Resolution on National Standards and Tests
Submitted to National Council of Teachers of English, Committee on Resolutions, via e-mail, on October 10, 2011, for consideration during the Annual Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
The movement for national standards and tests is based on these claims: (1) Our educational system is broken, as revealed by US students' scores on international tests; (2) We must improve education to improve the economy; (3) The way to improve education is to have national standards and national tests to reveal whether standards are being met.
Each of these claims is false. (1) Our schools are not broken. The problem is poverty. Test scores of students from middle-class homes who attend well-funded schools are among the best in world. Our mediocre scores are due to the fact that the US has the highest level of child poverty among all industrialized countries. (2) Existing evidence strongly suggests that improving the economy improves the status of families and children's educational outcomes. (3) There is no evidence that national standards and national tests have improved student learning in the past.
No educator is opposed to assessments that help students to improve their learning. We are, however, opposed to excessive and inappropriate assessments. The amount of testing proposed by the US Department of Education in connection to national standards is excessive, inappropriate and fruitless.
The standards that have been proposed and the kinds of testing they entail rob students of appropriate teaching, a broad-based education, and the time to learn well. Moreover, the cost of implementing standards and electronically delivered national tests will be enormous, bleeding money from legitimate and valuable school activities. Even if the standards and tests were of high quality, they would not serve educational excellence or the American economy.
Resolved that the National Council of Teachers of English
* oppose the adoption of national standards as a concept and specifically the standards written by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers
* alert its members to the counter-productiveness of devoting time, energy and funds to implementing student standards and the intensive testing that would be required.
Susan Ohanian, recipient of NCTE's George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language
Joanne Yatvin, NCTE Past President