Opposition to standardized testing is drawing surprising adherents as more groups, including some that have previously supported the high-stakes assessment method, are calling for reform and even outright elimination of testing going forward. What Reuters calls “a backlash” could be partly explained as a reaction to the increasing enthusiasm for standardized tests exhibited by both federal and state governments. Hundreds of millions of dollars are going towards design and development of new testing regimes, to be used for children aged 5 and up. The tests themselves play a role not only in assessing student progress, but also in determining teacher effectiveness and in decisions on grade promotion.
A growing number of parents are also rebelling against what they see as valuable instruction time being wasted not only filling out Scantron sheets, but teaching students the mechanics of test-taking. But the biggest issue seems to be that the effort and expense of student stress and lost learning time isn’t translating to real academic gains.
In elementary schools, they protest that a laser focus on the subjects tested, mostly math and reading, crowds out science, social studies and the arts. In high schools, they’re fighting standardized exams that can determine a student’s course grade in subjects from geometry to world history.
“I see frustration and bitterness among parents growing by leaps and bounds,” said Leonie Haimson, a mother who runs Class Size Matters, an advocacy group in New York City that pushes for reduced testing and smaller class sizes. “What parents are saying is, ‘Enough is enough.’”
Some parents are taking a stronger stand than just lodging complaints. A group in northwest Washington took a more concrete step and kept their children out of school on testing days, which resulted in hundreds of children missing their state exams.
In Texas, where such testing regimes have previously been popular, over 500 schools have signed petitions to have the focus on standardized testing reduced. These actions were echoed by several districts in Florida. Parents in New York also protested outside the testing giant Pearsons Plc, which provides tests and exam administration services to schools around the country, and has lately been subject to questions regarding the quality of its product and its business practices.
Advocates of testing respond that a nation that invests $525 billion a year in its public elementary and secondary schools needs to know what it’s getting.
“Parents are measuring and testing their children all their lives, from when they’re born and we start weighing them to see if their growth is on target,” said Doug Kubach, the chief executive officer of Pearson’s testing division. “Assessments play the same role in the education world.”