School & District Management

Advocacy Group Slams States for Overtesting, Other Policies

By Daarel Burnette II — February 09, 2016 3 min read

Many states rely too heavily on standardized testing, open their doors too easily to charters and other school choice options, and fall short in adequately paying and supporting their professional teaching force, according to a stinging new report from the Network for Public Education, a group led by the education historian and policy activist Diane Ravitch.

The report, titled “Valuing Public Education: A 50-State Report Card,” rates the states and the nation on an A-to-F scale in a half-dozen categories and overall, based on the group’s policy positions in areas such as teacher evaluation and compensation, testing, and the financial support of traditional public schools.

“The current policy framework that pushes for more testing and privatization has failed,” Ravitch, the co-founder and president of the group, said at a press conference at the National Press Club last week. “It’s insanity. Let’s try some common sense for a change.”

In its report card, the organization gave the nation as a whole a grade of D in every category except for the one on resistance to high-stakes testing, where it was awarded a C. Thirty-seven states, in addition to the District of Columbia, scored an overall grade of a D or F, and 13 received a C, the highest overall grade awarded. (Some states received higher grades—including some A’s—in particular categories.)

Among the specific factors that figured into those scores:

  • A rejection of high-stakes testing for student graduation, promotion, and teacher evaluations;
  • The degree of “resistance to privatization,” including tighter restrictions on charter schools and rejection of parent-trigger laws and vouchers;
  • Measures aimed at gauging equity in school funding, as well as household income and employment, and school integration;
  • A wide range of teacher-related factors, including salary measures, a commitment to teacher experience, and rejection of merit pay; and
  • How well taxpayer money is used, as measured by markers such as lower class sizes, pre-K and full-day kindergarten, and rejection of virtual schools.

Serving as a Counterweight

The Network for Public Education was launched in 2013 as a counterweight to what its members saw as a barrage of attacks on teachers and regular public schools after the release of the documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” in 2010.

Among other things, the NPE opposes high-stakes testing, what it terms the privatization of public education, for-profit management of schools, and policies that it sees as contributing to a lack of support and respect for teachers.

Instead, the group advocates for racially integrated schools, funding of social services, and replacing annual bell-curve tests with periodic sample tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. Accountability systems should target those at the top, such as administrators, rather than those at the bottom, such as teachers, Ravitch said at the report’s rollout event.

The organization concedes in its report that it set a high bar in rating the states on its policy priorities. It gives an overall failing grade to eight states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas. But the report also notes what it called some “bright spots.” It specifically cited Alabama, Montana, and Nebraska for rejecting high-stakes testing and what it calls privatization. And Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and West Virginia all received A’s in the “resistance to privatization” category.

“There are no silver bullets in education,” Carol Burris, the executive director of the organization, said at the news conference. “Turning schools around takes hard work, and it happens incrementally over time.”

The NPE report card was modeled after national report cards issued by groups such as StudentsFirst and the American Legislative Exchange Council, which advocate for more charter schools and student choice, among other priorities.

Inez Feltscher, the director of the ALEC task force on education and workforce development, said charters and other school choice programs have proved to be effective.

“Giving parents the flexibility to place their children in the learning environment that works best without undue regulatory interference from state bureaucrats is a win for students, not a reason to give a state a lower grade,” she said.

A version of this article appeared in the February 10, 2016 edition of Education Week as Advocates’ Report Hits States for Overtesting, Other Policies

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Is the Assistant Principal the Most Overlooked, Undervalued Person at School?
A new research review on assistant principals finds that the role is undefined and that support for these school leaders is inconsistent.
7 min read
 teachers and leaders looking around for direction
Mykyta Dolmatov/iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion Pandemic Recovery Will Be Complex. We’ll Need the Best School Leaders
To face the education challenges of today and tomorrow, we must invest in the principal pipeline, writes Michael J. Petrilli.
Michael J. Petrilli
4 min read
Leader pointing hand forward, directing boat forward through corona virus crisis
iStock / Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion The Year of Scourges: How I Survived Illness and Racism to Find My 'Tribe'
A Black school leader reflects on the hardest year of her professional life.
Reba Y. Hodge
4 min read
new growth on a bare tree
Vanessa Solis/Education Week & Getty Images
School & District Management From Our Research Center How the Pandemic Is Shaping K-12 Education (in Charts)
Surveys by the EdWeek Research Center show how schools have changed during the pandemic and what adjustments are likely to stick.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School on Oct. 6, 2020, in Rye, N.Y.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School in Rye, N.Y., last fall.
Mary Altaffer/AP