"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Can A Single District Take Down Standardized Testing?

Everyone knows the image of a series of falling dominos. It's a basic lesson in physics on inertia and gravity, combining linear impulse with angular momentum. I offer this video as a more advanced physics lesson using dominos to demonstrate how today's story may play out.

Notice how tiny the first domino is. He must hold it with a tweezers. And note how large the 13th domino is.  It weighs 100 lbs yet it is knocked down in the end.

Now let's look at Broward School District in Florida, small in comparison to the whole state, but the 6th largest school district in the country. Broward just passed a resolution asking the Governor Rick Scott, the Florida Department of Education and state and federal lawmakers to revamp state and federal accountability systems so that they include a variety of measures to determine how students perform. The resolution claims standardized testing is "an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness."

How can a single school district bring down the state's standardized test, the FCAT? As the video shows, its not a direct path from the smallest to the largest, but rather a combined force of each domino working together to push over the largest one. Broward's domino may actually be somewhere in the middle of this chain.

In Florida, other districts like Palm Beach County, Martin County and St. Lucy County, have made similar requests. They join districts across the country who recognize that such tests are often not accurate measures of what students learn, and more importantly, that such tests are receiving greater and greater power to completely change school districts. (Picture the largest domino falling the other way back onto the smaller dominos.)

In Texas, 360 school boards passed resolutions against standardized testing. They join districts in New York, California and Illinois in opposing the seemingly endless stream of assessments kids are being funneled into with the new "incentives" coming out of Washington.

A national effort to stop the heavy push of standardized testing was launched back in April with a resolution that local districts could adopt. (full text here) The resolution, modeled on the Texas resolution was developed by: Advancement Project; Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; FairTest; Forum for Education and Democracy; MecklenburgACTS; Deborah Meier; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; National Education Association; New York Performance Standards Consortium; Tracy Novick; Parents Across America; Parents United for Responsible Education - Chicago; Diane Ravitch; Race to Nowhere; Time Out From Testing; and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.

What gives it a fighting chance is that it uses a concept that liberals love, choice. The signers are simply asking that schools be given the choice of a number of assessment tools to determine whether they are meeting standards. After all, if the newest RTTT says that schools must provide individual learning plans for children to meet their individual learning needs, shouldn't schools be given individual assessment options to meet their teaching needs?

If your school district doesn't think it would do any good to pass this resolution, maybe you should show them the domino video.

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