Movement Against Standardized Testing Grows As Parents Opt Out

| April 27, 2012 | 66 Comments
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Flickr: dcJohn

With the arrival of spring comes the inevitable wave of standardized tests, as public school students across the country break out their number two pencils and spend hours of class time taking math and literacy assessments.

But a growing movement of principals, parents, and teachers is rising up against these exams. They claim that placing so much time and emphasis on high-stakes tests robs students of valuable learning time and unfairly tangles teachers’ performance evaluations with meaningless test scores. The opt out movement is gaining momentum through written protests from districts and principals, through social media, including a Facebook group called Parents and Kids Against Standardized Testing, which has more than 1,700 fans, and Occupy Protests at the Department of Education.

This vocal group is raising its voice at least partially in response to ten years of No Child Left Behind, the federal law that requires all public schools to administer standardized tests. Parents in the movement say teachers spend too much time teaching to the test while neglecting long-term projects or more creative learning strategies. They say the tests measure only what students know at a given time, not what we should be defining as “learning.”

“Our schools are faced with contradictory and incomplete directives regarding high-stakes testing and evaluation.”

Each school, district, and state follows different policies for testing requirements, and it’s not necessarily common knowledge to parents that they can choose to opt their children out of taking these tests. In some schools, assessments determine grade promotion, qualification for gifted and talented programs, teacher evaluations, and even funding. Schools are on the hook to test at least 95% of their students every year in order to be eligible for federal funds.

But awareness of opting out is growing in pockets around the country. In Texas, hundreds of school districts are signing on to a resolution against these tests. As of April 26, 412 districts representing more than 2 million students had signed on.

In New York this week, an open letter was distributed from 15 principals who describe the situation as a “nightmare.”

“Our schools are faced with contradictory and incomplete directives regarding high-stakes testing and evaluation, our teachers are humiliated by the thought of publicized evaluation numbers and our students are stressed by the unnecessary testing that has consumed precious learning time,” the letter says.

At Seattle Hill Elementary in Snohomish, a suburb of Seattle, the parents of at least 70 students have banded together to opt out of this year’s Measurement of Student Progress (MSP) test given at the end of April. Protestors take issue with the costs of testing during a grave time of limited resources – $37.5 million annually in Washington State – along with serious questions about its efficacy. Kids take the test in the spring, but don’t get the results until next fall when they’ve moved on to another grade and teacher, making the results irrelevant.

Opt-out parents say that children’s learning can be judged more effectively through a portfolio, teacher’s own evaluations of students, and class participation. Those methods are used in addition to the test in some schools, but the test is mandatory. School administrators find themselves at a loss for how to deal with the protesters since No Child Left Behind is still the prevailing law.

-With additional reporting by Katrina Schwartz

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  • http://twitter.com/InnovativeEdu Lisa Nielsen

    Terrific and informative piece.  One reason the government can get away with this is because until now parents could not find and connect with each other and it was difficult to determine the laws in each state. Thanks to social media that has all changed. There is an Opt Out wiki that parents can discover and contribute information at 
    http://optoutofstandardizedtests.wikispaces.com/ 

    There is also an opt out group for every state in America which parents can find in two ways.
    1) Go to Facebook and type in the search: Opt out of State Standardized Tests – Your State i.e. Opt Out of State Standardized Tests – Ohio
    2) Go to the page url: https://www.facebook.com/groups/OptOutYourState i.e.https://www.facebook.com/groups/OptOutOhio

    • Carolyn

      Standardized testing is one reason parents are seeing homeschool/unschool as a viable alternative to compulsory education.  Testing does not promote learning or curiosity.  It also doesn’t necessarily evaluate performance or knowledge.

      • Kristina Brown

        Unfortunately, even homeschooling doesn’t get rid of the standardized tests. Here in Tennessee, we’re required to have our kids take the TCAP in 5th and 7th grades while homeschooling. It’s not every year, but it is still an issue because I don’t necessarily agree with what they teach/don’t teach and yet my children still have to be tested on it. It’s also written in the law that if the children perform poorly on the tests for 2 years in a row, the state can force the parents to put the kids back in the public school system. I don’t know how often that’s enforced, but it’s still very bothersome, especially for me where 2 of mine are special needs and my oldest has some learning difficulties but the schools would never do anything that resulted in an IEP.

