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With Test Season Approaching, Educators and Civil Rights and Education Groups Launch a Testing Bill of Rights at TestBetter.Org

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Testing Bill of Rights at TestBetter.org aims to help move toward better, fairer and fewer tests and to make testing more useful and less burdensome for students, parents and educators

WASHINGTON, DC, (March 24, 2016) — With testing season approaching in schools across the United States, educators and civil rights and education groups today launched a Testing Bill of Rights at TestBetter.org. The “Testing Bill of Rights” articulates a middle ground on assessments so that tests are used in support of instruction, not the other way around.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) in partnership with National PTA, the New York Urban League, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), Higher Achievement New York (HANY), Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), and America Achieves is launching the Testing Bill of Rights. This effort aims to help move toward better, fairer and fewer tests and to make testing more useful and less burdensome for parents, students and educators. It arrives at an opportune moment for states and school districts to revisit their approaches to testing, as many parents and students have felt real frustration with tests in recent years. At the same time, the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, preserves annual tests but also greatly reduces the stakes of state tests for schools and teachers.

"Standardized tests can be a valuable tool for improving instruction when given sparingly and used effectively," said Catherine Brown, vice president for education policy at CAP. "Parents have a right to be concerned with overtesting, but when students and parents opt out, they miss an opportunity to identify persistent learning gaps that can stand in the way of college or career readiness."

"To ensure that all students are prepared to succeed, states and school systems must strike the right balance of requiring effective assessments that help track student progress while eliminating unnecessary and ineffective tests and making sure testing does not take up any more instructional time than necessary," said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D). "We all should be able to agree that high-quality assessments play an essential role in making our continued progress and improvement possible. Thank you to CAP, National PTA, civil rights groups like the Urban League, and all of the other partners who have worked on this Testing Bill of Rights and giving state and schools across the country the chance to unite around vital goals that we all share."

"National PTA recognizes the concerns parents and educators have about the overemphasis on testing, but it is critical that students participate in assessments," said Laura Bay, president of National PTA. "Parents are a vital part of the solution to make assessments better, fairer and fewer, and we cannot walk away from this responsibility. National PTA is pleased to support the Testing Bill of Rights to make sure assessment systems are improved and that parents and families are a part of this process."

"The New York Urban League is proud to join the Center for American Progress and the other groups in their combined efforts to ensure tests are fair, equitable and held to high rigorous education standards that improve outcomes for all children," said Arva Rice, president of the New York Urban League. "This bill of rights addresses the key concerns of our biggest stakeholders in education and demonstrate the amazing ability of different organizations working in tandem for the common goal of preparing all students for college and career life. Although there is still much work to be done, the Testing Bill of Rights is a testament to our collective effort to make public education a civil right for all students."

"Principals value the information from standardized tests to inform instructional practice, but there is no question that students endure far too much testingand test prep—which is often redundant and of questionable value," said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. "The solution is not to swing from one extreme to the other by opting out of tests. As with most human endeavors, the best solution strikes a balance. We need to thoughtfully limit testing to those assessments that provide valuable and actionable information so we provide both educators and students some relief and maximize learning time."

"The only smart and realistic way forward in the debate between ending testing altogether and basing accountability almost solely on students’ test scores is to put testing in its right place," said Evan Stone, co-CEO and co-founder of E4E. "The Testing Bill of Rights shares many of the principles of teachers who advocate for tests that better serve students, including many of those outlined in a policy proposal authored by our New York members. Tenets of the bill tied to providing students and teachers with timely data; supports targeted to areas with room for improvement; and a balance of other worthwhile measures of progress reflect shared priorities of teachers who want a positive culture of testing in their schools and on behalf of their students."

"Far too often, vocal political voices steal attention away from the best interests of students, particularly by urging them to refuse to take tests. It’s wrong and it’s past time for it to stop. The Testing Bill of Rights is exactly right—emphasizing the need for better, fairer and fewer assessments that measure where students are and help educators prepare them for success, while also protecting the rights of students, teachers and parents," said Stephen Sigmund, executive director of HANY. "A Testing Bill of Rights will help schools promote tests aligned to high-quality standards that help teachers improve instruction and prepare every child, no matter where they live, for college and careers of the 21st century."

"High quality assessments offer an important window into classrooms and schoolsthis is important information to ensure that kids are being served, and parents and teachers can use this information to better support and teach their children. The Testing Bill of Rights is an important step in this direction," said Sheri Rodman, New York fellowship manager of America Achieves. "Learning experiences like real-world projects, rich debate and scientific experiments should be the test preparation our children experience, not hours spent on drill and kill. We have got to get this right for kids."

The Testing Bill of Rights outlines the need to accurately measure student learning in a way that is useful for parents and teachers and less burdensome for students. It is also centered around the idea that tests should serve as a tool to identify learning gaps and areas of improvement in order to ensure every child has an opportunity to be ready for college or the workforce. As states continue to transition to higher standards and a new generation of high-quality tests come to fruition, more needs to be done at state and local levels to address overtesting and to provide greater transparency about the purpose and benefits of each test.

Rather than opting out of such assessments altogether, the focus should be to ensure that all students and families get an accurate and honest assessment of their college and career readiness while making sure that such tests are less burdensome for students and teachers. Test results should be used to inform instruction, provide parents and communities with information about whether students are working at grade level or are struggling, and allow teachers to diagnose and help their students.

The launch of the website and the bill of rights is part of a broader campaign led by CAP to push schools, school districts and states toward better, fairer and fewer tests. Learn more about the “Testing Bill of Rights” at TestBetter.org.