As organized opposition to standardized testing grows, one of the nation’s most outspoken and controversial education activists said Sunday that such assessments have a place in public schools but cautioned against an “overemphasis” on them.
“We have to strike the balance between making sure that we’re not overemphasizing the test, but yet also making sure that we’re holding kids and schools accountable for what kids know and are able to do,” said Michelle A. Rhee, the former chief of D.C. Public Schools who now heads the education advocacy group StudentsFirst.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” and plugging her new book, “Radical,” Ms. Rhee said standardized tests have played in important role over the past decade, putting in place accountability systems for schools that previously had been “graduating kids who didn’t have basic skills and knowledge. They couldn’t read and do math appropriately.”
But there’s a growing sentiment that the focus on standardized assessments has become too great, primarily because of the requirements and achievement benchmarks put in place by President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind education law.
Teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School have for the past month refused to administer a district-mandated exam to their students, saying it’s a waste of time and doesn’t effectively measure student performance. Chicago teachers did the same thing a year ago and their union last week predicted that the “anti-testing movement” will pick up steam.
A group of students in Portland, Ore., is organizing a boycott of an upcoming standardized test at their school. Teachers in other states have written letters and taken other steps to voice their displeasure with the assessments.
The nation’s teachers unions — a frequent target of Ms. Rhee — have supported the Seattle boycott and lately have increased their attacks on such high-stakes standardized testing.
Whatever the reason, whether it be too great a focus on testing or something else, Ms. Rhee said the American education system remains in desperate need of reform.
“The problem is that these educators and kids are trapped in a school system … and a bureaucracy that is really driven by antiquated rules and policies,” she said.