HIGH-STAKES TESTING: National Board Certified Teachers in Ohio Give State Education Policy, Classroom Climate, and High-Stakes Testing a Grade of F

Article excerpt

Mr. Rapp shudders to consider who will be running our schools and what values will be emphasized a decade from now if the perspectives of teachers and parents continue to be excluded from the debate.

IN AN ARTICLE that appeared in the June 1997 Kappan, titled "The Future of the Public Schools: A Public Discussion," Lowell Rose and I argued that citizens, once engaged, demonstrate keen interest and a willingness to discuss issues related to public schools. If anything, this conviction has been reinforced by my listening to teachers, parents, and students from around Ohio for the last three years. Moreover, I agree with Penny Arnold, who chairs the Ohio Coalition of Board Certified Teachers, that "citizens will eventually rise up and object to" systemic educational interventions (e.g., high-stakes testing) once they encounter teachers' perspectives on state policy, classroom climate, and testing. If the opinions of teachers and parents were thoroughly honored through the democratic processes of national, state, and local governing bodies, then many of the current "reforms" in education would not be occurring at all.

My study focused on the views of teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards with regard to education policy, testing, and classroom climate in Ohio. I chose board-certified teachers for three reasons. First, despite the fact that board- certified teachers are growing in number, status, and influence around the country, there is no research that specifically targets their views on education policy. Second, I wanted to gauge the opinions of a group of educators whom politicians have often referred to as exemplary professionals. Finally, I chose board-certified teachers because I thought that -- whether true or not -- their opinions would carry more weight with the general public. The context for my study and the conditions that the Ohio teachers describe are similar to those in other states.1

I surveyed 669 board-certified teachers in Ohio (the total number at the time of the survey). A single mailing yielded 191 usable surveys for a response rate of 29%. I used a standard survey form with a four- point Likert scale; it was based on the 1999 survey of North Carolina teachers' attitudes carried out by Gail Jones and her colleagues.2 The survey covered three broad issues: formulation of education policy, classroom climate, and the effects and value of standardized state proficiency testing. A descriptive analysis was used to identify frequencies and correlations, and I present the results below under these three headings.

Education Policy

The board-certified teachers in Ohio were asked who "should" have and who "does" have a major influence in the development of education policy in Ohio. The results show that every board-certified teacher (100%) believed that teachers should have a major voice in the development of education policy, but only 20% believed that teachers currently do have a major voice. A large majority of respondents (80%) indicated that parents should have a major voice, but only 21% said that parents do play such a role. Moreover, 99% of board-certified teachers said that state legislators do have the greatest voice in the development of education policy, while just 21% believed that they should.

The teachers surveyed also voiced their concerns about who controlled curricular decisions, about whether teachers' opinions were respected, about the health of Ohio education policy, and about professional motivation. Overwhelming numbers (83% or more) reported that the Ohio Department of Education had the greatest influence on curriculum (95%), that education policy in Ohio was headed in the wrong direction (85%), and that the newest reform efforts would not motivate teachers to do a better job (84%). Moreover, a large majority (66%) of teachers believed that their opinions were not respected by those in the state department. …