by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
At their annual Representative Assembly meeting yesterday, the National Education Association (NEA) voted to support the movement to opt out of standardized tests.
That should be reason enough for conservatives to keep their distance from the opt out movement.
Many lefties believe the opt out movement is the first step toward eliminating the use of standardized testing for teacher evaluation and school designation. Their goal is to undermine accountability or at least water it down for the benefit of dues-paying teachers, administrators, and support personnel.
Some conservatives believe that the opt out movement empowers parents by giving them the right to withhold their children from state-mandated test administration.
If parental empowerment is the goal, then conservatives should continue to fight for the expansion of school choice. School choice allows parents, not standardized tests, to be the primary source of accountability. After all, nothing drives school improvement more than the threat of losing students (and dollars) to higher performing competitors.
I sympathize with those who question the quality of state-mandated testing programs. North Carolinians have had plenty of reasons to doubt the accuracy of test scores generated from decades of state-designed assessments. That is why I support allowing charter schools and districts to administer a nationally normed testing program at taxpayers’ expense. The Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the California Achievement Test, and others should satisfy the competing demands of quality and accountability.