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School testing fails test

Susan Notes:

The good news is that a newspaper published this.

by Jane Watson

I was happily surprised to see your Feb. 15 editorial, Time to test whether tests help educate our students. The evidence says no. State budgets (including Washington state) scream from the burden of paying for tests that line the pockets of the testmakers. The Texas House has put forth a draft 2014-15 budget that zeroes out all funding for statewide standardized assessment.

Students in Rhode Island, Oregon, Colorado and New York (among others) have protested and opted out of standardized tests.

New York State's high school principal of the year is fighting the state on reform. Carol Burris has been a leader in a fight with state officials over reforms, including standardized test-based educator evaluations. Tests are now hardly about students at all; most students have longer tests than adults taking tests to qualify for professional positions. She related the story of a 10-year-old neighbor who asked: "I want to know why after vacation I have to take test after test after test," in a 2012 blog for The Washington Post.

An alliance of grass-roots community, youth and parent-driven organizations successfully petitioned the Department of Education in November to convene a hearing on Jan. 29 with the Department of Education Civil Rights Division on the impact of closing (turnarounds, phase-outs, restarts, co-locations) of neighborhood, community-based schools in 18 cities across the United States.

This alliance of parents and community leaders had representation from the cities of Chicago, New Orleans, Oakland, Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, Baltimore, Dallas, Atlanta, District of Columbia, Detroit, Philadelphia, Wichita, Newark, Wilmington, Delaware, Kansas City and Eureka, Miss.

The hearing included testimony from parents, students, educators, social support workers, community members and leaders. They addressed the adverse and detrimental effects of school closings, turnarounds, co-locations and phase-outs on the black and brown students attending the affected schools.

Washington state has not been quiet. I was disappointed that the Yakima Herald-Republic did not do a story on what has made national news -- the refusal of Garfield High School teachers in Seattle to give the MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) test.

The MAP test does several things -- none of which help improve learning: 1. It does not test what teachers are expected to teach. 2. Because it must be given on computer, it ties up the computer lab and wreaks havoc on scheduling for the rest of the school. 3. It has no input on students' grades or graduation requirements; therefore, students do not take it seriously, arbitrarily pushing keys to answer questions. 4. The teachers̢۪ evaluations are tied to this test, which is not taken seriously by students.

"Parents Right to Know" is a bill proposed by Snohomish County parents after opting out their students from testing last year.

The "Right to Know" (HB1293) bill requires school districts to tell parents how much time and money is spent on standardized testing.

High stakes testing has been tested -- and fails. It doesn't educate our students. High stakes standardized testing enriches the coffers of test manufacturers and damages state budgets.

— Jane Watson
Yakima Herald



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