        • Dksweets

          I live in TN and homeschool two children. They are both in high school, and they have been homeschooled since kindergarten. Your information is correct but only if you register as a homeschooler with your local county BOE. We register with an “umbrella” school, which is deemed to be the same as a private schooler. We have never had to take the TCAP test, but we do take the Stanford test every year; not requires but it helps track their progress.

  • Gericar

    I support public education as a much denigrated, but great experiment in a level playing field and a necessity in the formation of an inclusive, democratic society, I do however think opting out of standardized tests is necessary since on a balance the information people get from the tests does not balance the negative factors. Many parents, however, will hesitate to opt out because they think their children will do well on the tests and when kids are doing well by this measure,  parents can think everything is OK. The deeper and more fundamental educational issues get lost. The parents of the children who do well on these tests have quiet a bit of weight to throw around in school districts and can use it for the general good. I hope these parents have the courage to opt out.

  • homebuilding

    All initially good things can be pushed to excess.

    Certainly this is the case with much of the testing.

    In the good old days, tests included a healthy percentage of life skill/knowledge
    questions.

    A bit more of that might be a helpful thing….a bit, not four tests per year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rachel-Pembrook-Samson/600141418 Rachel Pembrook Samson

    As an educator and a mother of two I can tell you I feel a great amount of trepidation with these tests, as do many of the parents of my students. I have seen the fallacy of administering these tests to children in so many ways. Unfortunately, many states (the one I live in included) are setting these tests up so they are spread out over the course of a few weeks so parents who would normally just keep their children out during testing now can’t because they will be reprimanded for poor attendance (their child could be kicked out of the school which will save the school from the negative score from the absent student). Furthermore, if a student is in the building during the testing period, it is mandatory for us to test them regardless if the parents want us to or not. Opting out is becoming harder and harder in many states. I have worked with a several teachers during my career, and I can tell you that I have honestly not come across a single teacher that supports standardized testing. There is even less support now that starting this next year our pay is contingent upon test scores. It’s just a bad situation all around, and most parents haven’t got a clue what is really going on.

    • DhwjHawaii

      Yup, teachers and their unions don’t like testing.  No doubt about that.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3CQF72AWGQ4YYY3WVLBPNTAHIQ julian

    As is so often described as a method of propaganda, the “enemy” is reduced to a phrase, in this case, “standardized testing”, but details are deliberately ignored. Such as that “standardized testing” includes knowledge of the distributive property in arithmetic; that Columbus reached the Americas in 1492; that oxygen is an element, water a molecule; that “of” is a preposition. Opponents talk about “teaching to the test”, but this is all supposed to be part of the curriculum! If they weren’t providing this information, they were breaking the law! Like “standardized test”, “teaching to the test” seems a calculated propagandistic tactic, invoking an undefined phrase, bad mouthing it without proof, then employing it. Basically, all the machination of opposing “standardized teating” is unethical if not criminal.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rachel-Pembrook-Samson/600141418 Rachel Pembrook Samson

      There are several other tests, such as the M.A.P test, that test students in math, science, reading, and language at the beginning of the school year, the middle, and the end of the school year that are much less high-risk (meaning less stressfull for students and staff, are not connected to federal funding, and not a factor in teacher pay). These tests are simply for teachers to gain information on where their student’s knowledge base is, and to see how their students are growing throughout the year. Standardized tests don’t do this. Standardized tests are given at the end of they year and results aren’t provided until the following school-year. Furthermore, teachers aren’t sent the results; they have to go get them themselves, which is rather difficult considering your students aren’t the same year to year and move to and from different schools. How is this helpful? How is a teacher supposed to use this information to help his/her students? You are the one opposing without proof. Standardized tests look all good and great in theory, but make very little practical sense in reality.

      This is for Toby, parents are not wanting to opt out of these tests because their kids don’t test well or because they’re bad parents, they are opting out of them because they see they’re just too high risk for everyone involved. These are usually very educated parents who don’t take things at face value. They don’t just do things because the system tells them to. These are people who do their research and form their own oppinion.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3CQF72AWGQ4YYY3WVLBPNTAHIQ julian

        Teachers are supposed to perform tests themselves, on the required material, which is what’s going to be on the standardized test. These individual tests are supposed to provide information on how well the students are doing! And final exams are supposed to provide the information the standardized tests provide! They’re supposed to, but teachers who don’t know what they’re doing, who want to improve their image, would provide tests abnormally simple to pass! Standardized tests can avoid this by involving the required learning. In fact, the only thing Rachel Pembrook Samson really criticizes is the distribution of information about the test. In which case, it is the providing of information, not the tests themselves, which are all that Rachel Pembrook Smason is contesting. And that can be solved by re-arranging the providing of results of the standardized tests, not eliminating the tests themselves.

        • Shaymf

          You nailed another problem. States pay millions of dollars to testing companies to develop and grade tests. That money could be better spent elsewhere. If a teacher is suspected of not doing their job it is the principal’s responsibility to take corrective action. 

          You are taking the position that teachers can’t be trusted to evaluate the learning of their students. I speculate that that is the root of your issue…not that you love testing but that you don’t trust teachers to do their jobs.

          Once you cross into that territory you must evaluate our entire society. What do we really value? What role do parents play in education? What role does media and commercialism play in education? What knowledge is really essential?

        • Manuel

          By definition, a “standardized test” is constructed such that its
          results fit the “Standard Distribution.” This curve is also known as 
          the “Bell Curve”. The California Standards Tests (aka CSTs) are designed to produce such a result and, even though the questions are supposed to be based on the California Standards, it is not guaranteed that all Standards will be properly covered. The only thing that is guaranteed is that half the students in California will be below the curve’s average value, which, for all tests, has been set as the proficient cut-off point. In other words, half the students are not proficient even before they take the test. It does not matter what teachers do or do not do.

          Please note that this mathematical design demands that, if all schools are not equal, then there must be schools that score high and others that score low. Please review what you should have learned on that long-ago forgotten class on statistics if you don’t understand why this is. It is well-established math and is not subject to an emotions-based debate.

    • Shaymf

      The tests themselves are not the problem. The problem
      is that the high stakes nature of the tests prompts schools to forsake subjects
      like art, and music in favor of additional test prep. The main problem with
      NCLB is that it is not a realistic goal to have 100% of the students
      proficient. I say this because there are individuals who do not have the
      cognitive faculties to become proficient. Unfortunately the high stakes nature
      of the tests puts schools in a position to do the impossible with negative
      consequences for not producing. This is not a healthy way to run the countries
      school system (i.e. give an impossible task and then punish the schools for
      their lack of success). One more problem in the long list is that standardized
      tests are written for middle class white people and we are a culturally diverse
      country. Imagine asking a child who lives in a village in rural Alaska a
      question with the words curb, banister, or trolley car. They don’t use this
      language in their daily lives and the same goes for many immigrant populations in
      the United States. Ask a Native American who discovered America. There are so
      many problems with the whole NCLB concept that it would take a day to discuss
      them. I don’t know if you are a teacher but based on your posts I am guessing
      not.

      • heidi

         I hope you are not a teacher.  You wrote “countries” where you should have written “country’s”.  I think there IS value in standardized testing, though I agree it should not be the Alpha and the Omega.  Still, it could be useful to have some (even imperfect) measurement that compares the performance of different schools and districts. 

        • Mom of Two

           Are you a teacher? If so, I’d hate for my child to be learning from a self-righteous pomp who denigrates another for misspelling on a web post. Gah!

      • prof

        Well, the tests themselves *are* the problem when, as you point out, they take  one cultural subgroup as normative. And when they’re just badly designed, period–as in badly written tests with ambiguous questions. 

        Multiple-choice tests are pretty poor measurement tools, but they’re easy to grade en masse, so they predmoninate. With the tail wagging the dog, the result is teaching multiple-choice test-taking as a skill in itself, and teaching only the kind of material that multiple-choice tests address.

        I’m a college teacher, and I have seen the stultifying effects of NCLB on my students in the past few years.  As a student, I had a knack for standardized tests: there’s a world of difference between knowing a subject and being able to suss out the right answers on a test, if you’re a canny reader. Hence college test prep classes and the fact that I was able to get AP credit taking tests on subjects I had never studied and in NO way deserved college credit for. Standardized tests cultivate and reward useless skills.

        The saddest thing of all is seeing students who are so used to soul-killing, list-based, formulaic “education” that they’re uncomfortable when they aren’t told exactly what to do and how to do it, and even think that without these crutches, they aren’t learning. They’re like abused dogs who are now afraid to come out of their kennels.

        • prof

          “Predominate”! Nothing like the self-righteous teacher (me) failing to proofread!

