Opposition building to standardized tests

It's an issue parents are taking to the polls this year, as the feeling grows that schools should be teaching something other than test-taking.

Among the many issues where Republicans are suffering a backlash is one that comes right from the living room. Parent and students are rebelling against the intense emphasis placed on standardized testing. The rebellion is having political consequences in states like Florida that really pushed the envelope on testing, the Washington Post reports.

The role of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, has become central to the race to succeed Gov. Jeb Bush (R), with polls showing a growing discontent over the exams, which he has championed and which are used to determine many aspects of the school system, including teacher pay, budgets and who flunks third grade.

Republican Charlie Crist is offering to push forward with the testing regime, but Democrat Jim Davis has condemned what he calls its "punitive" nature, arguing that exam pressures have transformed schools into "dreary test-taking factories."

"Couple years ago one of my sons brought this quiz home, and the first question was 'What does the FCAT stand for?' " Davis told a meeting of clergy here Saturday. "I won't repeat to you what I said because I used words I'm teaching my boys not to use. . . . We're going to stop using the FCAT to punish children, teachers and schools."

Same situation in Texas, another aggressive testing state.

"We have third-grade children who have been retained so many times they are wearing brassieres in the third grade," said Florida state Sen. Frederica Wilson, one of the leaders of the anti-testing movement here.

 

"When parents are dealing with children vomiting on the morning of the tests and seeing other signs of test stress, they're going to be motivated at the voting booth," said Gloria Pipkin, the president of a testing watchdog group, the Florida Coalition for Assessment Reform. "Texas and Florida are the poster children for excessive testing, and we're seeing an enormous backlash."

Voters are telling pollsters the same story. In a Miami Herald poll, 61 percent of voters disagreed with grading and funding schools based on their test scores. In Texas, a survey indicated that 56 percent of voters thought there was too much emphasis on state testing in their schools. And a national poll showed that 52 percent of respondents thought that standardized tests do not accurately measure student achievement; 35 percent thought they do.

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