Friday, February 8, 2013

Popular backlash against high stakes testing grows stronger, but the Senate doesn't appear to notice (with video)

See the video below of the rally on Wednesday of the Seattle Garfield high school teacher boycott of the MAP test, with teachers, parents and the local NAACP speaking up about the waste of time and money and invalid teacher evaluation metrics that result.  They also read statements of support from other groups around the nation. (Many of them are posted here)  Here are just a sample of stories  from the past week, thanks to Monty Neill of FairTest.

Has Testing Reached a Tipping Point?
USA Today on Growing National Resistance
Seattle Teachers Lead Day of Action Against Standardized Tests
New Wave of Teacher Unionism Focuses on Standardized Testing 

Providence [RI] Students' Strong Op Ed Opposing High-Stakes Testing
Portland Students Push Standardized Test Boycott
Chicago Parents' Petition Seeks Limits on Testing
New York Principals Continue Campaign Against High-Stakes Testing Misuse
Key Texas Legislator Proposes Standardized Exam Requirement Rollback
State, Local Officials Call for "No Child Left Behind" Overhaul
Opposition to Standardized Testing & Common Core Assessments Grows Across Political Spectrum
If Testing Makes for Better Education, Why Are Obama Girls in a School thatDisagrees?
E-mails Link Bush Foundation with Corporations and State Officials in Pushing Test-Driven "Reform"
Testing Insanity Kills the Joy of Teaching and Learning

Yet on Thursday, the very next day, the Senate held hearings on the US Dept of Education's NCLB "waivers"; with all five witnesses, including Arne Duncan, uncritically supporting the corporate reform agenda of test-based accountability; with no mention of the grassroots backlash that is growing in strength each day.  Though Duncan claims the NCLB waivers are more "flexible" in many ways they are even worse than NCLB by requiring teacher evaluation be linked to test scores.  (See video of the hearings and links to the testimonies.)

The only skeptics were Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Sen. Pat Roberts (KS), who  mostly focused on how the "Race to the Top" competitive grant program granted funds only to 11 states and DC, and discriminated against small and rural states like theirs without vast bureaucracies able to complete the grant proposals. Roberts also mentioned the briefly the importance of local control rather than top-down heavy hand of the feds. Sen. Rand Paul (KT) pointed out there is a growing coalition of the left and the right against federal mandates, but then went into a paean for vouchers.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN) argued against the notion that the federal government should be so prescriptive, when NY State Education  Commissioner King urged the federal government to absolutely require that teacher evaluation be linked to student /achievement  (which they have done already through the waivers) .  "Adults must be held accountable for student learning and outcomes." [You see he as well as other corporate reformers use these words interchangeably and reduce student performance/achievement/learning/outcomes with test scores.]

"Why do you need me to come from Tennessee to tell you what to do? Can't you do it on your own?"  gently scoffed Sen. Alexander, who needled him by mentioning Bloomberg's disdain for the teacher evaluation systems that New York state had agreed to.  But not one of the Senators present actually confronted how test scores are an unreliable, unfair and invalid way to measure teacher quality, and how all over the country, parents and teachers are rejecting the  increasingly oppressive effect of testing on our schools.

The women on the committee were nowhere to be found; neither Patti Murray (WA), now the two new appointees:  Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Tammy Baldwin (WI).  Particularly disappointing was the performance of Sen. Al Franken (MI), who praised computer-adaptive tests, like the MAP tests that the Garfield teachers are boycotting.

In response,  Duncan said "There are schools in NYC where every single day teachers get real life feedback on how much their students learned; the goal of teachers is not to teach but to have students learn. In NYC, every single day, using technology, teachers understand what their children learned." 

Does anyone know what he is talking about?  The School of One program, that has had disappointing results and was dropped by two out of the three schools that tried it?  Once again, the Congress shows how they are trapped in a bubble, isolated from reality, their constituents and the rising popular revulsion against these damaging policies.

If they had been more in tune with what is happening in their communities, they would have invited the Montgomery Co. Superintendent Starr, who has called for a three year moratorium on high stakes testing, the Portland Oregon students who are boycotting their state tests, or the Seattle Garfield teachers and parents, speaking out below.

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