable for such a purpose. High-stakes standardized testing, they say, has led to the narrowing of the curriculum; classrooms where “teaching to the test” is paramount; and unfair evaluation of students, teachers, principals and schools.
The resolution (see text below) is modeled on one passed in recent months by more than 360 school boards in Texas, where the Republican state education commissioner, Robert Scott, made news in February by saying the mentality that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be, and calling “the assessment and accountability regime” not only “a cottage industry but a military-industrial complex.”
The organizers want organizations and individuals to endorse the resolution, which asks officials in every state to “reexamine public school accountability systems” and to “develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which does not require extensive standardized testing” and “more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning.”
The resolution also calls on Congress and the Obama administration to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the federal education law known in its current form as No Child Left Behind, in a way that reduces the mandate for standardized tests, promotes multiple forms of evidence that students are learning and does not mandate that student test scores be used to evaluate educators.
“Parents are fed up with constant testing,” Pamela Grundy, of Parents Across America, was quoted as saying in a statement. She helped lead a community revolt against expanding testing in Charlotte, N.C., last year. “We want our elected leaders to support real learning, not endless evaluation,” she said.
The national resolution was written by Advancement Project; Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; FairTest; Forum for Education and Democracy; MecklenburgACTS; Deborah Meier; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; National Education Association; New York Performance Standards Consortium; Tracy Novick; Parents Across America; Parents United for Responsible Education - Chicago; Diane Ravitch; Race to Nowhere; Time Out From Testing; and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.
Already a number of other organizations and individuals from around the country have signed on to the resolution.
In recent months, protests by parents and educators have been increasing in a number of states in addition to Texas, including New York, California and Illinois. This resolution is an effort to make a national statement about the dangers of high-stakes testing that gets the attention of policy makers at the state and federal levels.
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By Valerie Strauss