Testing Reform Campaigns Explode Across the Nation

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner, November 2013

Resistance exploded in more than a dozen states in October, including New Mexico, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Rhode Island, Florida, Texas and Mississippi. Students in Denver paraded as zombies holding signs reading, “Testing Kills Brains.”  Parents and students are boycotting new student tests used to judge teachers in New York. FairTest is collaborating with several national networks to support and expand the movement, aiming to reduce the amount of testing, end high-stakes uses, and implement educationally sound assessments.

New York parents, teachers, and students have launched efforts to build on last spring’s boycotts. Parents at Castle Bridge elementary school in New York City refused tests for young children, leading to their cancellation, and students at the elite Stuyvesant High also organized a boycott. Fifteen hundred people packed a high school football stadium on Long Island, and 2,500 turned out for a public forum in Buffalo. Irate community members refused to be bullied by Commissioner John King, leading him to cancel a series of forums so he would not have to listen to the public. New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) called for his resignation.  The Senate Education Committee initiated hearings across the state, at which FairTest presented testimony calling on New York to make fundamental changes in the state exam system.

Last spring, New York saw a wave of 3,000 opt-outs on Long Island and many more across the rest of the state. This action was sparked in large part by overly long, developmentally inappropriate, poorly constructed, and dangerously misused new tests made by Pearson based on the Common Core standards. Scores plummeted across the board (see “Horror Stories,” this issue). In one response to this debacle, parents sent test results back to the state, writing on the envelope, “Invalid Test Scores Enclosed.”  A series of school boards have recently adopted variations on the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing, initiated by FairTest and allied groups.

The American Federation of Teachers sponsored development of The Principles that Unite Us, endorsed by more than 110 education, civil rights and community groups, including FairTest. It includes a strong statement on overhauling assessment.  A series of Town Hall meetings, at which testing was consistently raised as a major issue, led up to creation of the principles. At AFT’s Reclaiming the Promise of Public Schools October conference, teachers, parents and students planned December actions in dozens of locales across the nation, some of which will address testing as a primary issue.  FairTest also spoke at a Southern Education Foundation conference that led groups in several southeastern states to develop their own organizing and public education plans.