Opposition to High-Stakes Testing Gains Local Momentum
By KT Tobin
From Issue 18: Spring 2013
Students are spending much more time preparing for and taking tests than ever before. A grass roots effort has emerged to expand public awareness about the negative educational and fiscal impacts of high-stakes testing. These citizens are alarmed about how new accountability systems, coupled with state and federal disinvestment and a tax “cap,” are creating unprecedented changes in how we educate and fund public education. ReThinking Testing: Mid-Hudson seeks to inform the public about how these tests hurt students, schools, and public education, take away resources from other educational programs communities value and, how the testing costs have negative fiscal impacts on school budgets and property taxes.
School boards have also been chiming in: the New Paltz Board of Education unanimously voted for a resolution in opposition to high-stakes testing, requesting that Albany and Washington reevaluate these mandates: Race to the Top and the Annual Professional Performance Review. Rondout and Kingston boards followed shortly thereafter, and Saugerties is currently considering one as well.
Gardiner resident David Dukler, who famously wore his “My Kid Is Not a Test Score” T-shirt as the school board president, contends, “High-stakes testing as it is now constituted is little more than a scam being perpetrated on students, teachers, and taxpayers. These tests have little to do with the kind of education our children need and we want for them.”
Given April’s heavy testing schedule, ReThinking strove to turn this “testing season” into a time for awareness and activism.
At SUNY New Paltz, there was a panel on April 11th on “Cheating Our Children: The Emotional and Educational Impact of High-Stakes Testing.” On April 25th, Alfie Kohn talked about “The Latest Version of Top-Down School Reform.” On April 16th, ReThinking went to Albany for a one-day “Opt Out” at the NYS Capitol, advocating for student-centered public education that meets the diverse needs of our children and communities.
On April 17th and 26th, ReThinking encouraged the wearing of the color green on two state testing days to send a message about moving away from standardized tests and towards student-centered education, authentic assessments, a balanced curriculum that does not short change the arts and sciences, fiscal responsibility, and support for board resolutions against high-stakes testing. It was an opportunity to take a stand in a positive way.