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Alternatives to standardized tests

As opposition to overuse of standardized tests grows here and across the county, a public forum Thursday on Alternatives to Standardized Tests is being sponsored by a new local coalition.

It takes place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 24, at Hartzell Methodist Church, 3330 S. King Drive.

The forum features Dr. Monty Neil of FairTest, who advocates for dramatically reducing the use of standardized tests and incorporating a wider range of assessments reflecting classroom evidence of learning.

“Those of us who are concerned about too much standardized testing are often accused of wanting no accountability at all, and that’s just not the case,” said Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education, which is co-sponsoring the event.

The new coalition, More Than A Score, includes parents and teachers and a number of local organizations.  They’re calling for eliminating standardized testing for pre-school through second grade and greatly reducing it for older children, Woestehoff said.

An initial focus will be on tests designated as optional by the CPS central office but required by network officers, she said.

The group wants an end to evaluating student and teachers and closing schools based on test scores, and will push for “full disclosure of the cost, schedule, and nature of all standardized tests” used by CPS.

A whole lot of tests

The use of “bubble tests” is not like you might remember from your childhood, writes CPS high school teacher Adam Heenan at ClasssroomSooth.  His students start the year with a week of standardized testing, which is repeated midyear and again at the end of the year.  And that’s just one of several tests.

Read the rest of this entry »

Report on ‘Teaching to the Test’

[UPDATE 1-20-07: “The failure of test-driven school reform in Chicago should provide a warning for the country,” said FairTest executive director Monty Neill at the release of a new report January 18.

Based on a review of recent research on Chicago schools, “Chicago School Reform: Lessons for the Nation” reports that student learning has improved in Chicago schools that “developed strong curriculums, ensured professional development of classroom educators, and shared leadership among parent councils, the principal and teachers.” Meanwhile, “test scores flatlined in schools where central office controls replaced local decision making, and top-down interventions over ten years did not work,” according to the report, which examines strategies linked to the No Child Left Behind Act. The report was sponsored by Designs For Change and Parents United for Responsible Education along with FairTest.

A copy of the full report is available at]

Test-centered instruction has not succeeded in raising achievement levels in Chicago, and other approaches are far more effective, according to a new report to be released at a community forum on “teaching to the test” next week.

Monty Neill of FairTest, one of the authors of the new study, will be among those speaking at a forum sponsored by Parents United for Responsible Education and other education groups on Thursday, January 18, at 6:30 p.m. at PURE’s office at 100 S. Morgan.

Driven by the No Child Left Behind Act and CPS policies, “overemphasis on standardized tests is robbing our children of a quality education,” said Julie Woestehoff of PURE.

Also participating in the forum are disability rights groups and multicultural educators concerned about negative impacts on students in special education and bilingual programs.

Speakers will address how parents can monitor the quality of their children’s instruction, and what local school councils and principals can do to improve instruction in their schools, Woestehoff said.

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