Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Making Test Abuse a Medical and Legal Issue
During the past six months, I have received scores of emails and Facebook messages from teachers who describe the anxiety and stress that some of their students have been under as a result of excessive or developmentally inappropriate tests. Such complaints are likely to increase in the coming year as Common Core Standards are implemented in school districts across the country, with no exemptions for special needs or ELL students, for whom the tests associated with CCSS are often an exercise in humiliation.
While it is our duty, as education professionals, to speak out against such abuse, it is not clear that such advocacy will get a sympathetic response from the public, as we have been so demonized by the media and elected officials, as to render every thing we say suspect
It is therefore time to start bringing other professionals into a public debate about the abusive levels of testing currently being imposed in our public school- in particular lawyers, doctors, psychologists and counselors. Such an approach should have two components. First, every teacher who sees their own students suffering intolerable levels of stress and anxiety- especially those which turn into medical conditions requiring treatment- should privately document what is happening. Secondly, leaders of teacher activist groups such as BATS, or leaders of teachers union locals, should quietly approach lawyers and medical professionals in their area to see if they are willing to launch class action lawsuits in behalf of affected students or call for public hearings by school boards or town or city councils to document and discuss test abuse.
And while that is happening at the local level, researchers in the field should approach national organizations like the American Bar Organization, the American Medical Association, or the American Psychological Association, to see if they are willing to organize sessions on test abuse at conventions and national meetings.
It is time the conversations that teachers are having among themselves about the destructive consequences of high stakes testing be brought to a much larger audience. But that also requires us to carefully -- and in most cases privately-document the catastrophe we see happening around us.