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The New York Times is convinced that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have been a great success, and the editorial board urges Congress to stick with annual high-stakes testing. The editorial is couched in terms of the wonderful things that have happened to children of color, echoing the “reform” theme of testing as a “civil right.” This editorial is so out of touch with reality that it is hard to know where to begin. States are now beginning to test little children for 10-12 hours to see if they can read and do math; the amount of testing and the stakes attached to it are not found in any high-performing nation in the world, only here. The billions of dollars now devoted to standardized testing is obscene, especially when many of children who need help the most are in overcrowded classes and in states that have slashed the budget and/or opened charter schools and handed out vouchers to drain funding away from the public schools.
For a different point of view, read Carol Burris’s strong article about why it is time for civil disobedience, why parents should refuse to allow their children to take the tests.
It has become increasingly clear that Congress does not have the will to move away from annual high-stakes testing. The bizarre notion that subjecting 9-year-olds to hours of high-stakes tests is a “civil right,” is embedded in the thinking of both parties. Conservatives no longer believe in the local, democratic control of our schools. Progressives refuse to address the effects of poverty, segregation and the destruction of the middle class on student learning. The unimaginative strategy to improve achievement is to make standardized tests longer and harder.
And then there are the Common Core State Standards. Legislators talk a good game to appease parents, but for all their bluff and bluster, they are quite content to use code names, like the West Virginia Next Generation Content Standards, to trick their constituents into believing their state standards are unique, even though most are word for word from the Common Core.
The only remedy left to parents is to refuse to have their children take the tests. Testing is the rock on which the policies that are destroying our local public schools are built. If our politicians do not have the courage to reverse high-stakes testing, then those who care must step in. As professor of Language and Composition, Ira Shor, bluntly stated:
Because our kids cannot defend themselves, we have to defend them. We parents must step in to stop it. We should put our foot down and say, “Do it to your own kids first before you experiment on ours!”
In contrast to the New York Times, which argues for the status quo on grounds of helping minority students, Burris sharply argues:
The alleged benefit of annual high stakes testing was to unveil the achievement gaps, and by doing so, close them. All that has been closed are children’s neighborhood schools. In a powerful piece in the Huffington Post, Fairfield University Professor Yohuru Williams argues that annual high-stakes testing feeds racial determinism and closes doors of opportunity for black and brown children.
Last year, Alan Aja and I presented evidence on how the Common Core and its tests are hurting, not helping, disadvantaged students. (The links to both articles are in Burris’s article.)
I am a rule follower by nature. I have never gotten a speeding ticket. I patiently wait my turn in lines. I am the product of 12 years of Catholic schools–raised in a blue-collar home where authority was not to be questioned. I was the little girl who always colored in the lines.
But there comes a time when rules must be broken — when adults, after exhausting all remedies, must be willing to break ranks and not comply. That time is now. The promise of a public school system, however imperfectly realized, is at risk of being destroyed. The future of our children is hanging from testing’s high stakes. The time to Opt Out is now.