  • Toby Zanotti

    The issue is this, do you have what it takes as a parent to make sure your child is ready for algebra as a freshman?  Do you quiz your kids on their math facts? Do you make them add up things at the grocery store, or calculate the miles per gallon your car gets every time you fill up?  Do you go onto the Khan Academy website and play math games with them?  Do you ask them math questions when you go out to eat, or when you shop?  

    Maybe you would like to just opt out of parenting? I know there are days i feel like doing so…

    So what if your kid doesn’t pass. Does anyone ever truly taste victory if they have never faced defeat? 

    Sorry, I know, you already do all these things its just that the teacher is just so boring and its the same old stuff you were doing in math when you were in school…. except its not.  

    You are probably sitting down with them every night reading the book and trying to figure out probability while helping them understand it and gosh why isn’t it easier?

    Because it’s not,  Math is not innate or easy, it takes practice, lots and lots of practice and if you think that you are tired of practicing with your kids, know that you are not alone.  The amount of math we expect a high schooler to know to pas the core content standards for 2014 is equivalent to what a handful of the smartest humans new how to do during the renaissance.  

    Maybe the bar is too high, or maybe your child is not a genius, but opting out of a test isn’t going to fix it.  What would fix it would be to have other tracks for meaningful education at the high school level so students who are not good at standardized tests could learn a trade and find a good paying job without having to burden themselves with college debt. 

    Trades like…
    Nursing,
    Dentistry
    Electrician
    Auto mechanic
    Rapid prototyping
    Millwrights
    Metal Fabrication
    Forestry
    Environmental restoration
    Landscaping
    Waste management
    Plumbing
    Aircraft maintenance 
    Child development

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Spencer-Hansen/17823916 Spencer Hansen

       nice use of teddy roosevelt to fire up the troops!

  • Jrebekah

    Yeah…for Gods sake don’t do testing, it results in direct evidence of how awful our union teachers and government schools are doing…we need to keep that a secret. Hard facts and standards are NOT in the best interest of Teachers Unions and lazy students!

    • McPazza

      I have a hard time believing there’s a significant difference in the test scores in my area between Catholic and public schools, non-union and union respectively. And actually teachers – union or otherwise – are the ones who are passionate about teaching “hard facts.” They also teach punctuation and capitalization. 

  • Katie

    Standardized testing has grown into a monster.  There is nothing wrong with periodic tests that evaluate how much a student retains.  There is nothing good about a test created outside the district or even the state that declares all children should know specific facts.  Even worse is a standardized test that asks children to ‘evaluate’, ‘analyze’, or ‘discuss’ things they know little to nothing about and when they don’t yet have the skills or tools to think and write so comprehensively.  In fourth grade, my son was asked on a standardized test to define and give written and drawn examples of the cell myosis and mytosis.  In seventh grade he was asked to write a simple lullaby in 3/4 time and chart the seasonal monsoons in southeast asia.    In eleventh grade he was asked to analyze the difference between nuclear fusion and nuclear fission and give current political ramifications for each.  NONE of those things were subjects he had studied at the time of the testing.  The required writing skills and cognitive abilities were not present at any level.  Schools do not teach critical thinking or critical writing – in fact, it’s been my experience that they barely teach writing at all.  

    The SATs, IMHO, are just as bad.  Kids take practice tests from middle school on.  They study word lists.  They memorize facts.  They take coaching and tutoring classes that guarantee high scores on this test, where they were given paragraphs to study and memorize in order to ace the essay part.   Susbsequently results of the SAT show only how well students have learned to perform on that particular test.  They don’t show what students have learned in school or how well they will perform in college.  The richer the kid, the more practice he/she will have had.  Competition for high scores is fierce – high schools often pose challenges or rewards, because high scores reflect well on them – and cheating is rampant.  Excessive coaching and tutoring for the SATs is cheating too.

    I’m just glad my kids are out of school and I don’t have to deal with it anymore.  Every single year they were changing the parameters and the testing – testing the tests, so to speak.  Both my kids are smart, both dreaded the tests because they made them feel stupid.  I dreaded the time too because there was so much anxiety and tension.  School shouldn’t be that way.  Learning is a life-long process – school should be about making sure kids have the foundations, skills, and tools they need to continue to be open to the world around them.

    • DhwjHawaii

      As foreign students from around the world surpass American students, American parents reject assessing how far behind their little darlings are.  Not even in the top 20 in math and science in the world.  Think your kids are going to get good jobs.  Keep thinking.

