Who's really benefiting from school testing madness?
Have you had enough of the testing tyranny? Join the club. To be clear: I'm not against all standardized academic tests. My kids excel on tests. The problem is that there are too damned many of these top-down assessments, measuring who knows what, using our children as guinea pigs and cash cows.
College-bound students in Orange County, Fla., for example, now take a total of 234 standardized diagnostic, benchmark and achievement tests from kindergarten through 12th grade. Reading instructor Brian Trutschel calculated that a typical 10th-grade English class will be disrupted 65 out of 180 school days this year alone for mandatory tests required by the state and district. "It's a huge detriment to instruction," he told the Orlando Sentinel last month. The library at one Florida middle school is closed for a full three months out of the 10-month school year for computerized assessments.
"It's horrible, because all we do is test," Nancy Pace, the school's testing coordinator, told the newspaper. "There's something every month." My Colorado 8th-grader has been tied up all week on her TCAPs (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program), which used to be called CSAPs (Colorado Student Assessment Program), which will soon be replaced by something else.
Now, pile on the latest avalanche of federal pilot testing schemes tied to the Common Core racket. When they're not preoccupied with getting ready for Iowa basic skills tests, NAEPs, ACTs, PSATs, revamped SATs, CLEPs, FCATs, TCAPs and scores of other state exams, American kids will be busy testing new tests. Because the Common Core testing scheme mandates computerized administration and because the tests incorporate bandwidth-hogging videos and graphics, school districts across the country must spend gobs of time and money on test preparation.
The San Francisco Unified School District shelled out more than $800,000 this year for new computers, keyboards and headsets for testing, and will buy 5,300 Apple computers next year to start standardizing the district on a single operating system, according to the EdSource.org website. Rural students will be yanked out of the classroom and herded on buses over the course of several days to get to tech-connected districts, where they will spend several hours each day (on top of hours of travel) taking experimental Common Core-aligned field tests that won't count until next year.
The federally funded testing consortium called PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), which raked in $186 million through Race to the Top to develop nationalized tests tied to the top-down Common Core program, will dragoon more than one million students into field testing this spring.
The other federally funded testing consortium, the $180-million tax-subsidized Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, was supposed to start field tests this week for three million students in 23 states. But last-minute "glitches" have delayed the untested tests by at least a week, disrupting district instructional plans and calendars in 20,000 schools — and in some cases, interfering with other test schedules for high-stakes Advanced Placement and SAT exams that do count.
Parents, teachers and administrators are fed up with Fed Ed. There's a growing grassroots movement — left, right and center — to opt out of this latest battery of assessments. Last week, the Worcester, Mass., school board voted to allow parents to opt out of PARCC field tests and keep their kids in regular classroom instruction. The Norfolk, Mass., school board did the same in January. Colorado State Board of Education Chairman Paul Lundeen has called on the state legislature to repeal the PARCC testing requirement.
The testing tyrants, of course, are doing everything they can to stop parents from protecting their children: deceive, bully, intimidate and obfuscate. The state of Connecticut recently sent out a misleading letter to parents warning them that "all children enrolled in public schools" are legally required to "take yearly assessments." But as parent Wendy Lecker points out, the bureaucrats failed to disclose that the mandate applies to "statewide mastery tests," not to experimental field tests such as the PARCC and SBAC pilots, which "fail to satisfy the basic elements the law clearly sets forth of the required statewide test."
Dr. Sandra Stotsky, former senior associate commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education and Massachusetts State Board of Education member, spells out the grounds for revolt: "(L)ocal school districts can legally refuse to give state tests because they don't address the legally adopted standards and curriculum at the local level. ... (U)nless state law explicitly forbids parents from opting their kids out of SBAC or PARCC field tests, then parents can do so, and should. They can petition their school boards to pass a policy allowing all parents to opt their kids out of all field tests for any Common Core-aligned test. And they can add that there are to be NO penalties for parents exercising that right. State (Departments of Education) cannot make policy, by law. They are threatening local districts and parents illegally."
Bottom line: No child in America is legally required to be a part of the latest Common Core lab-rat testing experiments. You are your kids' primary educational provider and decider. You have the power to flunk the latest Fed Ed testing boondoggles. Use it.
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