The existence of standardized testing has plagued the American school system for longer than the past decade. However, because the Bush and Obama administrations have chosen to embrace a business model of enhancing the performance of schools, a period of high-stakes testing began.
Support came not just from names such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but by big, for-profit organizations that supported the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act and received their financial profit by producing textbooks and materials. This transformed American education into a new market where profit could be made by investors and shareholders. The plan depends on the notion of a core curriculum and a standardization of learning, rooted in the concept that every child is equal but not in the idea that all children should have equal opportunity. While it might be a good idea, as Albert Einstein would have it: “I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in scandalizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture.”
A viewing of the documentary by Daniel Hornberger, Standardized; Lies, Money and Civil Rights, could be an eye-opener for many New Mexican educators, parents, teachers and students. Attending the film screening on Nob Hill in Albuquerque last month were organizations such as Albuquerque’s Teacher Federation, Save Our Schools, Parents and Teachers for and Educated Community, Stand4KidsNM and NM Refuse the Tests. State Sen. Linda Lopez and attorney general and Democratic candidate for governor Gary King also were there.
“Teachers are not the enemy,” said King about the viewing, “but I am very concerned about the fact that we have generated a situation in New Mexico right now where students hate to come to school, teachers hate to come to school, and administrators are not happy.”
The New Mexico Bar Exam, administered to determine whether one is qualified to practice law, requires two days. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) takes at most four hours to complete and determines whether one gets into the desired graduate program. Yet New Mexico third-graders are required to spend nearly 73 days of school taking examinations to ensure that they are capable of reading, writing and arithmetic.
Parents should not be afraid to opt out of standardized testing both for the benefit of their child and their child’s teachers, as well for as the school and the district, which is being unfairly evaluated by these examinations. Remember, nothing is more frightening to elected officials than a mob of angry mothers.
Marzia Dessi is an 18-year-old Española resident and a former writer for The New Mexican’s Generation Next section. She has taken many standardized tests.