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[Susan notes: This is the right point: If we withhold consent, if we refuse to cooperate, then the testing process grinds to a halt.]

Published in Durango (CO) Herald

To the editor

Math skills in District 9-R schools are slipping based on that draconian accountability system known as the Colorado Student Assessment Program. Hogwash. Each year the state of Colorado gets more frantic in its efforts to convince people that CSAP scores actually mean something. The propaganda machine shifts into high gear as state officials try to persuade the taxpayers that they are getting their money's worth for the millions of dollars they are investing in testing and accountability. Here's a radical notion. If you want to know how well 9-R students are doing, visit their classrooms and ask their teachers. They can tell you in a few minutes and without using any numbers.

The intellectual life is being squeezed out of classrooms today because policy makers who don't know very much about how children learn have decided it's time to get tough. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, legislators are suddenly mandating what will be taught in the classroom. There is something ominous about children learning only what the state wants them to learn. Colorado is misusing the CSAP by regarding it as the sole measure of student achievement, effectively turning our schools into centers for test preparation.

It doesn't take a crystal ball to see where all this is heading. By attempting to raise math scores to some arbitrary, state conceived level, other areas of the curriculum will be neglected and it won't be long before The Herald reports the startling news: "Science Skills Slipping, 9-R Officials Say."

It's time we hopped off this merry-go-round. The tests are excessive. They are overrated, relative to the useful information they provide, and the cost is enormous. They are epistemologically unsound, that is, they violate sound principles of what it means to learn, or know, something. They are created and promoted by a bureaucracy that knows very little about the real meaning of teaching and learning.

The bottom line is that standardized testing can continue only with the consent and cooperation of the educators who allow those tests to be distributed in their schools - and the parents who permit their children to take them. If we withhold that consent, if we refuse to cooperate, then the testing process grinds to a halt. What if they gave a test and nobody came?

Bill Bowlby

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