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Teachers Need to Be Heard on Testing

Sarah Henchey

"[Teachers]accept the idea of accountability but believe it has been pushed too far and is being used in a counterproductive way that narrows education and unfairly burdens schools serving very poorly prepared students without requiring any changes in conditions that make some schools profoundly unequal."

Without context, one might believe the above quote was pulled from reports of the recent controversy at Garfield High School. But it's not.

In fact, the quote is almost ten years old. It was extracted from a 2004 report entitled, "Listening to Teachers: Classroom Realities and No Child Left Behind" released by The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.

I discovered this report when cleaning out files from my graduate school days (circa 2003-2005). My pre-teaching years were filled with such readings—warnings of "teaching to the test," discussions of the underlying inequities within schools, and calls to action for real, systemic change.

As an early career teacher during these inaugural days of the standardized testing movement, I was confident that the tide would shift and reform was just a matter of time. I had faith in the title of that report; surely policymakers would soon "listen to teachers" and change would begin.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case. While the acronyms and rhetoric may have changed, there has not been a shift where it matters most, at the classroom level.

And teachers have had a first row seat for this cyclical stalemate.

We are now at the point where teachers can no longer wait to be "listened to" and need to demand to be heard.

In their letter explaining the boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, the Garfield teachers collectively spoke out against administering assessments that do not support student growth and achievement. Their decision to advocate for students has provided an opportunity to depart from the status quo and begin an honest dialogue about measuring student growth.

To transform the current system and climate around testing and assessment, we must begin to have more conversations like those being led by teachers at Garfield High.

What do you believe about testing that needs to be heard?

Sarah Henchey is a teacher-in-residence at the Center for Teaching Quality, spending this year leading and supporting Common Core implementation. A National Board-certified teacher, she has taught middle school for seven years in North Carolina's Orange County school district.

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