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Speaking Out Against Excessive Testing

Susan Notes: There's something in the air: revolution against federal standardized testing! Breathe deeply.

by Susan Ohanian

While newspaper editorials call for obedience to federal laws linking student test scores to teacher evaluation and scrapping tenure, policy makers representing the people are beginning to see things differently.

In June 2012, the Vermont state board of education and department of education signaled resistance to federal testing mandates when Vermont refused to apply for NCLB waiter--because the waiver required tying teacher evaluation to student standardized test scores. "We did not want to use NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) scores as a significant portion of a teacher's assessment," noted the deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Education told the Boston Globe.

Be aware that other states don't have the waiver tying student test scores to teacher evaluations: California, Montana, Nebraska, and North Dakota. Vermont is special because we refused to apply for the waiver.

  • March 2014 Maryland Senate Passes Bill Delaying Use Of Test Scores For Teacher Evaluations. Delaying evil is not exactly taking a moral stand, but it may be the first step toward it.

  • March 2014. Washington legislators reject Arne Duncan's demand, refuse to force schools to teach to the test. This meant the Feds revoked Washington's waiver.

  • August 6, 2014. Vermont secretary of education writes a remarkable letter to Vermont parents, explaining "The Vermont Agency of Education does not agree with
    this federal policy. . . . " As Robert Cruickshank, president Northwest Progressive Institute, explained, The heart of the letter. . . is a resounding endorsement of progressive education values, and a devastating criticism of the focus on standardized tests that has been a hallmark of Duncan's tenure at the U.S. Department of Education."

  • August 12, 2014. Lee County Florida board of education discussion of opting out of state testing draws cheers from audience.

  • August 19, 2014. The Vermont state board of education showed that the secretary of education's letter was a warmup for revolution. Statement and Resolution on Assessment and Accountability. Read this statement for news of a revolution on the way. You should read the whole statement, but here's how it ends:

    RESOLVED that the Vermont State Board of Education requests that the Secretary of Education reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which has at its center qualitative assessments,does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, decreases the role of compliance monitoring, and is used to support students and improve schools; and

    RESOLVED, that the Vermont State Board of Education calls on the United States Congress and Administration to accordingly amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act currently known as the "No Child Left Behind Act") to reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality, eschew the use of student test scores in evaluating educators, and allow flexibility that reflects the unique circumstances of all states; and

    RESOLVED that the Vermont State Board of Education calls on other state and national organizations to act in concert with these goals to improve and broaden educational goals, provide adequate resources, and ensure a high quality education for all children of the state and the nation.

  • August 20, 2014. Colorado Springs superintendent calls for end of excessive testing. Even though the superintendent's move was blocked, his discussion galvanized not just Coloradans but people across the country.

  • August 20, 2014. Palm Beach school board discussion of civil disobedience as an option against excessive testing

  • Let's remember that United Opt Out was founded in August 2011. Join them.

    Also remember that in 2001 Colorado 8th grade teacher Don Perl stood alone for what's right. He opted out of giving the standardized test he knew harmed his students. Today, Don is still campaigning hard for public schoolkids. Among other things, he leads the annual campaign using billboards to urge parents to opt their kids out of standardized testing.

    It has taken others a bit longer to see what Don recognized in 2001, but let's applaud the new awareness and advocacy.

    — Susan Ohanian
    blog July 26, 2014


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