Is It Time To Create Public Schools in Every State Exempt from Testing?
(this is an ongoing project - as BATs add input this document will be updated)
By: Mark Naison
All over the US, children and teachers are sinking under the weight of excessive testing. Following federal mandates and using the mantra of "college and career readiness." officials in every state in the union have flooded their public schools with tests and begun preparing students to take those tests as early as kindergarten and pre-K. Adding to the pressure, officials have used test scores to rate teachers, schools, even entire school districts ,threatening school closings and teacher firings should scores not reach their desired targets. The result has been a generation of students who dread going to school, families overwhelmed by stress, and teachers who are leaving the profession in droves because all creativity has been stripped from their jobs and because test prep has dominated the curriculum to the point to which they are being asked to commit professional malpractice. The addition of the Common Core standards to an already toxic mix has pushed teachers, students and parents to the breaking point. Test revolts and protests against Common Core are now taking place all over the nation, forcing some public officials to finally reconsider whether tests and more tests are really the way to improve public education in the US and create greater equity among students who attend them.
As the revolt spreads, it is time for activists to consider if there are steps state and local governments can take Right Now to restore idealism and hope to our battered and bruised public school system. Cutting back on testing and withdrawing from Common Core are important positive steps, but we also need measures that will get teachers and students excited about school again.
In the hope of restoring hope and idealism to public education, the Badass Teachers Association, with nearly 50,000 members around the nation and around the world, and local organizations in all 50 states proposes the following:
That every state in the union be freed from federal mandates to create 50-100 new PUBLIC SCHOOLS that are completely exempt from state tests, and that rate student performance on the basis of measures decided on by their staffs in consultation with students and parents. That these schools be filled through a recruiting process that includes both neighborhood location and voluntary application so they as much as possible represent the diverse student population in each state and that they be given a ten year window of operation to evaluate their work.
Not only would the creation of these schools give parents and students fed up with testing a REAL CHOICE within the public school system, allowing them to avoid the expense of home schooling or private school, it would inspire a huge wave of enthusiasm among teachers and prospective teachers who would be thrilled at the opportunity to excercise some creaivity in the classroom and deal with students as individuals rather than as test scores or points on their evaluations.
In our judgment, nothing would do more to bring talented people into the teaching profession, not for a few years, but for life, than creating schools like this all over the nation. It would make teaching an incredibly attractive profession.
This proporal is not entirely an excercise in re-inventing the wheel There are portfolio or consortium schools in New York City which have operated successfully along these principles for years, but in our two decade long obsession with testing and accountability, we have refused to expand the number of these schools, either in New York or anywhere else.
It is time to give these schools another look and launch a GREAT EXPERIMENT to make our public schools a place where creativity and excitment, not fear and stresss, can be the governing principles.
And just so we don't leave numbers out entirely, we would be willing to bet that the college admission and retention rates of these newly created schools would, given time, be better than schools with comparable demographics who are committed to K-12 testing
Amendment: Rita Rathbone - Have an application system where existing schools can apply to get the no testing status. This would work well with magnet schools that already get students by parent choice.