Sunday, August 07, 2011

Do away with "test-and-punish" for real opportunity to learn

Date: Friday, August 5, 2011, 1:00 PM

My blog posted today on the Opportunity to Learn Campaign’s website,
( .
Friday, August 5, 2011
Do away with "test-and-punish" for real opportunity to learn

By Monty Neill, Ed.D.
Executive Director, FairTest _www.fairtest.org_ (

With the teaching profession and public schools under attack as never
before, teachers, parents and others rallied in Washington, D.C., at the end
of July to “Save Our Schools.” The two most prominent themes at the SOS
event were:

1. The nation’s failure to address poverty or to provide every child with
a strong opportunity to thrive and learn, and
2. The overuse and misuse of standardized tests imposed by No Child Left
Behind and made worse by the actions of many states and districts.

Teachers, students, parents and many others recognize that testing mania
has gone way too far. It undermines the limited educational opportunity
low-income youth do have.

Under NCLB, the rate of improvement on National Assessment of Educational
Progress reading and math scores has slowed or stagnated compared with the
prior decade. This is true in both reading and math. It affects low-income
and minority group students, English language learners and students with
disabilities. (See here for a detailed report on this:
( .)

Meanwhile, the graduation rate barely reaches 50 percent in many cities.
Harsh disciplinary policies combine with the boring drudgery of
schooling-reduced-to-test-prep to drive many youth out of school. Far too many end up
in the criminal justice systems. (For the links between testing, discipline
and the school-to-prison pipeline, see
( ).

Lack of funding and unwise testing policies combine to narrow the
curriculum. Children lose access to subjects that engage them, missing out on
knowledge and skills they will need as adults. Reducing instruction to test prep
in reading and math, as is happening in many schools, compounds the
problem. Children of color and low-income youth lose the most, in part because
their families can’t afford to make up for what they don’t get in school
( ).

The U.S. must shift the “education reform” paradigm from test-and-punish
to helping schools improve. The Forum on Educational Accountability, which
I chair, has proposed ways to do that (see _http://www.edaccountability.org_
( ). The recommendations include:

* reduce the amounts and consequences of testing, while supporting
high-quality assessment;
* ensure strong professional growth for teachers;
* fully fund the federal Title I and IDEA Part B programs (respectively,
funds for low income youth and students with disabilities); and
* provide high-quality early childhood education.

Other alliances and groups recommend similar changes. FairTest, for
example, explains how to overhaul assessment and evaluation (see
( ).

Unfortunately, the test-and-punish ideology of leading elements in both
political parties, backed by some large foundations and major corporations,
will be tough to dislodge – but dislodge it we must. That was the purpose of
the SOS rally. One event in D.C. is only a step on our way, not the end.
Winning the change requires educating, organizing and mobilizing the vast
numbers of people who know we cannot defund or test our way to educational
improvement. That work is our main task.
Monty Neill, Ed.D.; Executive Director, FairTest; P.O. Box 300204, Jamaica
Plain, MA 02130; 617-477-9792; _http://www.fairtest.org_
( ; Donate to FairTest:
_ (

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