Skip to comments.Officials: New Federal Tests Hurt Students
Posted on 02/25/2004 8:24:00 PM PST by Theodore R.
Officials: New federal tests hurt students
BY JUDY HOLLAND Hearst Newspapers
WASHINGTON - Teachers, lawmakers and celebrities on Tuesday unveiled a book of letters that criticize the Bush administration's efforts to improve public schools by imposing federal testing.
Critics of President Bush's centerpiece education program - known as "No Child Left Behind" - say it forces teachers to abandon more valuable academics in favor of preparing for federal tests.
The program requires standardized testing for third through eighth grades in math and reading and identifies schools that don't pass muster as under-performing.
The book, "Letters to the Next President: What We Can Do About the Real Crisis in Public Education," includes letters from 46 parents, scholars, students and others. The contributors include Sylvia Bruni, administrative assistant for special programs at Laredo Independent School District in Laredo, Texas; comedian Bill Cosby, Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., former Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn.
Bruni, a former teacher and principal whose career in education has spanned four decades, writes in her letter that public education in Texas is in a "state of crisis"
because "it has been gripped by a testing mandate that is literally choking the life out of our classrooms."
"Since the accountability system began... our students are doing poorer than ever, drop out rates are sky high, achievement gaps have widened and, despite the state and federal claims of success, there are no correlations with other achievement indicators," Bruni writes.
Bruni says hands-on learning projects, such as sketching medieval architecture and composing musical scores that she used in her own teaching to connect the classroom to the outside world, have been replaced by students digesting facts and figures and memorizing so they can pass a rigid state test.
"In the process of doing 'drill and kill,' children have lost the capacity to think and be responsive," Bruni told a forum at the National Press Club.
Bruni says the Bush administration mandate that makes passing federal standardized tests a condition for promotion to fourth grade or for graduation is causing students "high anxiety."
She said her third-grade granddaughter, Victoria, was so "worried sick" about the federal test that she "bit her fingernails down to the quick."
Carl Glickman, a visiting scholar at Texas State University-San Marcos who compiled and edited the compendium of letters, said the law is especially harming poor students and minorities who are getting a "test-book curriculum," while "affluent students get a much richer, broader curriculum."
"This is a new way of sorting our children into those who will be first-class citizens and those who will be second-class citizens," Glickman said.
Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of teacher education at Stanford University, said President Bush's law, also known as "No Child Left Untested," mistakes measuring schools with fixing them.
She said the next president needs to recruit new teachers and find ways to improve their training.
More than a dozen states have challenged the federal law or raised questions about the costs of carrying it out.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the likely Democratic presidential nominee, this week criticized Bush for his "Leave no Child Behind" policy, saying: "He's leaving millions of children behind."
Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., one of the co-authors of the "No Child Left Behind" legislation, has stepped up his criticism of Bush for under-funding the program.
While the legislation authorized $34 billion, the president's budget for fiscal 2005 calls for $24 billion.
"This administration likes to talk about education but it has failed to provide the resources for smaller class sizes, more qualified teachers and holding schools accountable for teaching our children," Kennedy said.
"The senator feels we're truly at a crossroads because the administration has not done its job by providing funding," said Kennedy's spokesman Jim Manley.
On Wednesday, the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and the Urban Institute, plan to release a study showing an over-emphasis on "high stakes" testing appears to encourage schools to "push out" low-performing minority students before graduation so they can maintain higher test scores.
The study refers to the pushing out of African-American, Latino and Native American children as the "hide-the-minority" syndrome.
Glickman said the Bush administration's emphasis on standardized testing is a very simplistic way of saying we're going to improve education for every child... We are pushing kids further and further away from learning that will have real meaning in their lives."
(Judy Holland can be reached at 202-263-6400 or at the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org).
Critics...say it forces teachers to abandon more valuable academics...such as sketching medieval architecture and composing musical scores...in favor of...digesting facts and figures and memorizing so they can pass a rigid state test.
I guess twelve years of public education and four to five years of college aren't enough training.