How testing practices have to change in U.S. public schools
Florida teachers protest in Tallahassee against state’s education policies. (Photo by Mike Archer, Used with permission)
There has been some testing reform progress made in the last year or so as state and federal officials finally began to acknowledge a grassroots movement by parents, educators, students and activists, who have protested the excessive and harmful use of high-stakes standardized tests. As part of that movement, hundreds of thousands of students “opted out” of mandated high-stakes standardized tests, with more than 20 percent of students in New York State doing so in each of the last two years.
“Accountability” systems used to evaluate students, teachers and even schools have been based on student standardized test scores, which were wrongly seen as the most important measure of how much a student learned, how well a teacher taught, and how effective schools were in closing the achievement gap.
Now it’s a new year and a new opportunity for states to construct new assessment policies and tests that are fair and effective. How to do it? This post offers one path, by Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as FairTest, a non-profit dedicated to ending the abuse and misuse of standardized tests.
By Monty Neill
Last year was a good one for testing reformers. More states dropped graduation exams. Many districts cut back testing time. The grassroots assessment reform movement grew stronger and more diverse. This new year can be even better if assessment reformers take advantage of opportunities under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
ESSA ends most punitive federal accountability mandates. Of course, we cannot predict what President-elect Donald Trump and his education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, will try to do on testing and accountability. We do know that it will take concerted grassroots organizing to halt harmful state and local policies, creating space to improve education and implement new assessment systems.
The key testing reform demands remain:
End high-stakes test uses for students, teachers, and schools;
Reduce testing to the federally mandated minimum; and
Implement educator-controlled, local performance assessments.