A new coalition of national groups hopes to bring together a growing number of grassroots boycotts, protests, and petitions aimed at reducing and revamping student testing in an effort to ignite more legislative reforms.
The chief goals of the Testing Resistance & Reform Spring, which launched its initiative online this week, are to:
- Stop high-stakes use of standardized tests;
- Reduce the number of standardized exams; and
- Replace multiple-choice tests with performance-based assessments.
According to a news release, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, Parents Across America, United Opt Out, Network for Public Education, and Save Our Schools are among the alliance's founders.
The coalition hopes to rally and inform what it defines as an upsurge of campaigns criticizing what are, in its view, excessive and ineffective uses of standardized testing. Often led by parents, educators, and/or students, these efforts tend to be "highly localized," and lack statewide connections that could be fruitful in helping them achieve their goals, Bob Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, said in an interview today.
The Testing Resistance & Reform Spring will use its new website as a rallying point to promote its theme: "Enough is Enough: Less Testing, More Learning." The website features a mapping tool which will allow users to post and locate anti-testing actions across the country. The website also provides a variety of resources for testing critics, including a guide on testing opt-out laws in the U.S.
The alliance hopes to unite these local efforts by state to fuel legislative changes to student testing, which would also bolster a national campaign to reexamine federal policy regarding the use of standardized tests, Schaeffer said. He said politicians respond to pressure from their constituents, noting recent testing policy changes in Texas.
The alliance purposely does not mention the Common Core State Standards or the common-core tests because the focus of the effort is all standardized testing, Schaeffer said. He added that alliance members have varying positions on common core—the National Center for Fair and Open Testing for example has taken an "agnostic" view on the common-core standards.
Still, Schaeffer said the alliance plans to capitalize on the increased public and media attention around the mounting dissatisfaction and criticism about the common-core standards and testing to further its cause.
It may prove difficult, however, for the alliance to extract the wide-ranging debate about common core from the battle over excessive student testing.
In my Southern California school district, many parents continue to confuse the common core with the district's curriculum. While there have been complaints about the new testing system, parents in this high-achieving district seem more concerned about California's decision not to release state test scores this year. That's because the district uses those scores as one of the measures to help determine which students are admitted into some gifted classes.
Schaeffer said that example clearly articulates why using multiple measures is a far better method of assessing student performance. Let's see if parents here agree when that new method, without the use of state test scores, is used for student placements in the spring.