Opposition to High Stakes Testing Grows

More people are urging states to take a second look at the disproportionate role standardized tests play in the education system.

More groups are voicing opposition to high-stakes testing regimes adopted by of states in an effort to improve their education systems, writes Valerie Strauss for the Washington Post. As a growing number of parents are electing to opt their children out of high-stakes testing, administrators from school districts around the country are also voicing dissatisfaction with the way such testing has completely remapped faculty evaluation systems in many school districts.

TimeOutFromTesting, a petition protesting the proliferation of standardized testing, which launched last month, has already gained, as signatories, more than 300 groups nationwide. Over 8,000 individuals have signed on as well.

That petition is based on a resolution that has been passed now by about 520 local school boards in Texas — including Houston, the home of the so-called “Texas miracle” that launched the high-stakes testing era. Those school boards represent more than 40 percent of the state’s students. It was the Texas education commission, Robert Scott, who earlier this year made news by saying publicly that the mentality that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be. He recently announced that he was resigning.

TOFT isn’t the only petition making the rounds. Professors in New York have released their own, protesting the recent adoption of the value-added teacher evaluation system, which has a large standardized-testing component. The calls for abolishing or completely revising the system are bound to get louder now since the story of Carol Abbot, a math teacher with New York City’s gifted school, who was identified as one of the worst teachers in her district, has become widely publicized.

Since 2007, Abbot has been teaching 7th graders at the Anderson School in Manhattan, one of the schools set up to accommodate the increased academic pace of some of the city’s smartest and most gifted students. Her students performed better on their year-end assessment than 98% of their peers, and frequently study material that is several grade-levels ahead of their age. The material tested on the city’s 8th-grade ELA is typically covered in 5th or 6th grade at Anderson.

Organizations protesting are mostly up in arms over the impact that standardized test scores have come to have on nearly all educational decisions. The scores are used to determine school funding levels, judge teacher performance and effectiveness, and set pay scales for both faculty and school and district administrators. Although experts have decried such “feature creep,” tests provide a convenient and seemingly-objective evaluation criteria which has, so far, proven irresistible to education reformers.

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