Sunday, June 22, 2014

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.


  1. pinned, tweeted, sharing everywhere! excellent!

  2. It is time to untether ALL public schools from mandated testing...except as prescribed by the engaged set of teachers, who base their testing choices on the specific needs of their students. We do NOT need *new* public schools to bring the critical component of this (bold and worthy) proposal to fruition...though there should surely be mechanisms in place for those districts that need new schools to open them.

    If high-stakes standardized testing is bad enough that we should stand up against it--and it is--we must be bold enough to push forward a plan that will allow EVERY teacher and EVERY student to benefit from our stand.

    This is not the time to "experiment." This is the time to stand for what we KNOW is right, what we KNOW must happen. Let's give the formerly ill-used phrase, "No Child Let Behind," a new and richer, deeper meaning! Empower teachers, and let them be the arbiters who choose and schedule appropriate tests as need be!

    Rita Rathbone's amendment is well-intentioned, but does not go far enough: We should not be asking permission of the Powers That Be to do what is best for the children in our care. We are a Militant Splinter! Let's militantly splinter our opposition and take a True Stand!

  3. Hear hear Mark, Larry, and Sheila. Good idea, , Mark, but I'm with Larry and Sheila. I hate the idea of exclusivity. What we are fighting for is for all public schools, for all students. I'm getting really tired of the more and more frequent divisions (read: segregation), even if all kinds of efforts are made to make it "fair." We are losing an entire generation of citizens here; we need to get them all learning again. Another thing: In our contract negotiations, we have settled for less and less every year and proposed less and less. There has been a lot of criticism of both union high-ups and Democratic politicians for their constant over-compromising and agreeing to fake compromises (those between two choices which are both at one end of the spectrum of choices). Let's back up and see the whole picture, not just what we think we are allowed to see.

  4. All public schools, and even charter schools, are required to do testing under ESEA. Even though NCLB has "expired" it's testing requirements are still in force, so I'm not picturing this unless we change that. I'm not disagreeing with your idea (which is good). I'd just like to see it in all public schools.

  5. Yes, all students should be free off high-stakes testing and all students deserve a free and appropriate education.

  6. I'm uneasy about it because it would add to the inequity we already have. I get the purpose--showing that they aren't necessary/harm education--but I still prefer the "we're all in this together" view, which keeps us strong.

  7. The problem is a regime of high stakes testing that ranks schools, students, teachers and metes out rewards and punishments, and is being used as a mechanism to privatize the public school system, principally via charters. Stripping away teacher job protections is part of this orientation. This is being done in the name of empowering poor people, especially those poorly served by the school system. That is not a consequence of tests. It is not only a consequence of high child poverty rates with their attendant effects on children in school, it is also a consequence of increased segregation of students by race and income since the 1980s, and it has a lot to do with inequitable (and unequal) resource allocation. Consider this: High poverty schools that few or no white students attend typically have high teacher turnover rates and high concentrations of inexperienced teachers, and that problem has been getting worse over the past decade. Let's sue the school districts and the departments of Education at the federal and state level for violating the civil rights of students in this way. The corporate school reformers are in charge of the public school system across the country, and they are not changing conditions in high poverty schools for the better, but rather for the worse. They are carrying out a neo-liberal scheme to transform the school system. I think that the single-minded focus on testing, i.e., banishing tests is not going to be an effective antidote to corporate school reform movement.