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Some Teachers, Students, Parents Say No to Tests!

Share Today, Education World's "Are High-Stakes Tests the Answer?" series continues as we examine the backlash against high-stakes testing. Across the nation, a growing number of parents, teachers, students, and organizations are questioning the tests' merits.

A backlash against high-stakes testing is cropping up throughout the nation as a growing number of parents, teachers, students, and organizations question its merits.

Touted by many state school boards as the magic bullet to cure what ails education, high-stakes tests are not considered a remedy by everyone. Concerns are being voiced about the tests at student-organized protest rallies and by teacher organizations as large numbers of students fail their states' high-stakes tests. Many of those students will not receive their diplomas or be promoted as a result of their test scores.


Are High-Stakes Tests the Answer?

Are standardized tests, especially high-stakes tests that link grade promotion and graduation, a Band-Aid to fix what is ailing schools? Many people think tests are a way to make educators -- and students -- accountable. Others disagree, saying one test is just that -- one test, only one indicator of what students have learned. Share with us your opinions about high-stakes testing on our message board.

The revolt against high-stakes tests has much support. The majority of Americans think that high-stakes testing is not the right solution for what troubles schools, according to the results of two surveys recently released by education associations.

The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) reported in June that 63 percent of American voters do not agree that student progress for one school year can be accurately summarized by a single test. The AASA commissioned a voter survey by Republican pollster Frank Luntz and Democratic strategist Jennifer Lazlo-Mizrahi between May 18 and 23.

Standardized tests received another failing grade based on the results of a second national survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored by Sylvan Learning Center and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

The ASCD Survey of Parents' Perceptions found that the majority of parents believe that mandated state testing is not a true and valid measurement of their children's abilities. Parents also said that the test results are inconsistent with some areas of their children's report cards, that they believe some academic skills are being overlooked as a result of preparing for the tests, and that schools are neglecting some enrichment areas such as the arts, team learning, and science projects because those areas are not part of the testing.


From the Education World Archive

Check out these other stories in Education World's "Are High-Stakes Tests the Answer?" series:

  • Should Standardized Tests Determine Who Is Held Back?

  • Are High-Stakes Tests Punishing Some Students?.

  • How Important Should One Test Be?.

  • The 300,000-member California Teachers Association may put some muscle behind their disdain for their state's testing program. The association is exploring the possibility of calling for a moratorium on standardized testing, said Mike Myslinski, spokesman for the organization. The state uses the Stanford Achievement Test Series, Ninth Edition (Stanford 9), an off-the-shelf-test that doesn't reflect state standards or curricula, he said.

    "Our concern is that we need an alignment between what is being taught and what is being tested," Myslinski told Education World. Six million children attend school in California, and a full 25 percent speak English as a second language, he said.

    Members of the union's governing body met in May. They want teachers to have a meaningful participation in the development and administration of the California standardized tests. Union members complain that testing detracts from the time provided for the delivery of the required curriculum. They also worry that important decisions about a child's future -- such as grade promotion -- are being made on the basis of a single test score.


    Green Party presidential nominee Ralph Nader is also opposed to standardized tests. Last month, he joined 500 protesters at a student-organized rally on the Boston Common protesting the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).

    High school students from throughout the state had organized the rally that Nader attended. The student organization Student Coalition for an Alternative to the MCAS (SCAM) objects to the high-stakes nature of the MCAS. Students collected nearly 8,000 signatures and presented them to the governor.

    But the students haven't gotten a response from the governor so far. "I think it's kind of sad we haven't heard from him after all our work," said Samantha Johnson, a junior attending Boston Latin School and one of the SCAM organizers.

    Although Johnson passed the test, she believes it is unfair and takes away from valuable classroom time. There is a disparity between what is taught at her high school, Boston Latin School, which performed very well on the MCAS, compared with a nearby vocational high school where many students may not select to take advanced math or science classes that would help them score higher on the exams, she said.

    "Not all school curriculums are the same, and not all education in Massachusetts is equal," Johnson told Education World. There have been smaller, individual boycotts of the MCAS. Some students throughout the state were suspended for refusing to take the test, though others were not. Other districts permitted students to present alternate projects or portfolios to administrators and were not disciplined for their boycott of the test, said Nancy Murray, director of the Bill of Rights Education project of the American Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which helped students organize the rally.

    The Massachusetts students have had lots of adult support. Parents, educators, and citizens belonging to the Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education (CARE) also showed up at the rally to support the students. Members of CARE have been speaking to school groups, appearing on TV, holding press conferences, and writing commentaries and letters for newspapers. They have also cohosted public forums about the MCAS.

    Diane Weaver Dunne
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2000 Education World

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