We at MecklenburgACTS.org join parent groups across the nation in calling for North Carolina’s Congressional representatives to support Option 1, as presented by Senator Lamar Alexander in his recently proposed ESEA reauthorization. Option 1 would allow states to switch from annual to grade-span testing (one grade in elementary, middle and high school) and provide additional flexibility regarding measures of student achievement.
We also urge parents and others who support Option 1 to contact their U.S. Senators to express that support before January 21, when the Senate Education Committee will hold hearings on the issue.
Like their counterparts across the country, parents here in Mecklenburg County are thoroughly familiar with the damage that an obsessive focus on high-stakes standardized testing has done to our children’s schools. Option 1 would offer students, teachers and schools much-needed relief from excessive testing and test prep, allowing them to get on with the real business of teaching and learning.
The negative consequences of the current federal testing requirements have been widely documented. They have sparked a test-prep-focused culture that has diverted time and resources from actual teaching and learning, narrowed the curriculum, robbed children of their love of learning, and driven excellent teachers out of the profession.
They have had especially negative effects on low-income students, students of color, English-language learners and students with special educational needs. Numerous studies have documented the role played by high-stakes testing in high dropout rates, the school-to-prison-pipeline, widespread cheating scandals, and the closing of under-resourced public schools that have anchored neighborhoods for generations.
While we appreciate the need for strong accountability, we believe this can be done using assessments that more accurately diagnose learning needs. A switch from high-stakes testing to systematic review of actual student work would provide superior evidence of academic progress while also enriching classroom experiences.
A bipartisan state task force has recently recommended a switch to grade-span testing. There is widespread agreement among North Carolinians that the current accountability system has not served our students well. It is time for a change.