      • Bgreenedp

        They may show higher test scores, but they do not show the innovation or creativity that we still excel in, here in America. It is because they do just what this article is pointing out. The students are taught to score high on tests.

        If you teach a child to learn, as opposed to memorize, you will have a critical thinker that can apply themselves to many things.

        As is often the case….numbers and stats can be deceiving.

      • Jlujan4

        Scores around the world are deceptive, in the USA we believe that all children should be given the same opportunities, this is not true around the world.  Only what they consider the best are allowed to go past  middle school the rest, I am not sure what happens to those kiddos.

  • Henrychinaski

    The tests are meaningless as is most compulsory schooling. They are a ruse. Primary education and its machinery have nothing to do with learning. They are factories of indoctrination and preparation to bow to authority for a lifetime of servitude at a job. I contend the majority of humanity’s greatest accomplishments occurred WITHOUT standardized testing and school run like factories/prisons.

    Tests have nothing to do with learning, the test is about the test. Any attempt at quantifying intelligence or aptitude is futile due to inherent biases of the culture and what its policymakers deem important. In the case of the United States, if it can be demonstrated at a young age that a child’s mind shows signs it can be co-opted by the military-medical industrial complex industrial complex it will design tests that cater to this type of intelligence and “reward” it with higher scores or grades and ultimately more pay when these individuals become adults even though society at large makes little if no change in regards to treatment of workers, social justice, or economic opportunities to those not in say, the top 5 percent of the population.

    Perhaps a non-sequiur but we also live in a country where a person can still be considered “educated” but only speaks one language. I am guessing that these tests fail to measure this fact.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003228017539 John Mitchell

    I remember when the “No Child Left Behind” standards were adopted in the 90′s my wife, a dedicated teacher who is smart and a straight A student through graduate school (Reading Education)  and could have gone into any profession, but wanted to teach, told me two things;

    1 – These tests would ruin education.  She spent several years trying to both teach students to a test and also to teach them to think and reason in the tradition of great eduction.  She finally threw in the towel and quit as a teacher.

    2 – That parents would revolt when it came time to hold their kids back or not let them graduate.

    Turns out my wife is pretty smart!

    • Crystal deGreef

      I was also a teacher. I also quit after a few years of this nonsense. This is NOT teaching. This is NOT education. Your wife is a smart lady.

  • Matt S

    You know, the tests really aren’t that bad.  They’re all dead easy, and it’s rather difficult for a lot of us to fail them.  The material they cover should be taught in classes anyway, so that removes the attack about “teaching to the test”.  I also find it rather disgusting that in my state, it takes a 42% to pass the test.  Surely you can’t look at someone who gets 42% of questions on an extremely basic, easy test right and tell them that they’re educated enough to graduate high school.

  • William Barnett-Lewis

    Every Child Left Behind has been, as intended by the Republicans behind it, an utter disaster for our children and their education. They do not want educated citizens because they would see through their lies. Anything that can be done to fight against it is something good you can do for your children. 

  • Michael Dodge4

    As a 5th grade teacher, I believe that standardized testing does have its place and value in the classroom however when it must be the “be all to end all” assessment for student, teacher, and school, that’s where I must draw the line. States give hundreds of millions of dollars of their education budgets to private companies to create, implement, and analyze these assessments. Surely this is what the Bush Administration had in mind when it passed “No child Left Behind”. The private sector can always do a better job, right? How’s the economy working out for you? I’m sure this money could be spent more wisely.

    The Obama Administration is not any better when it requires states, who accept large sums of money from the Federal Government for its “Race to the Top” initiative, to now require that test scores be directly tied to teacher evaluations. I can tell you that if I was evaluated last year based on my students’ test scores, I would have had a glowing evaluation. This year, even though I’m working twice as hard as last year and with fewer students, not so much.

    Testing must be a small part of a fully inclusive portfolio of a student’s work throughout his or her school years. If not, teachers will have not choice but to continue to “teach to the test”.

  • teacherlaura

    I agree!  As a fellow educator, I see the validity of using standardized tests as tools to better assess our students’ knowledge and abilities at a particular point in time.  They can tell us what areas our students need more help in, and they can show us how our students measure up against students in the same district and state.   When I was growing up, we took the “Iowa” standardized test once a year.  It was just one of the ways that our performance as students (and our teachers’ performance as educators) was measured.  The “test” was just one tool, and it did not overshadow everything we did in the classroom as today’s “test” does.  Things are way out of balance!
     
