Interesting CNN story on parents refusing to allow their children to take state exams in protest of the testing mania in schools. The pro-test side in the story is represented by Michael Lomax, a former Fulton County Commission chair who went on to become a college president and now United Negro College Fund president and CEO.
Lomax is a longtime educator. He once spoke to a GSU class that I was teaching and was very candid with the students about Georgia politics. I thought he was an unlikely politician, which may be why he didn’t make it a lifelong career.
I understand the growing concerns about testing, but have not personally seen test prep taken to the extreme. I am still not sure why some teachers are at ease with the CRCT and others are frantic. While many of you will suggest that the nervous teachers are those teaching in the toughest schools, I haven’t found that to be the case. I know teachers in schools with high numbers of poor kids who are not all panicked about the Georgia CRCT. And I know teachers in upscale suburban schools who are sick with worry about the April tests.
A Pennsylvania mother has decided she does not want her two children to take the two-week-long standardized tests given by her state as part of the federal No Child Left Behind law. And she hopes other parents will do the same.
Michele Gray’s sons — Ted Rosenblum, 11, and John Michael Rosenblum, 9 — did independent study the week of March 14 while their classmates were filling in hundreds of bubbles in classrooms with doors marked, “Quiet. Testing in Progress.”
Gray says the only legal exemption that would allow her kids to sit out the tests was a religious objection. So that’s what she did.
But Gray says her concerns go well beyond religion. “The more I look at standardized tests, the more I realize that we have, as parents, been kind of sold a bill of goods.”
She says the tests are not accurate measures of accomplishment, create undue anxiety for students and are used to punish schools.
Dr. Timothy Slekar, an associate professor of education at Penn State Altoona, agrees. It was his op-ed piece on the Huffington Post website that inspired Gray to take action.
Slekar is also a father and this year chose not to allow his 11-year-old son Luke to take the tests. He says schools are narrowing their curricula in an effort to boost test scores and wasting too much time preparing for, and then taking, the tests.
He says the tests aren’t an accurate indicator of a child’s — or a school’s — performance. “I’m a father and an educator who’s finally said, ‘This is it. I’m done.’ Something has to give. Something has to change,” Slekar said.
Testing proponents, such as United Negro College Fund President and CEO Michael Lomax, say parents who opt out “are doing their own children a disservice.” He added, “Testing is a parent’s ally” and that in order to compete with countries such as China and India, U.S. schools need to be held to a higher standard. And testing, he says, is the way to do it.
“The testing isn’t the reason the schools are failing. The instruction is the reason the schools are failing,” Lomax insisted.
President Barack Obama, at a March speech at a Virginia school, acknowledged testing reform is needed. But he says testing isn’t going away.
“There will be testing,” he said. “We can have accountability without rigidity — accountability that still encourages creativity inside the classroom, and empowers teachers and students and administrators.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog