The pushback against testing is spreading. The New York Times reports that some minority groups have joined the anti testing movement. This is a significant change from what began as a white middle class movement. Testing is the stick that education reformers like current U.S. DOE Secretary John King and others use to spotlight struggling schools. Without testing, many argue, the plight of these students is ignored.
Now, some black parents and children are joining the Opt Out groups in Baltimore and Philadelphia. Educators cite examples of students who feel labeled as failures and curriculum that is little more than test prep. Warren Simmons, a senior fellow at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, sums up the problem. Testing identifies there is a problem but does not tell you what is wrong and how to fix it.
I take heart when I consider the evolving discussion about educational policy. Since the 1990s, we have moved from a focus on basic skills to one on critical thinking and problem solving. We then moved into high gear on testing in order to motivate educators to identify the needs of all students. Even now the conversation is moving toward the appropriate roles of teaching and technology to improve learning. There are also hints about the role of neuroscience in defining appropriate learning strategies.
Eventually we will get to the heart of the matter: time and money. This will become the biggest test of our political will to adapt our educational system to meet the needs of the nation. These discussion too are emerging in the courts.