NC Senate bill 795: More high stakes testing

Mecklenburg ACTS
Hello Friends,

The NC House and Senate are currently considering legislation that will increase testing madness and weaken public schools. Last year, it was your timely e-mails that helped kill HB 546 and stall testing madness in CMS. E-mail legislators about Senate Bill 795 TODAY! We’ve posted easy to copy email address for legislators here.

This e-mail is long and detailed: we apologize in advance. But these are crucial decisions for the future of our schools, and it’s important to understand them. You can find the full text of the bill here. Look for the box at upper left, and click on “edition 3” (unless there is a more recent edition by the time you get there – it’s changing very rapidly).

Testing and SB 795

SB 975 is a grab-bag of “reform” proposals. Specific parts of the proposal that would increase testing and/or raise test stakes include:

• A-F grading of schools (Part III) will make the stakes higher on tests. The legislation would give each school a grade of A to F, based solely on students’ test score performance, and require that each grade be widely publicized.

• Pay for Performance (Part X) requires each district to prepare a pay for performance plan for the 2013-14 school year.  Districts are be instructed to use measures of student “growth” (read “standardized test scores”) in pay for performance calculations.

• Replacing teacher career status with short-term contracts (Part XIV) will place pressure on teachers to produce high test scores at all costs year after year.

Although the legislation includes a section supposedly dedicated to “minimizing the time students spent taking tests through State and local testing programs” (Part IV), that section misses the point entirely. As we all know, the damage done by high-stakes testing affects teaching and learning throughout the year, not simply on those days that tests are administered.

Other sections of the bill concern us, including the legislators’ decision to mandate specific remedial reading strategies, more calendar shenanigans, and a provision that would require districts to grant a year-long leave of absence and a guaranteed return to any public schoolteacher who wished to move to a charter school.

Background and ALEC Connections

Most of these proposals were inspired by legislation passed in Florida, which has been promoted around the country by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded entity with connections to prominent testing companies such as Pearson and Scantron  [admin’s note: Scantron has recently announced their resignation from ALEC, but with no apology for what they did with ALEC, nor for the people they adversely affected.  Nor are they trying to stop ALEC legislation put into play while they were active members.]. Florida’s students are among the most tested in the nation

Although Florida has seen a few general gains in test scores during the past decade, NONE of the Florida proposals being recommended for North Carolina has been directly linked to improvements in student performance (for more detail, see here). In addition, parents and school board members across Florida are currently in revolt over Florida’s heavy-handed state exams, as well as its methods for evaluating schools.

These are not measures we want enacted in our state. SB 795 has passed the Senate Education, Appropriations and Finance Committees.  It’s time to email both the Senate and House Education Committee, as well as your own Senator and Representative.

The most effective letters mention the bill number (SB 795), and relate in specific, personal terms why you oppose (or support) a bill and its provisions.

Thank you!