Grassroots vs. The Testing Machine: A case study



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Texas is the birthplace of high-stakes testing and accountability. When Texas governor George W. Bush became president, he brought the Texas testing and accountability system to the White House, signing the No Child Left Behind Act into law in 2002. No Child Left Behind created a federal high-stakes testing and accountability system. The stated aims of No Child Left Behind were to close the achievement gap and provide a better quality education for traditionally under-served children, including economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency. Although the federal testing and accountability system through No Child Left Behind was in place for 13 years, the goals of the Act were not met. High-stakes testing leads to negative outcomes for many public school students. The pressure for schools to perform well on high-stakes tests leads to a narrowed curriculum, with an emphasis on teaching to the test. Minority students, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and English language learners face many negative consequences of high-stakes testing including increased numbers of students retained in grade and higher dropout rates. Under a high-stakes testing and accountability system, students increasingly become unmotivated and bored while growing numbers of students suffer from test anxiety. In response to the perceived harms done to their children through high-stakes testing, parents across the nation and in Texas have formed grassroots activist groups to change the system of public education away from high-stakes testing. This qualitative case study examined the perceptions, concerns, and goals of four board members of a grassroots parent group formed to fight high-stakes testing in Texas. The testing and accountability system in Texas has been heavily influenced by the business sector, specifically the testing corporation, Pearson. Despite this past and continued business influence, the findings of this study indicate that grassroots parent activist groups can effect change to the testing and accountability system in Texas. The participants in this study were parents fighting for what is best educationally for their children and the children of Texas. They used their knowledge of the legislative system to alter the testing and accountability system, serving as the voice for Texas parents. The participants continue to work to end high-stakes testing in Texas.



High-stakes testing, Grassroots, Parents, Activism, Texas, STAAR