Op-ed published in Charlotte (NC) on The National Resolution
Stop testing madness, create culture to truly prepare students
Posted: Thursday, May. 17, 2012 – Charlotte Observer op ed
From Pamela Grundy and Carol Sawyer, co-chairs of Mecklenburg Area Coming Together for Schools:
It’s test week, and every public school teacher and parent in North Carolina knows what that means.
Students taking End of Grade and End of Course tests will spend hours in uneasy silence as they fill in the all-important bubbles that help determine where they’re placed next year, as well as how their teachers and their schools rate.
Non-testing students will tiptoe through their days, hushed and wary, lest they disturb their schoolmates’ concentration.
School nurses and psychologists will deal with the uptick in headaches, stomachaches and nausea brought on by test-related stress.
At home, parents will cross fingers, and hold their breath.
This is the world of high-stakes testing – tests that have direct, immediate consequences for students, educators and schools.
It would be bad enough if our nation’s obsession with high-stakes testing was limited to this single week. But since the advent of the No Child Left Behind legislation, these tests have absorbed growing amounts of time, energy and money. They have prompted educators desperate for higher scores to narrow school curricula, teach to the tests and sometimes resort to cheating. The damage done to public schooling has been enormous.
And even as political and educational leaders decry the problems this testing has caused, they continue to enact policies that require even more tests, with even higher stakes. The testing industry profits; children lose.
We, the voters, need to stand up and stop this madness. Last week Mecklenburg ACTS asked CMS school board members to endorse the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing. The resolution calls on state and federal officials to change the policies that are forcing high-stakes testing on American schools.
The National Resolution is designed to give a united voice to parents and educators across the country who are fed up with this testing and the damage it has done to American education.
Parents and community members are especially important to this campaign. Elected officials need to hear from you. Please take time to read the resolution and share it with friends and associations – PTAs, professional groups, faith groups, chambers of commerce and so on. If you choose to endorse it, let local, state and federal representatives know where you stand.
The resolution does not call for an end to accountability, or to all testing – a silly idea. Teachers assess their students all the time – as well they should. But students, teachers and schools should be evaluated primarily on the actual work that students do.
Standardized testing should be limited to a periodic sampling of schools and subjects, as is done with the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Nurturing the insightful, innovative thinking that will make our students truly career and college ready requires teamwork, confidence and trust. This culture must be built from the ground up, not the top down. Creating it becomes far more difficult when the test score hammer hovers over each employee and every school.
It’s time to take away that hammer and allow public schoolteachers to exercise the professional judgment that the vast majority of them wield with care and skill.
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