Save Our Schools: Sign The National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing

It’’s school testing time in Massachusetts and across the nation. With more than a decade of state and federally mandated high-stakes testing under our belts, has the nation come to terms with testing’’s impact on our schools? Not so much. This year’’s school testing season has unleashed a national wave of resistance. More than 400 school boards in Texas, more than 1,400 New York State principals and groups of education professors and researchers in Chicago and New York have each produced powerful statements saying enough is enough to the overuse, misuse and abuse of standardized testing in our schools. As part of this wave, FairTest has initiated The National Testing Resolution, drafted by 13 national education, civil rights, parent and religious organizations, several local groups, and prominent individuals such as Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier.

In just over a week, this resolution has been signed by more than 230 organizations and 5,780 individuals. Boston-based Citizens for Public Schools was among the first groups to endorse the resolution, which calls on local, state and federal officials to reduce the amount of testing and end high-stakes test misuses. Recent endorsers include the Texas Association of School Boards, Palm Beach County School Board, FL, and Fairfax County Public Schools, VA; PTAs and other parent groups; national, state and local education organizations; and civil rights and community organizations. You can sign on and see complete lists of organizational and individual signers at the National Resolution website. Please consider signing on today, then reach out to your friends, neighbors and affiliated groups to urge them to sign on as well. Help make this even bigger than it is already!


5 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I'm loathe to mess with success.

    Massachusetts leads the nation in educational achievement and has a strong testing regime. Many of the countries which rank ahead of the United States I believe have strong testing regimes. I’ve heard from people from those countries who wonder what all the fuss is about. We should of course be vigilant and tweak when necessary, but there are certain skills and items of knowledge everyone should have and the only way to measure is to test. I do think there is too much “teaching to the test”, but my experience leads me to understand that it doesn’t have to be that way.

    • Some countries teach to the test.

      Some like Finland don’t. There are specific problems with the tests; the fundamentalist assumption that if we have a test, it must measure something is probably the biggest problem. It’s not the testing regime, it’s focus of the reform.

      Here’s my hypothesis about improving education: any reform that intensifies the focus on instruction and student learning will improve student achievement. MCAS certainly intensifies instruction, though it has had adverse affects on teaching and learning science and will have a worse affect history when it is implemented.

      More later, I have to shave and head back to work for awards night.

    • Much of what I was thinking

      What’s happening in Massachusetts, across the education-culture nexus is working. It’s getting results the equal of South Korea and Singapore in math and science…and the national privatizers want to drag it into the basement. This isn’t in the interest in students, or society as a whole.

      sabutai   @   Thu 3 May 8:44 PM
  2. Did you guys actually read

    the resolution?

    There’s little to disagree with here. It’s not calling for an end to state-wide testing, just a reduction. The U.S. won’t abandon high-stakes testing, not during my career anyway. Reducing testing to grades 4, 8, and 10 as we had prior to NCLB would increase instructional time and minimize wasteful test preparation. Increasing testing time doesn’t mean increasing learning.

    RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the governor, state legislature and state education boards and administrators to reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools; and

    RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the U.S. Congress and Administration to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act,” reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability, and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators.

    • Yes, reading the resolution is a good first step, then sign it!

      As Mark points out, nothing terribly radical in the resolution. That’s why groups like the PTA are urging all their local affiliates to sign on. (Pretty mainstream: Mom, the PTA and apple pie, right?)

      As far as not wanting to mess with success, as Sabutai points out, that’s just what high-stakes testing does: It messes with success and does little to help turn around failure.

      MA does have many great schools, though it also has big and stagnant gaps in achievement, like many states that have big gaps in wealth. When all is said and done, what standardized tests do best is measure family wealth and parents’ educational attainment.

      A National Research Council report concluded that high-stakes testing policies like NCLB DO increase teaching to the test, narrow the curriculum and cause “score inflation,” where the scores rise but real learning doesn’t improve.

      Sometimes, with all the hype about what MCAS and “high standards” did for us, it’s easy to forget that MA was at or near the top (on NAEP) since before MCAS and NCLB began blighting our approach to teaching and learning. It has to a lot to do with our excellent teacher corps, relatively highly educated population and high socioeconomic status. Also a unionized teaching force is linked to higher achievement (and states with weak or no teachers unions rank near the bottom).

      If you don’t believe me, go the NCES site and check it out for yourself. In 1992, before the high-stakes MCAS, no state scored significantly higher than Massachusetts on the 4th grade NAEP reading test. On the other hand, our black-white achievement gap has grown and is now 5 points larger than it was in 92. The same is true for the 8th grade NAEP reading test, and the black-white gap there is the same size it was in 1998, a rather large 25 points. This might have less to do with the schools than with the economy, but MCAS and NCLB have done little or nothing to mitigate against our growing wealth gap. So where’s the big success?

      Want to talk about other countries? Lets. Finland turned its educational system around and is now consistently ranked first in the world by doing almost the EXACT OPPOSITE of our increasingly test-crazed system. Here’s a great article in the Smithsonian magazine on why Finland’s schools are so successful.

      There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town.

      Has high-stakes testing done anything to move us toward real equity in educational opportunity? The evidence says no. We would do well to learn from the Finnish model, but that would really require big changes in the way we prioritize equity within and outside our schools. We’ve a long way to go to get there, but it’s worth fighting for.

      That’s why I urge you, and everyone, to sign on to the National Resolution, so we can stop wasting time and money on things that don’t work, and invest in things that do.

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Tue 28 Mar 6:08 AM