"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Family and Student Testing Protection Act

I am neither attorney nor legislator, but here are some ideas that need to be included in any state bill that takes a moral stand against the most socially-corrosive education policy in history. Use what you want of it--no charge, no copyright.

Updated March 30, 2007

The Paul Wellstone Memorial Family and Students Testing Protection Act, in Honor of the Experience, Insight, and Courage that Enabled Him to See What His Peers in Congress Could Not—the Ultimately-Disastrous Consequences of High-Stakes Testing*

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing of children constitutes the year-round focus in public schools classrooms; and

WHEREAS, the over-reliance and continued emphasis on high-stakes tests has a corrosive effect on preparing children for citizenship in a representative democracy; and

WHEREAS, many high stakes standardized tests administered to children are neither reliable nor valid; and

WHEREAS, emphasis on testing math and reading has resulted in the de-emphasis and disappearance of other important subjects and learning activities; and

WHEREAS, high-stakes testing of young children is inappropriate and harmful to their emotional and intellectual health; and

WHEREAS, results on a single test have been used to justify retention policies that ignore scientific evidence regarding the harmful effects of such practices, and

WHEREAS, poor, non-English speaking, and special education students bear the brunt of disproportionate failure on standardized tests; and

WHEREAS, the preponderance of high stakes standardized tests has neither closed the achievement gap, nor has it altered the economic and social factors that are responsible for those gaps in achievement; and

WHEREAS, failure to meet unrealistic testing targets undermines public support for their schools, thus opening the door to privatization; and

WHEREAS, the institutional stress of high-stakes testing undermines the supportive and challenging school climate required for children to learn and grow; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that schools will develop and use multiple forms of assessment to make high-stakes decisions regarding students, teachers, and the curriculum; and be it further

RESOLVED, that all standardized tests administered to school children will be psychometrically valid and reliable; and be it further

RESOLVED, that standardized tests will not be used as the sole criterion to make student promotion or retention decisions or as determinants of the curriculum and/or the operations of the public schools; and be it further

RESOLVED, that student scores on standardized tests will be used to help to help teachers address student knowledge gaps; and be it further

RESOLVED, that all testing of children will strictly follow ethical guidelines of the education profession and the professional recommendations of licensed psychologists and pediatricians; and be it further

RESOLVED, that standardized tests will be used to measure individual student gains over time, rather than arbitrary target scores that ignore the disadvantages that accrue from poverty, disability, or language status; and be it further

RESOLVED, that no test results will be used to justify punitive sanctions against individuals or schools; and be it further

RESOLVED, policymakers, classroom teachers, school officials, and parent representatives will constitute the appropriate body of stakeholders to make and to modify testing policies for schools; and be it further

RESOLVED, that school systems will have funded public awareness programs to gather public feedback and to disseminate information on the purpose and limitations of assessment programs.

*Use of Paul Wellstone's name in association with this effort approved by the Wellstone Action Network.

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