Ed. Reform, Civil Rights, Child Advocacy Groups Tell Congress: Block Bush Plan to Force States to Expend Student Testing

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A group of national education reform, civil rights and child advocacy organizations today urged Congress to reject a Bush Administration proposal to require every state to administer standardized tests to every student in grades three through eight every year.
In a series of statements released today at a Capitol Hill news conference, each organization explained its specific concerns with the testing proposal. All agreed that the Bush plan is not in the best interests of children or schools and will not lead to improved learning or improved educational systems.
"We support accountability, but the tests are weak proxies for real learning. The testing that is proposed will have a negative, not a positive effect on children and schools," said Paul Houston, Executive Director of the American Association of School Administrators. "The key to improved learning for all students, and therefore improved performance on whatever accountability devices are used, is better schooling for all, coupled with meeting the basic health and other needs of children."
"We object to a system which ignores accountability at every level, a system that does not assure that the necessary, education-relevant resources are available, a system that relies only on testing," explained LaRuth Gray, Government Relations Liaison to the National Alliance of Black School Educators Board of Directors.
"A massive expansion of testing will only reinforce narrow, dumbed-down curriculum and instruction," added Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). "Forcing states to test every child every year in grades three through eight will actually undermine local school reform efforts and guarantee that many children will continue to be left behind."
"Health-care professionals and parents report that test-related stress is literally making many children sick," the Alliance for Childhood noted, in a statement signed by, among others, four of the country's leading child psychiatrists-Robert Coles and Alvin Poussaint of Harvard Medical


School; Marilyn Benoit of Howard University Hospital, president-elect of the American Academy
of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; and Stanley Greenspan, author of "Playground Politics: Understanding the Emotional Life of the School-Age Child." Harvard Professor Howard Gardner, another signer, said that "what started as a well motivated process to improve student learning has become an increasingly irrational high-stakes endeavor. Politicians may show short term gains, but students, teachers, and the learning process are becoming casualties." The group called on Congress not to impose new testing requirements until the health effects of such policies have been studied.
The participating organizations were joined by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) who serves on the House Education & the Workforce Committee, which will debate the testing provisions next week when it takes up the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Rep. Scott pledged to work to remove the Bush proposal from the legislation.

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