August 17, 2015

Over 175 Groups Call for Congress to End to High-Stakes Testing

This week over 175 civil rights and education groups signed on to a letter asking legislators to abandon the failed policies of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act's most recent iteration, No Child Left Behind. Written by Jitu Brown, the National Director of the Journey for Justice Alliance, the letter joins the debate surrounding ESEA, and specifically, the debate over the role of high-stakes testing and accountability in school reform. Brown and the letter's signers resolutely decry the idea that high-stakes testing is the only way to ensure accountability in schools, and they argue that this extreme focus on testing actually harms low-income students and students of color.

As Brown says:

We respectfully disagree that the proliferation of high stakes assessments and top-down interventions are needed in order to improve our schools. We live in the communities where these schools exist. What, from our vantage point, happens because of these tests is not improvement. It’s destruction.

Black and Latino families want world class public schools for our children, just as white and affluent families do. We want quality and stability. We want a varied and rich curriculum in our schools. We don’t want them closed or privatized. We want to spend our days learning, creating and debating, not preparing for test after test.

In the Chicago Public Schools, for example, children in kindergarten through 8th grade are administered anywhere between 8 and 25 standardized tests per year. By the time they graduate from 8th grade, they have taken an average of 180 standardized tests! We are not opposed to state mandated testing as a component of a well-rounded system of evaluating student needs. But enough is enough.

We want balanced assessments, such as oral exams, portfolios, daily check-ins and teacher created assessment tools—all of which are used at the University of Chicago Lab School, where President Barack Obama and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have sent their children to be educated. For us, civil rights are about access to schools all our children deserve. Are our children less worthy?

You can read the rest of the letter here.

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