I finally received a letter from my Board of Education in response to my letter asking them to pass a resolution against high-stakes testing. It reads like this:
On Behalf of the Morris School Board, I want to thank you for your letter and sample resolution on high-stakes testing. We recognize that this is a hot issue for many and can be controversial. With the information getting to us on the day of our last bord meeting, members were not able to thoroughly read and digest your letter or resolution. We do have some initial thoughts to your information, however.
First, whether we are in full agreement with some of the state mandates that require us to implement testing at various grade levels, the fact is that over 62 percent of our funding is provided by the state. With threatened loss in aid for failure for the district to follow the state guidelines, we could be putting the district at risk to ignore these state mandates.
Secondly, we feel that a great deal of the testing is providing important and meaningful information to teachers that helps them better assess students’ specific strengths and weaknesses. For example, STAR assessments that all students in PK-12 participated in have helped teachers’ better pinpoint skills that individual students need assistance in. This has been found true also int he 3-8 grade testing and with the Regents that our students take each year.
Lastly, we also trust that our administrative team will do what is the best interest of the students of Morris. With the three team members having over 80 years combined experience in education, we have faith that they will keep us abreast to any negative practices that may arise in the school district and that they will ensure that the educational staff are using testing as a way to enhance education rather than detract form it.
Thank you once again for the information and we will take the sample resolution in consideration.
That pretty much sounds like a blow-off to me. I think they’ve already considered my information as much as they’re going to.
Here’s my letter to which they responded (I also attached a copy of the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing):
Most of you know me. My name is Danielle Boudet and my son O.K. goes to Pre-K here in Morris. I’m here to ask you to consider the negative impact of high-stakes testing on all members of our school. Currently this issue doesn’t affect me or my son, but I want to say that we are part of United Opt Out National—a growing movement to boycott high-stakes testing. My children will never participate in any state-mandated test or assessment during their years here at school other than the Regents exams. (Kathy Smith is already aware of our position.) For the record, I am not against testing and support our teachers in any means that they, of their own accord, choose to evaluate their students.
As a parent I have serious concerns about the growing amounts of time, money, and energy being spent on high-stakes standardized testing. It is widely accepted that standardized testing is an inadequate means of gauging both student learning and educator effectiveness. The over-reliance on high-stakes testing is hampering the quality, innovation, and creativity of our educators, and it is narrowing our curricula. I believe that the overuse of standardized testing fosters unnecessary stress in our students and strips their joy of learning, depth of thought, and breadth of knowledge. I do not want my children, nor any of our students, to be reduced to merely a number and I am extremely uncomfortable with the government’s heavy-handed interference with our local school system.
I love our small rural school and I’d like to keep control of our curricula in local hands. One of the focuses of a local Board of Education is to “Approve the Educational Program.” Historically you were deeply involved in evaluating the educational program within your purview and you made and adopted changes to that program. There is no scientific evidence backing the use of high-stakes testing, but there is growing evidence of its negative ramifications. I hereby respectfully ask that the Board of Education take the time to review the attached copy of the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing and adapt and sign one of your own.
High-stakes school testing is out of control in the United States. Parents and educators are fed up with the stress, the endless test prep and the costly fallout that includes narrowing curricula and paying for corporate-developed tests & preparation materials. According to the National Research Council, this huge expansion of testing has failed to improve learning. It’s time to end the madness.
Let’s send the message that we have had enough. By signing the resolution, you call on elected officials and education policy makers to eliminate state and federal mandates driving high-stakes testing expansion. It was put together by a coalition of national education-focused groups, based on a resolution passed by hundreds of Texas school boards. A similar resolution was recently passed in September by the Niagara Regional PTA.
I urge you and your fellow school board members to join this movement. The first step is to endorse the Resolution.
High-stakes testing is increasing across the country each year, so it’s especially important to act now!
• Many states are planning to test every child in every subject every year.
• The federal Race to the Top program and No Child Left Behind waivers require states to use student test scores to evaluate teachers.
• All these tests and their high-stakes uses are bound to lead to more teaching to the test. This will undermine, not improve, education and learning.
Unless changes are made, the number of tests our children are taking will rise, and the focus on test scores will grow.
Tests are one tool to inform teachers and parents about what students are learning and help them make needed improvements. But test preparation should not be the main focus of schools. Students, schools and teachers should be assessed on the actual work that students do throughout a year, not by scores on exams that cover only a limited portion of the rich education we all want for our children.
Our nation’s current regime of high-stakes testing does more harm than good. I urge you to help end it by endorsing the resolution. I am sending this letter in lieu of attending tonight’s board meeting as it is difficult for me to attend because of my 14-month-old. I also thought that you would appreciate the time to review some of the research and the resolution itself. In the future, if you have questions or would like to discuss this in more depth, I would be happy to plan to attend a future meeting.
Good and reliable sources of information can be found at:
Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this and I look forward to the Board’s correspondence.