Sunday marked the first day of spring -- the season of rain showers that bring flowers, daylight saving time and standardized testing. Of course, controversy is already abloom.
Inspired by a Huffpost blog by Timothy D. Slekar criticizing standardized testing, Pa. mom Michele Gray decided to take a stand against the testing -- by refusing to allow her two children to participate. As reported by CNN, Gray homeschooled her 9 and 11-year-old sons while the rest of their classmates sat in classrooms, bubbling in answers.
Gray says she objects to the tests because they create unnecessary anxiety, don't accurately measure accomplishments and are "used to punish schools." Her children's school, Park Forest Elementary, was put on "warning" status last year because the school's special education students did not reach the state-required level of progress.
"The more I looked at it, the more outraged I became," Gray told CNN. "This is not something I want to be contributing to (or) something I want my children participating in."
She's not alone -- CNN's American Morning blog reports that a total of nine Park Forest Elementary children have been opted out of the tests by their parents. Slekar, the author of the blog that prompted the movement, will also not allow his 11-year-old son to take the tests this year. In his blog, he mocked the idea that teachers who don't "teach for the test" are bad teachers:
"I never once dreamed about teaching children to score well on tests. So you see, it's all my fault. I was not able to see that I would, one day, become a "crappy" teacher -- a teacher that actually cares deeply about children and the learning process."
Adding to concerns that teaching has become too focused on test scores is new Florida legislature that will link teacher jobs to student standardized test scores -- "merit pay," as it has been termed.
In a blog for the Chicago Tribune, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush touts the new legislature as "landmark legislation that brings common sense reforms to the teaching profession."
He states that under the new law, "all teachers... will be assessed and paid based on their effectiveness in teaching." Meaning that up to half of a teacher's yearly evaluation will be based on his/her students' "knowledge and skills" -- to be determined, of course, by standardized tests.
While many are unhappy with the current state of standardized testing -- as perhaps evidenced by the support of the Obama administration's attempt to overhaul No Child Left Behind -- some say that stopping children from testing is not the way to improve the situation, and may actually hurt the school -- and the students -- instead.
CNN Education Contributor Steve Perry said in an interview that opting out of the tests is not the right thing to do. "It makes the school not meet adequate yearly progress, which then puts it on the list, which is what they're saying they don't want the school to be. They're actually hurting the school in doing this."