Saturday, February 4, 2012

In Texas, a Backlash Against Student Testing


When Christopher Chamness entered the third grade last year, he began to get stomach aches before school. His mother, Edy, said the fire had gone out of a child who she said had previously gone joyfully to his classes.

One day, when he was bored in class, Christopher broke a pencil eraser off in his ear canal. It was the tipping point for Ms. Chamness, a former teacher, and she asked to observe his Austin elementary school classroom. What she saw was a “work sheet distribution center” aimed at preparing students for the yearly assessments that they begin in third grade and that school districts depend upon for their accountability ratings.

Now, with Christopher in fourth grade, Ms. Chamness will take a more drastic step: She intends to pull him out of standardized testing altogether this spring, in protest of the system that she said had sapped her son’s love of learning.

Ms. Chamness’s approach is more radical than what most parents are willing to do — and district officials are quick to point out that school policy does not permit students to miss test days for any reason. But it is part of a budding backlash against standardized testing in the state that spawned No Child Left Behind and its assessment-driven accountability requirements.

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