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Badger-State Parent Power

Badger-State          Parent Power

The testing law applies to all students attending public and charter schools in Wisconsin. Children attending private schools, even private schools in Milwaukee receiving publicly funded vouchers, are exempt. There is only one way school districts will be able to get around the law: by developing their own comparable tests. The Milwaukee Public Schools have done so in math and writing for high school, for example, with a more comprehensive proficiency package in the works. But few other districts have the resources to do so.

Connie Gavin, a member of the Whitefish Bay group Advocates for Education, said their group, has made organizing against the high-stakes test their top priority. The group formed study groups on the issue, collected information, talked to school administrators, contacted lawmakers, attended legislative hearings, and wrote articles.

Meredith Scrivner, another member of the group, said the issue "boils down to local control." Accountability "should stay as close to the child as possible -- the parent, the teacher, the principal, the school board." Scrivner also fears that districts will narrow their curriculum and begin "teaching to the test."

To date, there has not been extensive organizing in Milwaukee around the tests, in part because of a plethora of other issues facing the district and in part because the state's most powerful legislators, in particular Republicans from suburban districts, have tended to ignore the concerns of Milwaukee parents.

Tammy Johnson, head of the Wisconsin Action Coalition Education Task Group, notes that it is imperative that Milwaukee parents be included in the dialogue and decision-making about standardized testing and other education issues. "It's not reality to talk about education [reform] in a vacuum in the suburbs," said Johnson. "But people don't do things unless it addresses a self-interest."

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