For many a U.S. public school student, spring is standardized testing season. This can mean long days of bubbling in answers that can affect whether their schools stay open, their teachers keep their jobs, or if they’re allowed to graduate from high school.
Much of this policy stems from former president George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top federal grant program. The practice continues despite years of warnings from education experts who caution that standardized tests are just too blunt a tool to be used this way.
Students of color are disproportionately located in the poor and urban school districts that face the most political pressure to boost test scores. Therefore, they’re the kids most vulnerable to the nation’s high-stakes testing frenzy—and fallout.
The punitive use of standardized testing has also been connected to teacher cheating. Last month former Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall and 35 other educators were indicted for their alleged involvement in a massive cheating scandal after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found that teachers who were under enormous pressure to boost student performance routinely changed children’s answers. Last week, PBS uncovered a long “missing” memo detailing the possibility of similar misconduct in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of former superintendent Michelle Rhee.
From Texas to Seattle to New York, parents, educators and even lawmakers and public school officials have begun to push back against the barrage of standardized tests. Their message? High-stakes standardized testing is, in the words of former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, “a perversion of their original intent.” We rounded up the highlights of the growing movement.