Learning has arguably slowed across the United States as teachers and students have taken up number 3 pencils to take standardized tests. Standardized test scores have the power to make or break a child. Most parents and almost every teacher knows the process of standardized testing in our schools is emotionally damaging for their children, but what many may not realize is that it is also educationally unsound. While there are some good reasons for using standardized testing, many more factors make it an inadequate tool with which to formulate the educational policies of our nation. Most educators know this. Among teachers, the following items are common knowledge:
- It is a common misconception that what is taught in a classroom and what is tested are the same thing. Unfortunately, what students are tested on doesn't always match up with the instructional content and objectives of the classroom.
- Most standardized tests are multiple-choice. Multiple-choice tests most often test knowledge at the recall level. Recall is a function of memory. Even at their very best, multiple-choice formats limit the demonstration of problem solving and critical and creative thinking.
- High-stakes standardized testing has negative emotional effects on students and teachers. After doing poorly on a test, low-achieving students often become disillusioned and less motivated, which leads to a decreased desire to learn and starts a downward spiral that is very hard to halt.
- Being "test savvy" and being well educated are not the same thing. If someone is test savvy, he understands the strategies that help him do well on the test. These include little tricks such as skipping the questions on timed tests that will take up a lot of time and answering all the questions you know right away because you can always go back to the more difficult ones and they are worth the same amount of points. It is easy for teachers to raise test scores by teaching these strategies. However, if teaching test savviness achieves the needed gains in test scores, what are the tests really measuring?
The citizens of the United States have had enough. This week, Rethink Learning Now, in conjunction with Time Out From Testing and other organizations including Strong Planet and countless individuals from across the country are launching a postcard campaign to First Lady Michelle Obama asking that she encourage the President to put an end to the use of High Stakes Testing. When Mrs. Obama was on the campaign trail she had the following to say about the Bush Administration's No Child Left Behind Program:
"No Child Left Behind is strangling the life out of most schools ... If my future were determined by my performance on a standardized test, I wouldn't be here. I guarantee that."
Thousands of us agree with her criticism. We need her help to end the reliance on high stakes standardized tests.
Here is what YOU can do:
On May 29th send a postcard to Michelle Obama with this message:
Dear Michelle Obama:
We want the same education for our children that you provide for Malia and Sasha. Our child is not a test score. Encourage the President to end the use of high stakes standardized tests!
Name: Address: Signature
Mail to: First Lady Michelle Obama White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest Washington, DC 20500
A flood of postcards at the White House is the effect that is needed for Mrs. Obama and her staff to take notice. This means that an actual physical postcard must be sent. If you want to help in this mass effort, we have designed some other ways to make sure we reach our goal of between 50,000-100,000 cards on May 29th.
Here are some suggestions how you can become involved:
- Leave your name and address in the comment box on this article and our staff will mail a card out for you.
- Set up tables in your schools when parents drop off and pick up their students and get them to sign a post card and leave you a quarter so you can mail it.
- Ask teachers to have their classes of students fill out the cards and bring in a quarter and mail them as a class.
- Have the students set up tables in front of a store and gather quarters, address and names and then write the postcards out later and use the money to mail them.
- Take postcards to the office, sports events, etc. Anyone can sign the cards and write an address...parents, children, colleagues, relatives, friends, college students.
The important thing is that you keep a record of how many got sent due to your outreach. You can email the number of cards you sent out to jenifer to be included in the official count. Now you can do something to help end the culture of testing.
Partner organizations include: The Advancement Project, All Kinds of Minds, Alliance for Childhood, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Antioch Center for School Renewal, Aspira, Center for Civic Education, Center for Collaborative Education, Center for Inspired Teaching, Coalition of Essential Schools, Education Law Center, EdVisions, FairTest, The Five Freedoms Project, The Forum for Education and Democracy,Foxfire, Justice MAtters, Knowledge Notebook, NAACP, National Alliance of Black Educators, NAtional Congress of American Indians, National Network for Educational Renewal, New York Performance Standards Consortium, National Learning Research Institute, The New Deel, The Orion Society, Plus Time NH, Public Education Network, Public Schools for Tomorrow, Rethinking Schools, Small Schools Workshop, Spark, Strong Planet/Strength Movement, The Teacher Salary Project, WorldBlu