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Grassroots Response to Excessive Testing

Tingley-021 color webNew York State principal Don Sternberg reports that his letter to parents, featured in my blog last week, has received an enormously positive response from parents and colleagues, generating over 65,000 hits as of last week alone.  Now he’s encouraging a grassroots movement in which everyone who agrees with the ideas set forth in the letter write or email the Governor, the NYS Board of Regents or the NYS Commissioner of Education to protest excessive testing and the misuse of results.

Along those lines, the Niagara Regional PTA prepared a resolution to submit to the state PTA convention this fall.  The resolution calls for a moratorium on high stakes testing in the state as well as the elimination of the requirement that 40% of teacher evaluation be based on tests.  In addition, the resolution calls for NYS to end its contract with Pearson as the developer of state tests and return to the practice of using teachers, administrators, and the college community to develop them instead.

The rationale for the resolution includes research that indicates that flawed tests developed by Pearson have rendered them “virtually useless at measuring the effects of classroom instruction” according to the New York Times (July 28, 2012).   “Why would we spend millions of dollars and subject children to another year of emotional distress when it has been determined that these high stakes test yield no useful information?” the document asks.  The entire resolution can be accessed here.

Up to this point politicians have generally ignored the protests of teachers regarding excessive testing and the use of test scores in teacher evaluation, citing self-interest on the teachers’ part.  In some ways unions have played into that situation by looking for reasons that kids might perform poorly on tests – home Grassroots-Movement-2 situations, poverty, etc. – instead of focusing on the price kids are paying for all this testing in terms of stress, loss of instructional time, labeling, and self esteem.  The focus should have been on the unreliability of the tests and the millions and millions of dollars that Pearson and other testing companies have made at the expense of our children.  Instead of pouring that money into school improvement, politicians have chosen to turn it over to those who stand to profit from keeping the testing mania alive.

“The principals, teachers’ unions, and the superintendents of our state have all tried, in vain, to present a logical and reasonable resistance to the statistical analysis process that is now driving educational reform in our state,” writes Sternberg.  “The only recourse left and our last resort is a direct letter campaign to the bureaucratic heads of the state and the SED [State Education Department].”

We will be watching to see if a grassroots movement takes off.

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