    Someone else commented about how art, p.e., and music were getting short shrift in schools because of the overemphasis on the test.  I would add that in several schools that I have worked in,  science and social studies/history are also overshadowed by the test.   In California,  students are only tested on math and language arts through 4th grade, and other core subjects are neglected or simply not taught.   In 5th grade, they actually test science knowledge, so the 5th grade teachers actually have a mandate to teach some science!  Sadly, since the test covers both 4th and 5th grade science standards,  the students can be woefully unprepared!
     
    Is chucking out the test the answer?  Should there be no standardized testing?  I don’t think so!  It can be a useful tool for analyzing student and teacher performance, and it should be one of many in our toolboxes – not the only one!  As an educator, I use multiple measures to evaluate my teaching effectiveness and the abilities of my students.  I look for ways to improve my teaching, and strive to teach students in ways that they can learn.  But I also face mandates from administrators to “teach to the test” , and to not “waste time” with subjects that aren’t on the test. 

     As long as the “test” is overemphasized, we will continue to cheat our children out of the education they really deserve: a well-rounded education  that teaches critical thinking skills, art, science, technology, history, etc.  By focusing so intensely on “the test” we cheat our children out of the education that will help them be the innovators and problem solvers we so desperately need as we move into the 21st century. 

    The big question is, how do we inject some sanity and reason into the national debate on education?  How do we get rid of bad policies and incentives that punish and reduce funding for  “underperforming schools” rather than help them improve?  How do we effectively evaluate teachers and schools in order to improve them?  How to we meet the needs of students in our blighted inner cities and pockets of poverty throughout the country, where school buildings are falling apart?    Turning all our schools into for-profit “charter schools” is not the answer!  Cutting funding to “failing schools” is not the answer!  We need to bring parents, educators, administrators, and policymakers together to start working on the many problems that plague our educational system.

     
     

    • motherof2

      Thank
      you for mentioning “science and social studies/history are also
      overshadowed by the test”. It is amazing, in a world that needs sciences
      more than ever, how all this standardized test structure triggers a behavior
      that is totally against children’s learning. I have two kids in elementary
      school. I haven’t opt out (not sure if I have that option in California), instead I don’t make my
      children do any of the test practice sent at home by their teachers. Also,
      their school created two day a week(1 hour) afterschool classes for children
      that has historically been “proficient” or below for extra practice. And
      of course, I declined it, since it was not mandatory. After a full day of
      academical pressure, I don’t think so! We rather spend that time doing sports,
      playing or resting. This is all definitely out of proportion!

  • Kirkt59

    The Dead Horse standard for teaching is when a dead horse could pass a class.  At work I am often ‘trained’ with the Dead Horse and a signature standard. I show up, sign in and take a seat. The ‘trainer’ spends a couple hours talking and at the end of the class, I get a certificate showing I have been ‘trained’. There is no testing to show I have understood what was presented to me and very often I did not understand or remember anything. A dead horse could pass these classes, providing someone could sign in for him. The only requirement to pass was to show up, sign in and sit still. Without a test of some kind, my employer and the trainer do not know if I understood the information. Public schools without tests produce only Dead Horses with good attendance records.
    A good test will give the student the opportunity to demonstrate if they have understood what they have been taught. If the test is a measure of what is being taught, then the teacher is in fact, teaching to the test. Testing is the only way to measure what was taught.  There is nothing wrong with ‘teaching to the test’ if the test is a good one. The problem is how the tests are given.
    The way we test is as important as what we test and without tests we do not know if the student has learned what was taught. A full day of standardized tests is not a good way to test. The student becomes fatigued and will not do as well if the test is too long and if there are too many tests in one day.  In my opinion, many of the individual standardized tests are too long. Any test that take over twenty minutes to complete needs to be broken up into smaller tests. Any more than two tests a day are too many. My opinions are based on a short four year teaching career and as a former student. (I left teaching in the 80’s because one of my middle schools students brought a hand gun to school, and it was NOT for Show and Tell.)
    My favorite way to test and to teach was to have the students make the test. As the teacher, I had final approval of all tests questions. My students always made a harder test than one I would have made. I often had to simplify the questions or the multiple choice answers they came up with. As good as these test were, they could not be the standard for a Nation of Schools.
    We have to ask ourselves, ‘Do we want a standard of learning for the Nation or do we want a Nation of Dead Horses?’ If we want a standard of learning on a National level, then we need tests that measure learning on a National level.

