Friday, February 21, 2014

Testing Resistance & Reform Spring: Three Simple Goals

There's a new coalition in the ed world, one that you should be hearing more about. Here's the meat from their first press release:

Widespread resistance to the overuse and misuse of standardized testing is exploding across the nation. Testing Resistance & Reform Spring (TRRS) is an alliance of organizations that have come together to expand these efforts in order to win local, state and national policy changes: Less testing, more learning. 

To ensure that assessment contributes to all students having full access to an equitable, high-quality education, we unite around three goals:
            1) Stop high-stakes use of standardized tests;
            2)  Reduce the number of standardized exams, saving time and money for real learning; and
            3)  Replace multiple-choice tests with performance-based assessments and evidence of learning from students’ ongoing classwork (“multiple measures”).

 There's a lot to love about this. Let me look at those three goals:


There is no justification for this use of standardized tests. There never has been. The high stakes use of the test exists for only one purpose-- to force students and teachers to take the tests seriously. Making these tests high stakes is the last desperate action of a speaker who can't get the crowd to9 listen, so he finally threatens to shoot them if they won't shut up.


Is there seriously anybody who doesn't think this is a good idea? Other than, of course, the people who make money selling exam programs to schools. This year, because we have moved PA's Big Test from 11th to 10th grade at my school, I will get to teach my students an entire unit more than I have been able to include since we started testing. They will get at least two week's worth of additional education.

There are reformers claiming that we need to lengthen the school day or the school year. But we can just as easily put more hours back into education by wasting less time on costly, time-consuming tests.


Fans of the High Stakes Testing sometimes speak as if there would be no measuring of students at all if not for the big bubble tests. But of course classroom teachers are already doing constant, complex, nuanced assessment that is directly tied to what is being taught. Is it so crazy to suggest that we could just use it? 

TRRS has an action website and an impressive list of members, including Fair Test, United Opt Out, Parents Across America, Save Our Schools, and the Network for Public Education. It has a clear mission, and as more parents get to meet PARCC, SBA, and their bastard cousins, more communities are realizing that the mega-testing program cannot stand as is.

When people are up to no good, or simply don't know what they're talking about, you get twisted overblown jargonized gobbledygook. Compare the rhetoric of testing fans to the three simple goals laid out above. The time has come to make this happen. Proponents have said, "Well, don't tell us what you're against. What are you for?" There it is. Plain and simple. Come join the resistance.

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