NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Americans Support Testing, But Opposition Small And Vocal

August 22, 2000

With education as a top priority, many state legislatures, governors and school boards have adopted standardized testing to measure of academic achievement -- with accountability penalties including holding students back a grade or denying diplomas. More than half the states now require tests for student promotion or graduation. And Virginia ties its funding for individual schools and teacher salaries to performance on the tests.

Although polls indicate that 72 percent of Americans -- and 79 percent of parents -- support tougher academic standards and oppose social promotions, a small but vocal minority oppose such measures.

  • In Massachusetts 300 students (with parental support) boycotted the required graduation test, demanding they still be allowed to graduate if their grades were good enough.
  • Ohio parents and teachers are circulating a petition for a ballot initiative to repeal the state's testing laws that would require fourth-graders who fail the test to be held back.
  • Three former members of the New York Board of Regents who voted to require all students to pass Regents exams in a variety of subjects for graduation now argue the policy should be revised, saying they "never expected that all students would be held to a single standard."

However, the opposition movement is small, even being described as mere "crickets." Further, its attempts at legal action have been unsuccessful. The two most prominent lawsuits -- one in Texas challenging the test as racially biased and one in Louisiana arguing that students hadn't had the chance to learn the material -- both failed.

Source: Peter Schrag, "High Stakes Are For Tomatoes," Atlantic Monthly, August 2000.


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