Smarter Balanced — Oregon’s latest, more rigorous standardized test — is officially here. The Smarter Balanced testing window opened March 10 in Eugene School District 4J, and the testing period extends to early June.
To discuss the ins and outs of standardized testing in the U.S., the Community Alliance for Public Education (CAPE) invited Anya Kamenetz, NPR education blogger and author of The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed with Standardized Testing — But You Don’t Have to Be, to speak in Eugene April 1 at Tsunami Books.
Kamenetz says her interest in standardized testing began when she researched innovations in K-12 education but quickly realized that standardized testing was blocking the way.
“It’s been really hard for innovation to take root because of standardized testing,” she tells EW.
When Kamenetz looked into the history of testing in the U.S., she found its origins in the field of psychometrics, which looks at finding objective ways to measure mental capacity and learning.
“Psychometrics is a small scientific field that made a lot of foundational discoveries, but many of the people in this movement were committed eugenicists and racists,” Kamenetz says. “When you delve into the history of something like this, you realize it’s all predicated on ideology to prove that certain people were naturally better than other people.”
Around the country, parents are responding to Common Core-aligned testing by opting their children out of the tests — in Chicago, teachers unions are taking a stand, and Kamenetz says that Florida has a highly organized opt-out movement.
“Opting out can be best understood as an act of civil disobedience,” Kamenetz says. “Parents are making that decision because they want their students to be personally engaged in changing policy that they feel is detrimental.”
Kamenetz says that in her book, she reminds parents that they have options when dealing with testing, including opting out. She also offers advice on how parents can help children prepare for tests and be better students, including work in mindfulness training, a form of meditation.
Overall, she says, “I think there are lots of different ways we as a community can come together and reduce the impact of these tests.”
Kamenetz will speak 7 pm Wednesday, April 1, at Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette St. The event is free and open to the public.