Monday, April 02, 2007

Bill of Rights for Test Takers

Bill of Rights for Test Takers: a Family and Student Testing Protection Act

Purpose: To protect students, families and local communities from abusive assessment practices, violations of due process and civil rights.

Problem I:
Students are being denied promotion, access to programs and schools, or barred from receiving high school diplomas or graduation certificates based solely on standardized test scores. These students are disproportionately poor, African American, and from immigrant families whose home language is not English. There are also large numbers of students, including the very talented, and students with disabilities who do not perform well on conventional standardized tests.

1. The use of standardized tests as the sole or primary basis for determining promotion, student access to advanced programs, schools, and awarding of certificates or diplomas is prohibited. Non-standardized, qualitative modes of assessment should be available to students or particular groups of students whose education is served by alternatives to standardized tests.

2. An Educational Impact Report is required prior to imposition of a system of assessment or particular method of assessment by a governing authority. This report would seek to determine immediate and longer term effects on students, schools, and local communities (disaggregated by race, gender and family income), and to assess the human and material resources required to fulfill the assessment requirements. Assessment goals or standards may not be raised or changed if the resources required for meeting these standards are not provided.

3. Parents have the right to exempt their children from tests and assessments that they deem as harmful or inappropriate. No punitive consequences may be applied by governments to students or schools if parents choose to exercise their right to exempt a child from taking a particular test or set of tests.

Problem II
Among the more destructive provisions of NCLB and state testing regulations is that schools that fail to meet certain numerical targets set by standardized tests scores face being ‘restructured’ or dismantled. The are numerous documented cases of exemplary schools that have closed or are under threat of closure.

No school or program within a school may be disestablished or restructured based solely or primarily on rankings of students on standardized tests.

Problem: III
The pressures on schools to raise standardized test scores, particularly those that serve poor and children of color, narrows the curriculum, ignoring crucial areas of children’s and adolescents’ development and growth. Among the casualties are music, the arts, bilingual education, community internships, civic education, fitness and health education.

State and federal governments have the authority to set general guidelines and standards under this Act. However, governments are forbidden to mandate local school priorities, or specify curriculum content and pedagogy.

Problem IV
The federal government using power it claims under the NCLB Reading First program is dictating to states and school districts how reading should be taught. The US Department of Education currently approve funding for materials that meets the federal government’s interpretation of the NCLB Reading First provisions

The determination of good and appropriate practice resides with the teachers and local educational authorities. A legal requirement for ‘scientifically based’ materials and approaches may not be construed as granting government the authority to dictate to schools’ personnel policies, teaching methods, and expenditures for texts and curriculum resources.

Problem V
Parents and students are rarely informed by schools of their rights with respect to testing and assessment. Information about test content, technical specifications and methods of analyzing and reporting test results are often kept secret and withheld from students, parents and the public.

Student and family testing and assessment rights including those specified in this Act must be prominently broadcast and displayed. Teachers and school officials have both the right and the obligation to inform families, and students of their rights. These rights include the right to be fully informed about of a test’s technical details, such as standard error of measurement , on whom and how was the test normed or scaled, how cut scores or proficiency levels were determined, and what content, skills, or competencies are being measured and evaluated by the test.

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March 28, 2007 v 1.3
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