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11-year-old in Rural Texas Helps Spark National Discussion on Standardized Testing

Susan Notes: Macario Guajardo is slated to appear on NBC during the evening news hour tonight, March 5, 2005. Below are two articles about his bold refusal.

Let us hope that where children lead, adults will follow.

An 11-year-old boy in rural Texas has helped spark national discussion about the role of standardized testing in education

Center for Rural Strategies


Macario Guajardo of Edinburg, Texas, has refused to take a statewide reading test he's required to pass to advance to the sixth grade. Macario and other students say the standardized tests stifle their creativity and make teachers focus lessons on tests rather than on learning.

"I think we should be doing other creative things that helps kids express their imagination," Macario told The New York Times.

Many states require such standardized testing, and measurements such as standardized testing are also required in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Macario is the son of Francisco Guajardo, a Texas educator who is also chairperson of the Rural Strategies Board of Directors.

11-Year-Old Boy Refuses to Take the Test
by Kathryn Walson

EDINBURG ó A local boyís protest of the state assessment tests has drawn national media attention.

Saying too much emphasis is placed on the Texas Assessment for Knowledge and Skills exams, fifth-grader Macario Guajardo is refusing to take this yearís TAKS reading, math and science tests.

"In fourth grade, I was under a lot of pressure for the TAKS, and I decided I wanted to something about it," he said. "Teachers focused on TAKS, and it wasnít fun for us anymore. Sometimes we had to stay in from recess to prepare for it. It was a lot of worksheets."

With his parentsí permission, the student who makes As and Bs skipped school Wednesday to miss the reading test. He declined to take a makeup exam Thursday.

State law says students must pass TAKS tests to pass each grade level. In cases of TAKS failures, a committee of parents, teachers and a principal must decide whether the student can advance.

Macario, 11, has already appeared in articles in The New York Times. Network TV news stations including NBC and Telemundo have also contacted his parents and school officials.

Macario said he hasnít received any bad vibes from teachers or students and that many seem to support him.

Although he grew up hearing his fatherís complaints about TAKS, the protest idea was entirely Macarioís, he said.

"I decided I want to protest it. Iíll pulled my dad aside and said I wanted to something," he said.

Macarioís parents are behind him 100 percent, said Francisco Guajardo, assistant professor in the University of Texas-Pan Americanís educational leadership program.

"He stopped having fun at school. For me, it just broke my heart to see my son frustrated, upset, even angry," he said.

Guajardo previously taught at the Edcouch-Elsa school district, where he continues to direct the Llano Grande Center for Research and Development. Macarioís mother, Yvonne, teaches computer skills at Edinburg North High School.

Guajardo said he probably influenced Macarioís opinions.

"Weíve been talking about this since Mac was a little baby. Mac grew up with this," he said. "I like the TAKS. Ö Iím not in support of the way itís done. The whole school is organized around Ö the test. Teaching to the objective on the test ó thatís pervasive (in the area)."

TAKS scores donít improve graduation rates or SAT scores, Guajardo said.

Robert E. Lee Elementary has an exemplary designation ó the stateís highest rating. But the achievement comes at a cost, Guajardo said.

Teachers have little time to encourage students in imaginative, creative work. Macario hasnít once had an art class in his elementary years, he said.

Although the protest is unprecedented in the area, Edinburg school district officials will treat it step-by-step according to the Texas Education Code, said Superintendent J.L. Salinas.

Theyíre considering Macarioís Thursday test skip a failure. If he declines to take future tests and retests, officials will treat them as failures, as well, Salinas said.

A grade placement committee of his parents, teachers and principal would decide whether he can advance to middle school.

Macario said heís confident the committee will pass him.

He said heíd like to see commitees ó not TAKS scores ó determine whether all students pass, based on success in areas other than state tasting. And he hopes the national media attention will help him achieve his goal.

"If Iím able to change peopleís minds around the Valley, think of how many peopleís minds I could change across the nation," he said.

Salinas said heís in communication with Macarioís parents and isnít worried about the way failing scores could affect the school districtís reports.

"I support that the child has done a lot of this on his own. That speaks well of the child," he said.

"We always take pride in the development of individual thinkers. Ö I respect individuals that take a stand for something."

Macario said his fifth-grade teachers are doing a better job of making class interesting this year than last, but he has other Valley students on his mind.

"Iím doing this for all kids, so kids will be happy when they go to school, so kids will want to go to school," he said.

— Kathryn Walson
Valley Morning Star & Center for Rural Strategies


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