Standardized Testing Carrots, Sticks: Legal? Help to Students?

This is standardized testing time in school districts around the country, and testing is engendering several strong responses this year from different quarters.

Listen to report and discussion on the April 25 edition of The Education Town Hall on We Act Radio (WPWC 1480 AM).

New York Common Core tests are spurring protests, and some parents are withdrawing their children from the test. New York is one of the first states to adopt testing based on the new Common Core curriculum, and some teachers say they are not prepared, a New York Times article reported on Friday (4/19/13). Many parents say the tests are too long and too stressful. Others object to the ever-increasing focus on testing as a purported method of improving education. Schools in- and outside New York City reported students opting out of exams with more than one-half of the eighth graders — 134 out of 260 — opting out of the test at one Long Island school, for example.

In Chicago, a number of students – variously reported as dozens or over 300 – left school on Wednesday as part of a testing boycott. Boycotts in Chicago are linked to the planned closing of 54 schools, based largely on test data. Students were bused to the board of education, but officials refused to meet with them, instead issuing this statement:

The only place students should be during the school day is in the classroom with their teachers getting the education they need to be successful in life. Today’s test is one of the most critical exams our students will take. Every adult should support and encourage our students to make sure they are in school.
–Chicago Public School statement

The Texas Tribune, meanwhile, reports legislative pushback on standardized testing in Texas. State legislators are rethinking its five-year, $468 million contract with Pearson Education to provide assessments. Some lawmakers now say Pearson exerted excessive influence in the policy-making process, according to Morgan Smith writing for the Tribune.

Closer to The Education Town Hall’s home, One DC Public School principal decided that his school could impose penalties on students missing the assessment tests. Wilson SHS principal Cahall emailed parents threatening to make students who miss the standardized test this spring ineligible for athletics in the coming year. He also said students would be “pulled from classes” next week if they miss the DC-CAS this week. These actions are not system-wide or supported by Athletic rules for DC Public Schools.

Valerie Straus posted Wilson SHS’s email to parents on her Washington Post blog.

In addition to the threatened stick, Wilson SHS offers raffle teickets for completed exams as carrots. Raffle items include $50 gift cares, iPads and “homework passes.” Whether this plan is upheld or not, it seems one more indication of how fraught testing has become.

We Act Radio’s motto is “DO SOMETHING!”
All parents, students, and community members are encouraged to share their experiences and opinions here. And, where warranted, join together to take action.

Is Wilson SHS’s new testing policy consistent with DC Municipal Regulations? Is it consistent with DC’s athletic policies? Check back for further information, dicussion.

Parents, students and others concerned about the policies at Wilson SHS are encouraged to share thoughts and ideas here.

To contact today’s guest, Jeff Schmidt, parent of a Wilson 10th grader, email
jeffschmidt at, 202-537-3645.

Emma Brown, who joined The Education Town Hall on for the first half of the April 25 show, reported on incentives related to DCPS testing in today’s Washington Post.

See also the FairTest.

— Virginia Spatz
for The Education Town Hall
April 25 edition on We Act Radio

Listen live on Thursdays at 11 a.m. (EDT) on
full recordings archived for later discussion and sharing
look for more information on The Education Town Hall’s blog,

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