Organizing for Testing Reform


The main captions are things you probably will need to think about; the bulleted points are examples of things you might consider/address/do.


Identify the problem:
- High Stakes for students or schools/educators [note federal law]
- Impact of testing on curriculum and instruction
- Unequal/inadequate resources despite high-stakes demands
- Too much testing (too many tests, too many grades)


Establish the goal:
- End high-stakes uses of tests
- Replace test-based reporting/accountability system with authentic system
- Gain adequate/equitable resources for underfunded systems
- Reduce testing


Determine the form victory takes:
- legislation passed which meets the goal(s) - state and/or federal
- state board establishes new policy
- series of changes at the local level by school committees/superintendents
- public has been educated and supports the goal(s)


Design Strategy: How Can We Win?


Evaluate the situation:

- power relations, who makes ultimate decision on the key issue, who's who, primary opponents, primary allies.


Determine primary route to victory:

- grassroots organizing and coalition building
- "insider" influencing of policymakers


Decide what your organization will look like:

- local chapters, mass membership, a key core group only, a coalition of groups...


Identify and develop Allies:

Identify the important current and potential allies
- parents, civil rights groups, community-based organizations, other education groups, students, any movable business groups?
- Establish areas of agreement with allies, form a coalition
[Allies will have their agendas as well]

Tactics: Things to do to win

Organize your arguments and evidence (including on authentic assessment and accountability, if needed), be prepared to counter theirs (study theirs) [see FairTest website,]
Identify some good spokespeople (not just teachers/educators)


Mobilize teachers to:
- educate parents and community
- talk with legislators/policymakers


Conduct public education:
- community forums/meetings (all sides debate, or just to mobilize opposition)
- get on agenda of other organizations to present, ask for support
- set up a speakers bureau
- hand out, mail flyers (multiple languages)
- send materials home
- petitions (opportunity to talk, as well as use results for pressure)
- media work
- set up a "take the test" session [if test is public; be sure to facilitate discussion]
Do a media campaign as part of the organizing:
- make testing a controversial issue - local as well as major state media
- keep reporters and columnists informed
- send letters to editor and op eds to large and small papers
- participate in radio talk shows, cable TV or TV talk or news shows
- ads?


Expose the test:
- question whether the test is any good for the purposes for which it is being used
- what is or is not actually on the test - or is the test secret? [demand openness]
- question teaching to the test
- errors - bad questions, mistakes in scoring or reporting


Explain the consequences of the test: who suffers and how
- low income; racial minority; special needs; English language learners; voc ed
- most all students can be affected by teaching to the test


Hold high-focus public events:
- rallies and demonstrations
- meetings, speak outs


Opt out/boycott the tests (legal in Wisconsin):
- students
- teachers


Contact policymakers [governor, legislators, state board of ed, school committees, etc.]
- letter-writing and telephone campaigns
- limits of email (policymakers often ignore it)
- visits to policymakers
- testifying at hearings


Influence elections:
- vote out some opponents , vote in some supporters
- referenda (binding or non-binding; local or statewide)


Introduce legislation