Tulsa-area schools join protest against high-stakes testing
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
6/13/12 at 7:27 AM
Read the resolution.
More Oklahoma educators and parents are joining a growing movement against high-stakes testing, with school districts throughout the United States protesting that the exams are unfair, unreliable and punitive.
In the Tulsa area, Union Public Schools aligned itself Monday with Jenks and Sand Springs schools by adopting a resolution that calls on state and federal officials to institute a different system of assessments and accountability.
The term "high-stakes testing" refers to when the results of an exam are used as the basis for promotion or graduation.
In Oklahoma, high school seniors must pass at least four of seven exams to get a high school diploma. Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, third-graders will have to pass a reading exam to move on to the fourth grade.
The national push-back was sparked by growing frustration with what educators and parents see as a proliferation of high-stakes testing and the overuse of standardized tests. The movement is backed by some powerful national organizations.
The resolution was developed by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, along with 12 other groups and education experts such as the National Education Association, Parents Across America and the Forum for Education and Democracy.
"We are not against testing, but it is not the end-all," Union Superintendent Cathy Burden said. Testing should be just one element of many to create a picture of the whole child and that child's progress made during a school year.
"Teachers have an opportunity in the classroom to get a more robust picture of a child's ability to learn," Burden continued. "For instance, you can't evaluate a child's problem-solving ability or creativity or ability to interact by a multiple-choice test. That is the expertise of a teacher."
She suggests using narratives, portfolios of a student's work, teacher assessments and other more creative, yet rigorous, elements, as well as testing, to measure a student's proficiency.
Parents would rather see educational dollars go to increasing instructional time, rather than to testing, said Melissa Abdo, parent coordinator of the Tulsa Area Parent Legislative Action Committee.
"We are not opposed to tests but rather to the increasing 'high stakes' component to the tests," she said.
Burden agrees, adding that she doesn't believe that any parent wants their child only to pass a reading or math test.
"We want our kids to be good thinkers. We want them to be creative in their ideas. We want them to think," she said. "That is not measured in a test, nor is accountability encouraging schools to help students develop in those areas."
Oklahoma State Superintendent Janet Barresi and other high-stakes testing advocates say it raises educational standards and gives a high school diploma more value.
She has said the testing mandate is critical to ensuring that Oklahoma students are prepared for the work force. Other supporters say high-stakes testing clarifies student expectations and holds educators accountable to taxpayers.
But Jenni White, a former teacher and co-founder of Restore Oklahoma Public Education, an Oklahoma City-based advocacy group, said the tests further remove the influence of the classroom teacher to direct their students' learning as they see fit.
"Today, high-stakes testing translates into high-value vendor contracts with large companies who hold monopolies in Common Core State Standards testing frameworks," she said.
Burden said that in reality, high-stakes testing minimizes accountability by narrowing expectations to a single test score.
"We're not able to focus on anything else because, in the name of accountability, we are going for a test score. Everything else gets second shrift," she said.
Original Print Headline: Protests of school test system gain momentum Schools join protest of high-stakes testing
Kim Archer 918-581-8315
In this April 21, 1999 photograph, Lisa Vazquez takes a written test. Tulsa World file