Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has an article today describing the frustration and anger of parents and educators who are railing against public school systems that have become overrun by standardized tests.
“Florida embraced the school accountability movement early and enthusiastically, but that was hard to remember at a parent meeting in a high school auditorium here not long ago. Parents railed at a system that they said was overrun by new tests coming from all levels — district, state and federal. Some wept as they described teenagers who take Xanax to cope with test stress, children who refuse to go to school and teachers who retire rather than promote a culture that seems to value testing over learning. “My third grader loves school, but I can’t get her out of the car this year,” Dawn LaBorde, who has three children in Palm Beach County schools, told the gathering, through tears. Her son, a junior, is so shaken, she said, “I have had to take him to his doctor.” She added: “He can’t sleep, but he’s tired. He can’t eat, but he’s hungry.”
One father broke down as he said he planned to pull his second grader from school. “Teaching to a test is destroying our society,” he said.
Where once these frustrations were voiced in murmurs, this year not only parents but also educators across Florida are rebelling. They have joined a national protest in which states have repealed their graduation test requirements, postponed the consequences of testing for the Common Core — national standards in more than 40 states — and rolled back the number of required exams.
In August, Education Secretary Arne Duncan added to the chorus when he wrote in a blog post that “testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools,” and that teachers needed more time to adapt to new standards and tests.
Last month, state school chiefs and the heads of large city districts were the latest to express their concerns by committing to review the panoply of tests students must take.
In Florida, which tests students more frequently than most other states, many schools this year will dedicate on average 60 to 80 days out of the 180-day school year to standardized testing. In a few districts, tests were scheduled to be given every day to at least some students. The furor in Florida, which cuts across ideological, party and racial lines, is particularly striking for a state that helped pioneer accountability through former Gov. Jeb Bush. Mr. Bush, a possible presidential contender, was one of the first governors to introduce high-stakes testing and an A-to-F grading system for schools. He continues to advocate test-based accountability through his education foundation. Former President George W. Bush, his brother, introduced similar measures as governor of Texas and, as president, embraced No Child Left Behind, the law that required states to develop tests to measure progress.”
The accountability movement in this country has hit a big bump in the road and is bouncing around figuring what to do as educators, parents, and students rebel against policies that have made testing the holy grail of an education. The fault for this lies squarely with the education policies of George W. Bush (No Child Left Behind) and Barack Obama (Race to the Top) which forced governors and state education departments to impose accountability requirements such as testing on school districts. Arne Duncan in particular is being hypocritical when he states that “testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools…” It was his policies and heavy-handedness that supplied the suction pumps.