Testing is running amok for students these days. Besides the college-entrance ACT and SAT exams, there are Common Core assessments, state education and school assessments, district evaluations and teacher-effectiveness ratings.
The overload already prompted a reaction. According to U.S. News, “support is waning for the academic benchmarks [tests] as some of the groups that once most strongly backed the standards are turning away.”
“PDK International and Gallup found a marked shift in awareness of Common Core. One year ago, two-thirds of those surveyed said they hadn’t heard of the standards. Now, more than three-quarters have heard about Common Core, and it appears that many don’t like what they’ve heard.”
The report said “organized opposition” now “crosses all political lines.”
In Colorado there also are the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and now the Colorado Measure of Academic Success tests for all seniors.
It’s too much for some students, who have posted online a letter to the community regarding their tolerance level – which has been reduced to zero – for such testing.
The letter cites the cost for students in valuable learning time, the “testing fatigue,” the fact tests do not represent the material taught, that they fail to accurately reflect the education process and that they benefit no one except the “for-profit” companies that run and score the tests.
In a video, the students explain that they will be missing the pending CMAS standardized tests, which are called for by the No Child Left Behind federal law and are scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
“The CMAS is an unnecessary stressor,” says one student, “that distracts from our learning.”
And it was established as law by the state legislature with no input from students.
So they’ll just take a pass on the work, thank you very much.
According to a report by Chalkbeat Colorado, an education news site, “nearly 200 high school students at a Boulder high school are expected to opt-out of the new standardized tests they’re supposed to take Thursday and Friday.”
“We want to change the community for the better, and change the way our education system works,” Rachel Perley, a Boulder Fairview senior told Chalkbeat.
The report noted while such tests likely will have little impact or influence on the students, state law requires schools to have at least 95 percent of their qualified students take the tests or be penalized.
So some educators already are pleading for help.
Chalkbeat reported Principal Michael Weaver of Douglas County’s Mountain Vista High sent out letters asking parents to “do whatever they can” to have their children take the test.
In the past, Colorado schools typically have about 1 percent opt-outs to such testing.
This year, it’s already at 30 percent of Fairview’s senior class, the report said.
See the students’ video:
The students’ letter, which includes pages of participating students, pointedly questions why a for-profit company is profiting from the state’s education system.
“Pearson is a for-profit corporation that makes its profit from standardized testing in states such as Colorado,” even though the company has come up deficient in several performance areas itself, the letter explains.
It offers as an example the fact that Pearson “was forced to pay $9.5 million to the state of Wyoming for ‘complete default of the contract’ after the roll-out of computerized testing failed.”
And it experienced serious scoring problems in New York City, the students said.
Further, Pearson “actively encourages schools to ‘better prepare’ for standardized testing by buying Pearson-produced textbooks.”
“It seems that Pearson uses standardized testing not to benefit our education, but to increase their profits,” the students said in their letter. “We do not want our education to be used as a tool to line corporate pockets. Only Pearson stands to gain from these tests, but we lose valuable school hours and Colorado taxpayers’ money goes to waste.”
The students also point out that state spending on schools has declined in recent years, and they contend the standardized testing simply doesn’t work.
“CMAS … does not provide a sound method to evaluate schools or teachers. For example, the CMAS social students exam tests students in geography, government, economics and history. Since these subjects are based primarily on recalling facts, this is not a measure of the teachers ability to teach, but the students ability to remember; thus, it is unfair to fund schools based on these measures.”
The students, who are now working with the college application process, too, also don’t want their time wasted.
“At this point, we, who value our education and postsecondary readiness, feel that our time has been disrespected by policymakers who treat standardized tests, in which students had no input, as a fix-all solution to our education system,” the letter said.
Blogger Diane Ravitch said the students are right.
“Students are the true victims of our nation’s obsession with high-stakes testing and standardized testing. It is they who are losing a real education while their schools are compelled to administer test after test, taking away a month or more of instruction, dropping the arts and other subjects that encourage creativity. When teachers and administrators protest, they can be fired. The students cannot be fired,” she wrote.
“They are powerful because they are free to voice their opinions without fear of retribution. If this time of national test mania should ever subside, it will be because students like these in Colorado stood together and demanded real education, real instruction, instruction meant to recognize their talents and to inspire them to ask questions, not to check the right boxes.”
According to the Boulder Camera, students at Boulder’s Fairview High, Lafayette’s Centaura High and Broomfield High appear to be involved already, “while students at other high schools across the state also are talking about protesting.”
Boulder Supt. Bruce Messinger said he expects hundreds of students to miss the test.
The students already have a clear vision of where they want education to go.
“Rather than standardized tests, let’s have smaller class sizes. Let’s fund art and music classes. Let’s have a conversation about education policy that includes the people who are most affected,” the letter says.