Bush Testing Opponents Speak Out

K-12 Testing

In a last-minute effort to stop a massive increase in federally mandated student testing, FairTest joined with Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association of Black School Educators (NABSE), and the Alliance for Childhood to hold a Washington, DC, news conference on April 25.


Speaking for the Alliance, author Jonathan Kozol stated, “The political pressure for standardized testing is taking on a pathological and obsessive quality that is emotionally unhealthy for our children and particularly punitive to children in the badly underfunded inner-city schools... Emphasizing standardized testing is calamitous for children, distasteful to good teachers, and destructive to the goals of democratic education in a free society.” Kozol is a signer of the Alliance’s “High-Stakes Testing: A Statement of Concern and Call to Action.”


The Alliance, a new group of nationally prominent psychiatrists, child development authorities, and educators, noted that the growing emphasis on high-stakes testing is damaging education and causing a sharp increase in test-related anxiety, showing up as headaches, stomach aches, sleep problems, acting out and depression. The Alliance called for Congress to put off new test requirements until the effect on children’s health has been studied.


The AASA charged that there has not been adequate public discussion of the Bush testing plan and that common assumptions about the accuracy of tests are inaccurate: “The policy assumption of measurement precision, when in fact the opposite is true, is the heart of our criticism of the testing provisions” in the Bush plan. “Relying on imprecise tests is far too dangerous.” AASA Executive Director Paul Houston added, “The key to improved learning for all students, and therefore improved performance on whatever accountability devices are used, is better schooling for all, coupled with meeting the basic health and other needs of children.”


“We object to a system which ignores accountability at every level, a system that does not assure that the necessary, education-relevant resources are available, a system that relies only on testing, explained NABSE. “While it seems reasonable to have tests identify schools that do not improve, it is unreasonable to do so without assuring that the necessary education-relevant resources are available to those schools.”


FairTest charged that the President’s proposal “will guarantee that many children will continue to be left behind.” FairTest explained its conclusion that the testing plan will undermine, not help, efforts to improve schools, and will particularly damage the education offered to low-income and minority-group students (see Examiner, Winter 2000-01).
Rep. Scott has been a leading Congressional opponent of President Bush’s testing plans. He co-sponsored, with Sen. Paul Wellstone, legislation to enact testing safeguards and stop high-stakes testing (see Examiner, Spring 2000). Scott noted that in the absence of a plan to help students after they have been tested, “test results may be used merely to punish students and schools rather than help them achieve.” Research has found that few states have provided adequate resources to help “failing” schools. The Bush administration is not going to provide those resources.


• FairTest's position is available at http://www.fairtest.org/nattest/bushtest.html
• The Alliance statement may be obtained at http://www.allianceforchildhood.net/ or from P.O. Box 444, College Park, MD 20741.
• AASA, 1801 N. Moore St., Arlington, VA 22209; http://www.aasa.org/
• NABSE, 310 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003; http://www.nabse.org/