Rouge Forum Propels Definitive Action Vs High-Stakes Tests

Rich Gibson November 2000

For Substance, Chicago

Members of the Rouge Forum brought two key resolutions to the National Council for the Social Studies conference in San Antonio on November 18 2000. The two resolutions, reproduced in full below, address open access and free tuition to universities, and opposition to high-stakes tests. The motions were first presented to the 100-plus members of the College and University Faculty Association (CUFA), composed of professors, the evening before the House of Delegates meeting of NCSS. 

The motion on Open Access was defeated, perhaps two-to-one, due at least in part to the opposition of famed multi-culturalists like James Banks, who spoke fervently, worrying that free tuition might cut professors' salaries. The resolution opposing High-Stakes Tests, however, passed unaminously, a surprise for even the most optimistic of Rouge Forum members. While the delegates where advised that they were voting exclusively on the section headed, "Be it resolved," it remains that the language listing the reasons for opposition to high-stakes exams is the sharpest to come out of any of the professional organizations or the two education-worker unions. In fact, the leaders of the NEA and the AFT are still taking full-page ads in the New York Times, under the headline, "Challenge Me," demanding more tests and grade retention. 

The link that is made between high-stakes tests, inequality, racism, the assault on inclusive education, and the effort to control the curricula and the people who are ordered to implement, is a key connection that is left unmade too frequently by those who oppose the tests, but do not recognize the knot that is tied by the political and economic context of the exams. 

It is one thing to take a "Not in my backyard" approach to the tests, arguing that schooling would be alright without them, and another to see the "An injury to one is an injury to all," connection that a broader outlook offers. 

The NCSS house of delegates, a group of people screened by the leadership prior to their election, voted down the High-Stakes resolution, after very brief debate during which the members were warned that if the high-stakes were abolished, social studies teachers might lose their jobs. Rouge Forum leaders promised to return with the resolution in 2001. Meanwhile, related groups that oppose high-stakes exams began to circulate the RF resolution around the US on email listservs, urging contact people to bring the proposal to union locals, PTA groups, and administrator organizations. 

The many school administrators at NCSS were receptive to the RF proposition. In fact, when one state education specialist from Michigan, who makes a living promoting the exams, tried to disrupt presentations made by Rouge Forum leaders like E. Wayne Ross (editor of the NCSS journal, Theory and Research in Social Education, members of the audience hushed what they clearly saw as the class clown and came to the Rouge Booth to donate money to the effort. 

Oppose High Stakes Standardized Tests!

Whereas high stakes standardized tests represent a powerful intrusion into America's classrooms, often taking up as much as 30% of teacher time,

And whereas the tests pretend that one standard fits all, when one standard does not fit all, 

And whereas these tests measure, for the most part, parental income and race, and are therefore instruments which build racism and anti-working class sentiment--against the interest of most teachers and their students,

And whereas these tests deepen the segregation of children within and between school systems, a move that is not in the interests of most people in the US,

And whereas the tests set up a false employer-employees relationship between teachers and students which damages honest exchanges in the classroom, 

And whereas we have seen repeatedly that the exams are unprofessionally scored, for example in New York where thousands of students were unnecessarily ordered to summer school on the grounds of incorrect test results,

And whereas the tests create an atmosphere that pits students against students and teachers against teachers and school systems against school systems in a mad scramble for financial rewards, and to avoid financial retribution,

And whereas the tests have been used to unjustly fire and discipline teachers throughout the country,

And whereas the exams represent an assault on academic freedom by forcing their way into the classroom in an attempt to regulate knowledge, what is known and how people come to know it,

And whereas the tests foment an atmosphere of greed, fear, and hysteria, none of which contributes to learning, 

And whereas the high-stakes test pretend to neutrality but are deeply partisan in content., 

And whereas the tests become commodities for opportunists whose interests are profits, not the best interests of children, 

Be it therefore resolved that the CUFA of the National Council for the Social Studies join with the National Council of Teachers of English, the International Reading Association, and the American Educational Research Association in supporting long-term authentic assessment, opposing all high-stakes standardized examinations such as but not limited to the SAT9 in California, the Michigan MEAP, the Texas TAAS, Florida's FCAT, and the New York Regents Exam.Moreover we support student and educator boycotts of the exams-- and the CUFA will act to promote this resolution to other groups



NCSS 2000

WHEREAS one of the effects of the increasingly globalized capitalist economy has been to accentuate not only the divide between rich and poor nations but also divisions between haves and have-nots within industrialized countries such as the United States; and

WHEREAS such divisions are, and have historically been, racist; and

WHEREAS dramatic tuition hikes and the termination of affirmative action have rendered access to higher education in the U.S. increasingly difficult for all students, and for working-class people of color in particular; and

WHEREAS higher education, while hardly guaranteeing its graduates satisfactory employment, is indispensable to securing whatever stable and adequately remunerative jobs there are; and

WHEREAS the United States is--at least at present--an exception among industrialized nations in its practice of requiring tuition from those admitted to institutions of higher education; and,

WHEREAS Local 2334 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), New York Chapter, recently passed a resolution, specifically relating to the City University of New York (CUNY), affirming that the AFT strongly supports the right of all high school graduates to have an equal opportunity to obtain a college education at affordable tuition (with the progressive introduction of free college education), and therefore strongly supports the restoration of open access, developmental courses, and reduced tuition at CUNY; and

WHEREAS NCSS has gone on record in support of affirmative action and in opposition to racism in general, 

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the NCSS in principle support open access and free tuition at institutions of higher education in the U.S. and use its platform to voice this support.

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