In a field that is under ever greater pressure to submit to standardized testing and procedures, a group of teachers decided to take a stand. In the spring of 2012, students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Education refused to participate in a field test of a teacher performance assessment being run by Pearson Incorporated and Stanford University.
Guided by their professor Barbara Madeloni, these students protested the assessment, which is part of a national effort to tie standardized evaluation results to teacher licensing procedures. Shortly after a New York Times
story was published about the students’ opposition, Madeloni was delivered a letter of nonrenewal from the university. UMass Amherst students and faculty rallied to support Madeloni and called for her reinstatement. They founded an organization called Can’t Be Neutral (cantbeneutral.org
) to resist the corporatization of public education.
In a recent article published in Schools: Studies in Education, Madeloni and one of her students, Rachel Hoogstraten, discuss their protest and its consequences, for themselves as educators, for their schools, and for their community. In the article, the authors explain their reasons for challenging the Pearson assessment and provide commentary about the metrics-driven reform movement.
“Public education is under attack,” Madeloni writes, “by those who are using business models of standardization and accountability to enter the education ‘market’ and reap huge profits.”
Hoogstraten argues that these testing procedures disrupt the vital relationship between teacher and student, and that they oversimplify the act of teaching to the point of rendering the evaluation meaningless. Hoogstraten and Madeloni were not alone in their criticism. Once the tests began to impact the experience at the schools where these teachers worked, many principals, fellow teachers, and parent began to raise their concerns. Ultimately, the students were granted the choice to forgo the test.
“We cannot be naïve about the dangers of standing up to the impact of these dehumanizing technocratic forces,” Madeloni concludes, adding, “nor can we be naïve about the degree to which our compliance feeds complicity.”
Through recollection and analysis, Madeloni and Hoogstraten provide valuable perspective on the growing movement to standardize student teacher assessment. The authors spoke up to question the value and authority of the Pearson test, and after the story of their protest became national news, the outpouring of support from teachers, school administrators, and teacher educators was tremendous. A common refrain among their supporters was, “We would have boycotted as well, but we didn’t know we could.” The solidarity displayed by Madeloni’s class—and by those who rallied behind them—provide a significant counterweight to the technocratic forces that drive our education system.
Madeloni, Barbara and Rachel Hoogstraten. “The Other Side of Fear.” Schools: Studies in Education, 10:1. Spring 2013.
Schools: Studies in Education
is a refereed international education journal for pre-K–12 educators, administrators, university professors, and others who work with school-aged students. The journal provides a forum for educators to explore the more dynamic and complex experiences of school life. It publishes scholarly articles, reflective essays, and stories that convey how human relationships, thoughts, and emotions shape the meaning of educational experience in schools. The journal is published biannually by the University of Chicago Press, in association with the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago. For more information, please see our website: journals.uchicago.edu/Schools