The editors at Rethinking Schools put together a piece about the dangers of standardized testing and the need for reform of this system. They list many schools across the country in which teachers, unions, parents and students have all opted out of high-stakes testing.
Though I knew that these standardized tests favored white, middle and upper-middle class students, I didn't know about their origin. I think it's very interesting that despite having supposedly come so far from the beliefs mentioned above, we still use the same system to assess our students. I have much more to say on this topic, but I'll save it for December 2!
This article really interested me because I worked in an environment that was very much driven by test scores. Students took practice MCAS/PARCC tests twice per year per subject, all students took PSATs (even 7th graders) and our final exams were practice PARCC tests. Teachers would be given bonuses based on how well their students did on our mock exams and the real thing. AP teachers would be given a huge bonus for every student who got a 4 or 5 on the end of year exam.
The editorial also talked a lot about students and districts opting out of state tests. I see both sides to that debate - one the one hand, I don't agree that the PARCC is a fair assessment of student knowledge. During the spring of 2015, some of our students took PARCC and our older students took MCAS, as it was still part of their requirement to graduate. Our 9th grade students were told to take the PARCC, though it wasn't a requirement for them. A few of our very high achieving students opted out and our admins were (understandably) unhappy. In talking to a few of them, their responses were the same - "what's the point? I'm just going to fail. It doesn't even count for anything so why should I bother?" If the test was more meaningful, would they have had the same reaction?
I also understand where policymakers are coming from in that if 50% of students in the country don't take the test, how can the test be evaluated and improved for the next crop of students?
I recently watched the documentary Race to Nowhere on Netflix. It's all about the standardized testing system in this country. I highly recommend it! It also somewhat embodies the beginning portion of this editorial in Arne Duncan's comment about the opposition to the common core coming from "white suburban moms."