3 Entities That Rebelled Against Standardized Testing in the US

Standardized testing in K-12 education is a perennial hot button issue. Proponents feel that measuring knowledge in these rigid ways helps lift the entire educational system. But critics say the measurements do nothing but encourage “teach to the test” methods and narrow the scope of what instructors are able to teach if they want to have acceptable test results.

This article will look at three groups of people who have urged us to reconsider standardized testing in our country. Here they are:

  1. Maya Angelou and other authors. Along with 120 other children’s book authors, beloved poet and activist Maya Angelou (now deceased) called President Obama on the carpet for his “testing overuse and abuse.” The authors said that the pressure on children to learn narrow testing materials, and then perform well, robs them of a love for learning. Among the authors on the list are Ruth Spiro, Whitney Stewart and Alma Flor Ada.

The letter, addressed to President Obama himself, scolded the Administration’s role in heightening standardized test ramifications and therefore putting more pressure on students and teachers to perform. Some highlights of the letter include:

“Our public school students spend far too much time preparing for reading tests and too little time curling up with books that fire their imaginations.” 

“Students spend time on test practice instead of perusing books. Too many schools devote their library budgets to test-prep materials, depriving students of access to real literature. Without this access, children also lack exposure to our country’s rich cultural range.”

“We offer our full support for a national campaign to change the way we assess learning so that schools nurture creativity, exploration, and a love of literature from the first day of school through high school graduation.”

While many teachers, parents and education experts (like Diane Ravitch) have spoken out about their concerns with teaching-to-the-test, and most recently the Common Core Standards, this was the first time such a list of “who’s who” has come out against reading and testing culture. Angelou had always been a strong and vocal supporter of Obama.

  1. School districts in Florida. Some school districts passed motions against standardized testing and certain parent groups have tried to opt their children out of various exams.

As a result, last year, The Florida Department of Education announced plans to review the state’s standardized testing. The announcement came after a year of criticism of testing policies and opposition toward the new standards.

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart stated that in addition to the plans to review the testing, she was establishing a Keep Florida Learning Committee. The Committee would examine areas where the state could deregulate the school system, boost parental involvement, review instructional material and track the introduction of Florida Standards throughout the upcoming year.

“At the Department of Education, we are committed to ensuring our education system has appropriate policies and procedures in place to help Florida’s students excel,” Stewart said.

“I am proud to lead these efforts, which I am confident will help us better understand students’ needs so we can better prepare them for colleges and careers,” added Stewart.

Stewart said that there was no plan to stop the end-of-course exams or the Florida Standards Assessment, which was due to begin last spring.

  1. Education officials across the US. Due to growing complaints from the public, education officials offered to re-examine standardized testing in the U.S. last year. The general consensus is that students pre-kindergarten to 12th grade are taking too many exams.

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools said, “Testing is an important part of education, and of life. But it’s time that we step back and see if the tail is wagging the dog.” The Council of Great City Schools represents 67 urban school systems.

The Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents education commissioners in every state, also joined in on the effort.

Teachers have always administered tests; but exams became a federal mandate in 2002 under the No Child Left Behind Act. It requires states to test students annually in math and reading, starting in grades 3 through 8 and ending with high school.

In the past few years, four states delayed or repealed graduation testing requirements. Four other states, including Texas, where the idea of using these tests began, reduced the number of exams required or decreased their consequences.

In addition to federally required tests, states have added on more assessments, many that mandate exams such as an exit test to graduate high school.

On average, students in large urban school districts take 113 standardized tests between pre-K and 12th grade.

The number of standardized tests that U.S. students take is too high. While I feel that the idea to use tests to hold schools accountable is a good one, the frequency and redundancy of standardized testing has gone too far. It is essential to measure student achievement, but I hope that further analysis of standardized testing will lead to ways to relieve some of the burden that these tests bring to our students.

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