National Testing Resolution Reflects Growing Resistance to High-Stakes Testing

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner, May 2012

Last month FairTest and its allies launched the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing. Within the first two weeks, more than 240 organizations and 6000 individuals have endorsed it. If you are concerned over the damaging consequences of high-stakes testing, please sign on today. The campaign was inspired by a Texas resolution now endorsed by more than 425 local school boards across the state. There are many other signs of intensified opposition to pervasive high-stakes testing. For example, more than 1,400 New York principals have signed a letter opposing test misuse.  College professors issued a public letter against test misuse in Chicago, and New York state professors released a similar statement. A growing parental push to opt their children out of tests has also focused attention on the need for change.


The National Testing Resolution was drafted by a group of national education, civil rights, parent and religious organizations; several local groups; and prominent individuals such as Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier. It calls on local, state and federal officials to reduce the amount of testing and end high-stakes test misuses. Endorsers now include the Texas Association of School Boards, Palm Beach County (FL) School Board, and Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools; Parents Across American, local PTAs and other parent groups; education organizations such as National Education Association, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, National Council of Teachers of English, and Forum for Education and Democracy; and civil rights and community organizations including National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, NAACP-Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project, and National Association for Multicultural Education. The complete lists of organizational and individual signers are available at the National Resolution website.

The Texas resolution grew rapidly, fueled by anger over the state’s excessive testing regime. Even State Commissioner Robert Scott criticized over-testing, calling its effects "a perversion of what's intended." In New York, principals responded to the state’s new regulations requiring heavy use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. The rules were enacted to help the state win federal Race to the Top funds. The principals’ organization also endorsed the National Testing Resolution.

In February, Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE), representing nearly 100 Chicago professors, issued a white paper against the misuse and overuse of standardized tests. FairTest’s Monty Neill keynoted a public meeting to launch the paper. CReATE’s action inspired a group of New York academics to write a letter criticizing that state’s wrong-headed reliance on tests. Professors in other states are considering following suit.

Opting Out

A movement of parents to keep their children from taking state exams has also gathered steam during this year’s testing season. The opt-out campaign has attracted media coverage in states such as New York, Colorado, Washington, and Texas. Parents who “just say no to the tests” see this action as a potentially powerful step toward ending test misuse and are working to expand the movement.

While a few states, such as California, explicitly allow parents to opt their children out, most do not. In some cases, principals and district leaders have allowed parents to keep their children out of testing sessions, usually ensuring those students have something else to do while in school. In other cases, authorities have threatened to charge parents with truancy and child endangerment. In response, some children have sat for but not actually taken the test. The federal No Child Left Behind law requires schools to test 95% of their students or they automatically fail. With waivers potentially ending AYP in many states, pressure to test all students could ease. However, in exchange for a waiver, states must use student scores to judge teachers, which will increase pressure to include at least students who are likely to help teachers earn good scores. (See story, this issue.)