    • 10yrTeacher

       That’s just it, though. These tests are not testing useful learning. It can actually harm students to answer with their own critical thinking because they aren’t answering according to the ‘formula’ the testing company has devised to measure knowledge.

    • Crystal deGreef

       ‘Do we want a standard of learning for the Nation or do we want a Nation of Dead Horses?’  You posit that these are the only two options? This is one of the worst arguments for standardized testing that I have ever read. 

  • Wait Anon

    I remember when there were two standardized tests, the SAT and the ACT, and you only took those if you were interested in going to a premium college, but you could still go to college without taking them. Today all we do is “teach the test” in high school and freshman and sophomore college students still cannot write and essay. This is insane.

  • Zero

    What’s wrong with restricting curricula and teaching practices down to a banal and coward educations system?  God forbid teachers are allowed to use their individual talent to teach what’s actually in Romeo and Juliet … the students might actually read more Shakespeare.  No, we need to regulate teachers (who supposedly care about other human beings) and deregulate banks because they really do care about people.

    So, yes, regulate teachers as much as possible and use standardize tests to indirectly evaluate them.  God I love republicanism.

  • daylily1111

    No Child Left Behind was a bad idea from the get-go (thank you so very much Mr. GW Bush who maintained a C average throughout college).
    It would do our children a great service to finally toss it on the trash heap and go back to teaching them how to think, how to analyze, how to imagine and dream and create.
    Can’t happen soon enough.

  • Alizabeth Szilagyi

    I echo Michael Dodge (commentor who said):  As a (secondary English) teacher, I believe that standardized testing does have its place and value in the classroom however when it must be the “be all to end all” assessment for student, teacher, and school, that’s where I must draw the line.

    Standardized tests which are administered when the year begins and then again at the years end are useful … if and only if they show a student’s reading level. It was very useful to me to know where my students began when they started the year with me (I mean where they were in August, not the previous April).  This helped my dictate my seating arrangements, my group assignments, and much more. Then, at the end of the year it was useful for me to know how much each student had grown (and grow they all did when I put forth effort to track them in this manner).  

    The kinds of standardized tests we throw at our student’s don’t do this efficiently. They take up too much teacher time and make it harder to track students in an useful manner. Instead of aiming to identify reading level, they just randomly test vocabulary and a student’s ability to memorize literary terms. 

    The assessments I referred to in paragraph 2, plus a few formal writing assignments, and what ever else a school deems necessary should all have equal consideration when determining how a student, teacher, and school are succeeding (or failing).   

    • Crystal deGreef

      I think that there is a better way to achieve student tracking than simply relying on the results of one test, one day. Portfolio style education tracks progress all year long. A test here and there is not a bad thing but NCLB is definitely demonizing all testing. 

  • Anonymous

    LCLB: The Trojan horse designed to undermine public education

  • Anita

    Please keep fighting against these tests.  I teach students with special needs.  For a week before the testing I had a student who came in and complained of stomach aches each day. We were working on review for the test.   A child in my room cried during the testing because she didn’t know the answers and another put his head down on his desk and refused to go on.  I wanted to do the same.  I can’t talk about the tests or I would lose my job, but there are far better ways to show that my students are progressing. 

  • Janijeff

    let’s put this in terms that Americans can understand.  Teaching to the test is like pitching to a radar gun.  You may be able to throw hard, but you may never get a major league batter out.  Learning is like really pitching.  Pitchers can use a variety of tools to get a batter out, velocity, movement, location; many of which a radar gun cannot measure.  So who is better, the pitcher who can throw 100 mph or the pitcher who can get a batter out… go look a the list of hall of  fame pitchers and think about it.

  • DhwjHawaii

    Dumb parents, dumb kids.  Testing is the only reliable way to determine whether the child is learning the material and whether the teachers are effective at teaching the material.

    Of course teachers and their unions don’t want their effectiveness or ineffectiveness evaluated.  Better to have tenure.

    • xxxx

      Of course you are not a teacher and reallyhave no clue!

  • guest

    I worked at Pearson but I’m not allowed to tell you what I did.

  • Pwipwi

    Repeat after me… Standardized testing is just another tool for evaluating student progress.

    I remind my students that they know more that they give themselves credit for. I wish that the public would see that teacher observations, student portfolios, grades, interest inventories AND SAT-10 scores (among others) give  a partial picture of how a student progresses during the year.

