Testing Reform Strategy Meeting

K-12 Testing

How can test reformers best network, learn from each other, hone our messages, mobilize and organize for reform? To move ahead in answering these questions, FairTest organized a one-day strategy meeting with 75 activists, held at Teachers College on the day after the conference on high-stakes testing (see related story).


The day began with a large-group discussion intended to surface some framing issues, such as the social and political situation test reformers face. Participants then divided into groups around four key themes: the schools we want; democracy in schools, equity and local control; high stakes are unfair to minorities and legitimize inequalities; and better alternatives exist for assessment and accountability.


Participants included activists -- parents, educators, lawyers, advocates and organizers -- from Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, California, and other states. While a range of opinion exists on the causes of the problem, the potential value versus the danger of state standards, and precise ways to proceed in our work, the discussion was grounded in strong unity around key issues. These include:

  • it is unfair and wrong to make major decisions based only on test scores;
  • one size fits few (to borrow the title of Susan Ohanian’s book, see Examiner, Summer 1999);
  • over-reliance on standardized tests undermines high quality teaching and learning; and
  • better alternatives for assessment and accountability exist.

The group also agreed that we need to be able to point to what makes good schools --”the schools we want” -- in order to ground opposition to testing in a positive vision of the schooling for which educators, students and the community can then be held accountable.


At the close of the day, participants shared ideas on common actions which could help frame our work. These included such proposals as a national petition drive, a student’s bill of rights, sharing of local assessment reform campaign materials (some of which are now available on the FairTest website), and having future meetings.