It is a big week in the world of education as Congress debates the proposed changes to NCLB act. No matter which side your political persuasion leans, there is a key amendment to the ESEA by sponsored by Chris Gibson (NY) that should be of concern for parents and taxpayers. The amendment is designed to change the required annual state standardized tests to a staggered time-frame known as grade spanning. The amendment is as follows:
Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act – Amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to eliminate the requirement that students be tested against state academic content and achievement standards in mathematics and reading or language arts in each of grades three through eight.
Requires, instead, that those tests be administered at least once during: (1) grades 3 through 5, (2) grades 6 through 9, and (3) grades 10 through 12.
What is wrong with it?
One of the biggest tools of the parent led Stop Common Core groups has been the right to opt-out or refuse state standardized tests for 3rd.-8th. grade students. This right has helped put the movement on the political map as parents and students joined together to fight against common core. The Gibson amendment alters the power of that right by limiting its usage thereby reducing the parental ability to affect change in a very direct and meaningful way.
To explain, under a grade span testing system, only parents in select grades will be able to avoid the state standardized test. This fact will limit the amount of parents and the pressure they can exert on a school district or a state in any given year. In essence, what was once a right afforded to all parents in 5 grade levels carrying maximum leverage will now be available to a few parents from one grade level and in many instances per school.
Simply put, there is weakness in small numbers and grade span testing ensures small oppositional numbers to fight bad policies or educational concerns. To make matters worse, parental rights to direct education itself is further reduced with what is planned as a replacement to the state standardized test.
Introducing, the annual non-standardized local test.
The general push in articles favoring grade span testing is always accompanied by an admission that we can’t dump the yearly tests. The common solution by the progressive crowd is an annual “Performance Based” or “Authentic Assessment” testing method from the mid 80’s-90’s. The overall definition of these deceptively descriptive terms is largely subjective. If the descriptions from the lead group pushing for grade span testing (Fairtest) are accurate, these new tests will be created by your local district vs the state. Such a move will probably re-create the same problems discussed in this pre-common core document “Performance Assessment in an Era of Standards-Based Educational Accountability”.
That document details complaints of bad curriculum, educational changes due to political shifts, bonuses in the millions (Pearson tests are cheap compared to this), high overall costs, unequal education, unreliable grading, claims of “tests worth teaching to” and scandals from 7 different statewide approaches. It is well worth your time to read the report and consider the possibility that these problems will manifest themselves in hundreds of districts in NY and hundreds of thousands of schools across the country.
Limiting parental rights in education.
If you thought Common Core had problems, the Fairtest approach localizes the testing and the problems inherent in “Performance based or Authentic Testing”… which makes solutions more complex than ever. Especially since the legal loophole for opting out only applies to state standardized tests. Regardless, should the amendment pass, parents will no longer be able to wield the opt-out ax as a right against excessive testing or any other issue in significant numbers that would make a difference in changing an already flawed system.
Preserve the opt out right today
Regardless of where you stand politically, the Gibson amendment or some other amendment should make clear that no matter what the establishment decides with regards to what constitutes an assessment, the rights of parents to reject assessments needs to be preserved in writing. Call your representatives today and demand specific language to enact this right into law.