Anti-testing groups form alliance to bring sanity to education policy

(Bigstock)
(Bigstock)

With resistance to standardized test-obsessed school reform growing around the country, three dozen local, state and national organizations and individuals have now banded together in an alliance to expand efforts to bring sanity to education policy.

The alliance, which is called Testing Resistance and Reform Spring, will support a range of public education and mobilizing tactics — including boycotts, opt-out campaigns, rallies and legislation — in its effort to stop the high-stakes use of standardized tests, to reduce the number of standardized exams, and to replace multiple-choice tests with performance-based assessments and school work. The alliance will help activists in different parts of the country connect through a new Web site that offers resources for activists, including fact sheets and guides on how to hold events to get out their message.

The emergence of the alliance represents a maturing of the grassroots testing resistance that has been building for several years locally in states , including Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.  Though many supporters of Barack Obama expected him to end the standardized testing obsession of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind when Obama was first elected president, many now say that the Obama administration has gone beyond the excesses of NCLB to inappropriately make high-stakes standardized tests the key measure of achievement by students, teachers, principals and schools.

Assessment experts say that standardized test scores are not a reliable or valid way to make high stakes decisions about the effectiveness of teachers or the achievement of students, but education policymakers have ignored these warnings for years. This has led to situations that are nothing short of preposterous, such as teachers being evaluated on the test scores of students they never had. Meanwhile, the emphasis on testing has led to an explosion of tests being given to kids; for example, fourth-graders in the Pittsburgh Public Schools have to take 33 standardized tests mandated by the district or state this school year. It is this reality that has fueled the resistance.

The founding members of the alliance are the Center for Fair & Open Testing, or FairTest, as well as Parents Across America, United Opt Out, Network for Public Education, and Save Our Schools.

Prominent educators, activists and bloggers who are partners in the alliance are:

Wayne Au, associate professor, University of Washington
Anthony Cody, teacher, blogger
Nikhil Goyal, student, activist
Jesse Hagopian, teacher, Garfield High School, Seattle, Washington
Deborah Meier
Diane Ravitch
Angela Valenzuela, professor, U-Texas, Austin
George Wood, superintendent, Federal Hocking Local Schools, Stewart, Ohio

Organizations that are alliance partners are:

National 
Coalition for Essential Schools
HispanEduca
K-12 News Network
National Latino/a Education Research and Policy (NLERAP)
Rethinking Schools

State and Local
Change the Stakes (New York)
Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE)
Citizens for Public Schools (Massachussetts)
Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) (Kentucky)
MecklenburgACTS.org (North Carolina)
More Than a Score (Chicago)
New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)
Opt Out Orlando (Florida)
Parents United for Responsible Education (Chicago)
ReThinking Testing Midhudson Region (New York)
Social Equality Educators (Seattle)
Students 4 Our School (Denver)
SWside Parents Alliance (Chicago)
Teacher Activist Group – TAG Boston
Texas Center for Education Policy
Time Out from Testing (New York)
Youth Organizers for the Now Generation (YOUNG) (Boston)

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | February 21