Education leaders and parents don't always see eye-to-eye, especially when it comes to accountability.
A new report, Will It Be on the Test?, by the Kettering Foundation and Public Agenda, shows just how different these two parties feel about standardized testing and school closures.
Parents who took part in the report live in Washington, D.C.; Detroit; New Orleans; Westchester County, New York; Birmingham, Alabama; and Denver.
While many of the participants feel that standardized tests are useful, they also believe that too much emphasis has been placed on the high-stakes exams. The parents think that test scores are just one factor in judging schools, teachers, and students.
A father in Detroit said: "Tests, to me—it doesn’t show how intelligent a person is. . . . To me, tests are not as important as: Is the principal available? Are they doing things to improve? Is your child coming home . . . engaged in what he’s doing in school? Is he learning? I think that’s a big deal more than test scores."
A New Orleans mother said: “Well, I think that [tests are] important, but I think it’s become—it’s been given too much weight, too much power.”
The parents in the focus groups aren't the only ones who feel this way.
Teachers and parents across the country are boycotting standardized tests. The teaching staff at Garfield High School in Seattle ignited this movement by refusing to administer the MAP test earlier this year.
The MAP test, taken three times per year, is meant to evaluate how well the kids are learning, yet teachers say they are not aligned with the state curriculum standards. The teachers also feel the tests take way too much time away from teaching.
Lisa Guisbond of Fair Test wrote on TakePart that "some parents had been opting their children out of the tests even before the teachers’ boycott. These parents understand that the Garfield teachers have a powerful case against these tests and their uses."
Parents who participated in the Kettering Foundation and Public Agenda report were also very adamant about their disapproval of school closures. The report states, "Most parents see local public schools as important community institutions and viscerally reject the idea that closing schools—even those that are persistently low-performing—is a good way to improve accountability in education."
In recent years, school closures have become more prevalent—especially in large cities such as Detroit, Washington D.C., and Chicago.
On Wednesday, Chicago Public Schools announced the closure of 61 school buildings, 54 school programs, and the restaffing of 6 additional schools. This will be one of the largest mass school shutdowns in U.S. history. It is also expected to save the district $560 million over the next decade.
Despite the savings, this decision has created a major backlash from parents and teachers in the largely African American communities. Rallies and protests are taking place today, and will likely continue in the weeks ahead.
Mark D. Naison, professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University, recently told TakePart that this decision could be disastrous.
"The greatest impact is on the city's most wounded neighborhoods, places already traumatized by violence," he said. "The last thing the families in these neighborhoods need is further destabilization by closing community institutions that in some cases have served these neighborhoods for decades, and making children go to school in another neighborhood where they may not feel safe, while depriving them of teacher mentors they have developed relationships with."
The parents who took part in the report, much like the ones in Chicago, don't understand why education leaders don't do more to fix the schools we already have—instead of closing their doors forever.
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Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart. She has taught English in Vietnam and tutors homeless children in Los Angeles. Email Jenny | @jennyinglee | TakePart.com