Endorsements of UOO

John Kuhn, Superintendent in Texas writes:

I am heartened to see the dawning of a united national effort to oppose the continued perversion of public education that the corporate testing agenda has wrought. It is important for parents to know that school administrators nationwide have no choice but to comply with state and federal testing mandates, even when those mandates require the clearly detrimental over-testing of our children, the indefensible narrowing of the curriculum, and the theft of precious resources from teaching and learning so that they can be invested instead in measuring and labeling.

But parents and students have the power to say when enough is enough. Corporate lobbyists speak more loudly than educators—that is clear—but I am convinced that parents and students can speak much more loudly than these deep-pocketed lobbyists with their protests, their opting out, and their votes.

In Texas, we now invest 45 out of 180 school days administering standardized tests. We also have a $500 million contract with Pearson to develop tests, even as $4 billion was cut from education and our class sizes are growing. Texas lawmakers have chosen to save the tests but not the teachers. In all 50 states, “testing for its own sake” has grown through the garden of learning like a kudzu vine, and it is choking to death flowers that are far more worthy than itself: music, art, history, and science are withering under its encompassing weight.

Testing corporations have hijacked public education and have increased their profits dramatically in doing so. As these testing giants continue to lobby for more tests, new tests, and ever more expensive tests, it is apparent to me that there will come a day when teachers must be renamed testers, the classroom must be called the testing room, and the little red schoolhouse will finally become the little red widget factory, pumping out standardized children who know nothing beyond what was on the test. That is not the vision I have for my children, my students, or my nation.

Public school teachers once served the children. Today, we are all the servants of the test. You can help by standing up for your child and saying, “Enough is enough. Less testing, more teaching.”

Yong Zhao, author of Catching Up or Leading the Way:

By imposing upon schools and teachers unrealistic, meaningless, and arbitrary goals, high-stakes testing has corrupted the spirit of American education, intoxicated the education environment, and demoralized educators. By forcing schools and teachers to teach to the test, it has narrowed the educational experiences of millions of children and thus deprived our children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, of a real education. It has wasted valuable, precious, and dwindling public funds that could have been put into educating rather than testing our children. It has generated unnecessary fear, anxiety, and loss of confidence in our children. It has distracted us from addressing the real challenges facing education today: poverty, globalization, and technological changes. It has taken away the opportunities and resources for exploring innovations that may lead to true improvements in education. But most importantly, it has eroded the traditional strengths of American education that have made America the world’s center of innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, and democracy. These damages have been inflicted for nothing good in return. This decade of high stakes testing has neither narrowed the achievement gap nor made education in our large urban centers any better. It has not even improved test scores.

Advocates of high-stakes standardized testing may argue that the damages are unintended consequences and can be fixed with better tests. More money is being poured into making high-stakes testing “better:” national “common assessments” so states cannot lower their standards, tighter security so teachers and students cannot cheat, as well as increased test validity and accuracy. These technical fixes won’t change the nature of high-stakes standardized testing as a simplistic measure of a very small portion of what children learn, what schools teach, and what matters in real life, with the undeserving power to control the behavior of teachers, students, and parents. Thus, regardless of the technical improvements we make, high-stakes standardized testing cannot shake off the collateral damage that is too great for any benefits it may bring.

Yong Zhao, Ph.D
Presidential Chair
Associate Dean
Professor, Department of Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership
Director, Center for Advanced Technology in Education (CATE)

Alfie Kohn, author of The Case Against Standardized Testing and The Schools Our Children Deserve:

Standardized testing can continue only with the consent and cooperation of the educators who allow those tests to be distributed in their schools and the parents who permit their children to take them. If we withhold that consent, if we refuse to cooperate, then the testing process grinds to a halt. For years some of us have been raising the provocative question What if they gave a test and nobody came? With your help, United Opt Out National can grow into a genuine movement of democratic popular resistance to the testing mania that has been smothering our public schools.
– Alfie Kohn (www.alfiekohn.org)