Things to Do to Stop Bush’s Testing Plan

K-12 Testing

Here are some actions people can take to respond to President Bush’s testing plan. Points to raise in the discussion are touched on in the article above and other links in this section.

There are three main kinds of action: 1) Reach Members of Congress directly; 2) Persuade groups you are a part of; and 3) Educate and mobilize locally.

1) Reach congress people.
Contacting federal elected officials is very important. If your U.S. Senator or Representative is on an education committee, it is even more important. A list of members and key staff of the House Workforce and Education Committee and the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee is posted here.

A. Call or write both your Representative and Senator. The succinct message is that you oppose the testing provisions of the Bush school reform plan and ask that the congressperson oppose them. You could say that the current testing provisions in Title I are OK and should not be expanded. You can give reasons, both personal (as a parent, a teacher, etc.) and more general. You can call or write them in DC or in their home district. Emails are not nearly as effective as writing (first) or calling (second). Similarly, form post-cards or petitions do not have much impact.
If you call, ask to speak to the legislative aide who handles education. If you write, specifically ask for a response to the particular points/questions you raise. If you get a letter back that actually says something, it can help you in planning further contact, either thanking them (and sharing with others the reasons why the congressperson agrees with you) or continuing to press the issue.

B. Meet with your Representative or Senator. Try to arrange a meeting with the actual Congressperson, not a hometown staffer who may not deal with policy issues. If you want to have a meeting, send a small group (if possible) that represents different constituencies (parent, teacher, different demographic or geographic groups). Plan your presentation ahead and leave written materials.

C. You might also write or call committee chairs and ranking members (the top Democratic members). If you are not from their state/district, this might be less valuable. However, these people are very important and should know of opposition.

2) Persuade groups you are a part of:
Developing a national coalition of groups will help us defeat the Bush testing plan. Education and civil rights organizations are most likely, but other civic groups might be persuaded to participate. Local or state chapters of a national group can help by sending resolutions to their national associations. The FairTest website lists names of organizations that take a stance on this issue.

A. Encourage local or state group(s) to have their members contact Representatives and Senators.

B. If a number of groups get involved, have them form a local coalition to work together to build pressure.

C. A possible draft resolution your group or coalition could endorse (and could use in framing a letter to the editor, etc.):
“We, the members/board of _______ hereby call upon the Members of Congress who represent city/state/region in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to oppose any legislation mandating that every state test ever student test every year from grades three to grade eight. We believe that this one-size-fits-all bureaucratic scheme will neither promote accountability not improve those schools which really need help. Instead it may damage both equity and educational quality by diverting resources to the narrow coaching that can improve test scores.”

3) Educate and mobilize locally and in your states.

A) Send letters and opinion columns to your local newspaper(s), both dailies and local weeklies. The letter you send to your congressperson can usually be a basis for a letter-to-the-editor.

B) Contact area education reporters, who might be doing “local react” stories about the Bush education plan. Also, meet with editorial boards of local newspapers, especially major ones.

C) Call local talk shows, get on local cable TV shows, etc.

D) Speak to local groups.

Finally, use all this as an opportunity to address state and local testing issues and to link the two -- for example, in many states the Bush plan would increase the amount of state testing, or it would force states to use them for accountability in ways they are not now doing. Overtesting, misuse of tests, all the harmful consequences, are similar regardless of who mandates the testing. Put another way, use the Bush plan not only as a threat, but as an opportunity to further the work on this issue.