By Amanda Litvinov
The sun was shining on students and schools in Texas yesterday when the state House of Representatives took a stand on their behalf by voting to reign in excessive high-stakes testing. The vote was an overwhelming 145-2.
The Texas Senate has already passed a similar bill. Both versions would reduce the number of high-stakes assessments from 15 to five.
It’s clear that the voices of parents and educators exasperated by the misuse and overuse of off-the-shelf tests rather than meaningful assessments that actually chart student progress have made the difference in the land where the misguided standardized testing movement was born.
“To parents and educators concerned about excessive testing, the Texas House has heard you,” House Speaker Joe Strauss said earlier this year when the chamber zeroed out funding for state standardized testing in its 2014-15 budget.
The Texas State Teachers Association was a driving force behind the Save Texas Schools rally outside the statehouse in Austin on February 23, where educators, students, parents and other concerned members of the community spoke out against excessive testing as well as voucher schemes and cuts to education funding, which also rob students of essential opportunities.
The Texas legislature’s stand for students and educators comes not a moment too soon for Brownsville elementary teacher Sharon Shepard, who has long been concerned about the effects of excessive and stress-inducing tests on the children in her classroom.
“I have seen some students develop anxieties at a very young age because they are afraid of these tests,” said Shepard.
“How can you say a child is not learning just by looking at these high-stakes tests? Every child’s brain development is not the same—some students learn the material right away while others need more time and attention in order to learn it.”
Is an “EduSpring” in the forecast?
Outside the Lone Star State, educators, parents and students across the country continue to join forces to stand up to high-stakes tests and the harmful policies they are used to justify, such as closing neighborhood schools. Thousands of educators and concerned community members in Chicago protested the proposed closing of 54 schools at a rally earlier today.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, educators are considering how to help students this spring when they are once again called on to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test they boycotted earlier this year.
Jesse Hagopian, a U.S. and World history teacher at Garfield High where the boycott started, is convinced that educators and parents will keep upping the pressure on decision makers this spring.
“We are just seeing the very beginning of this testing revolt,” Hagopian told Reuters. “Maybe you can call it the ‘Teachers’ Spring.’”
Educators in Seattle—as in Texas and elsewhere—have carefully articulated their desire to be at the table to help design the most fair and effective assessments that would help them gauge their students’ progress. Their pleas have been supported and echoed by local parent groups, who also have a tremendous stake in stopping the overuse of testing.
Every voice matters—here’s how you can help
Nearly 17,000 individuals and 500 organizations (the National Education Association and more than 360 Texas school boards among them) have signed onto a national resolution that calls out the problems with the imbalanced focus on high-stakes standardized tests—tests that benefit the companies that sell them at the expense of students.
“As a nation and a profession, we cannot afford the subjugation of the testing club,” said Lynne Oliver, an educator from Pipe Creek, Texas.
“These substandard tests aren’t an effective monitor of education—their sole purpose is the transfer of curriculum control and billions of dollars in profit from public institutions into the hands of private interests. These are our tax dollars! Give them back to our children. Instead of cutting public class room dollars, put the ‘testing billions’ back in our schools to support students and teachers.”
Your voice can help make an “EduSpring” a reality.
- Sign the national resolution, joining tens of thousands of people speaking out against tests that don’t help educators help students.
- Then consider sharing your story—how have you seen inappropriate or excessive high-stakes tests impact that kids in your life?