  • Eddie Allen

    Follow the money check these web sites out and see where the money for NCLB (No Child Left Behind) goes.
    1. http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/EPSL-0506-114-EPRU.pdf2. EPRU.pdfhttp://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/12-bush-profiteers-collect-billions-from-no-child-left-behind/NCLB should be renamed NCLU No Child Left Unstressed.

  • Crystal deGreef

    In reading the comments, one thing I saw repeated over and over again was the phrase “teaching to the test.” Some have argued that it means teaching the material on the test, some have stated that the material, demographics, and language on the tests do not accurately measure learning in students. I think we can lay to rest one issue that has been brought up again and again. Most arguments come down to semantics. I think if everyone agreed on what the phrase “teaching to the test” means, we can then use the phrase accurately in conversation. 
         As an 11th Grade English teacher, I “taught to the test”. Here are some obvious changes that occurred in my high school classroom: The novel list was cut in half because we needed more time to drill the students on “passages” for reading comprehension. We kept the novels for the rest of the semester but after the semester was over the principal informed us that we would not be reading full novels for the remainder of the year and that our students were to focus on passages, word associations, vocabulary, and five paragraph essays. The following week all of the novels were removed from my class. The principal made rounds to all the classes on the English block and we were given specific instructions. The testing standard that we were covering was to be displayed prominently (on the front board) for the students to review. If an administrator were to enter the room, they would ask a random (usually the most disinterested) student what the standard for the day was and how it applied to our lesson. (When I was in school, the lesson vs. standards issue was the teacher’s responsibility to understand; the rationale as to why you are learning something was a discussion that could be brought up in class if a student couldn’t make a personal connection) 
         I could go on and on and on and on but I think my point is made. When someone says that teachers are forced to “teach to a test” they are not always discussing material. They are most likely referencing the debilitating constraints that are placed on the creativity and freedom to explore new and exciting ways to reach as many children as possible and to spark within them the lifelong love for learning or why we chose teaching as a profession in the first place.     

  • Jklujan4

    Testing in this country is big business.  Not only do companies make money off the test they create, then disticts purchase practice materials produced by these companies.  There needs to be some kind of accountability, but it is way out of hand.  I had a third grade teacher tell me they don’t have time to teach a child how to read.  They are teaching the skills to interpret what the child is reading not how to read.  Third grade!  If a child is behind in third grade, there is no time to teach him the skills he needs.  There is something seriously wrong.

  • Terri Lee

    I opted out by sending my 3 children to private high school at a considerable cost to my husband and I.  I also saved our school system a lot of money.  Guess what my kids all scored well enough on the SAT’s and got into top colleges.  I did not want my children to be “trained” to take those tests add that to block scheduling it was a no brainer.  We are not rich folks and have done without a lot the past 8 years.

  • D_allen7399

    Other than opting our children out of the standardized test, what else can we do to stop this practice?

  • Carrie

    Parents and students don’t like it either.
    Over testing warps the curriculum. Test prep takes over from learning. It is dull, dull, dull.
    Corporations like Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify love over testing.
    Politicians who like big campaign contributions like over testing too.

  • Picky

    I agree my mom was a teacher too all I ever heard her come home and say was they keep telling me stick to the book stay on track teach to the test. she is like the kids aren’t learning anything what they do “learn” they forget because they can no longer use fun and creative teaching methods. my brother had a teacher that taught him to do everything wrong which really screwed him up therefore he is home schooled now. This whole government testing thing is just a way to show that our country is smart when really it is just a bunch of dumb kids using the one thing they have a short attention span to hold in a little bit of information put it on paper then lose it. seriously get rid of the tests. tests don’t teach anything and aren’t really a good measure of anything either I know lots of really smart people that can’t take a test to save their life. Me for one.

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  • Sophia Webb

    Only the top 10% of all students are tested on the SAT in Japan. Similarly, China only tests a certain top percentage of students. Statistics for certain other countries, such as Finland, were not immediately available to me. In the US, approximately 90% of all students are tested on the SAT. I can’t think of any universe in which this would not make our kids look less accomplished. Getting snarky about the possibility of them getting good jobs just makes you look foolish. And, yes, my older kids have good jobs. One is an artisan welder, and another runs a small, but world-wide, art collective and sells her work as far away as Sweden and Japan. Oh, wait, maybe you meant the factory jobs that our government arranged to have sent to South America and Mexico…

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  • ashante

    whats going on

  • TTT