Race to the Top: Squeezing the Life Out of Children

Race to the Top CriticismSqueezing the Life Out of Children- The Deadly Impact of Testing Protocols Derived from No Child Left Behind and Race the Top

When I first started work on this “Educators’ Letter to President Obama” early in January, my first thought was all the teachers being demoralized by a campaign of demonization, orchestrated from Washington, that aimed to hold them accountable to student performance on standardized tests. I feared that the best teachers would be driven out of our schools, and that teaching would become a stress-filled, temporary job in a public school system viewed as a source of profit by the nation’s most powerful corporations.

None of those initial fears have receded, but they have been increasingly supplemented by another concern — that the strategies developed to rate teachers, which involve the proliferation of high stakes tests beginning in the lowest grades — are squeezing the life out of students and making them hate school

This is not a concern I have made up based on second-hand information. It reflects conversations, some solicited, some overheard, with and among parents of elementary school students who cannot believe how the learning expectations on their children have been ratcheted up at the expense of play and class projects.

“My son is seven years old. How can they expect him to sit at his desk for six hours a day writing things down.” one mother at my granddaughter’s track practice said yesterday.” “Just wait,” another mother said. “in third grade, they will have six days in a row of tests for 90 minutes a day. My son is a nervous wreck.”

A few people I know have responded to this atmosphere by home schooling their children, but as these friends pointed out to me, this is not a realistic option for most working class parents.

mark naisonAre these people and their children doomed to ten years of torture introduced in the name of “restoring national competitiveness,” “preparing young people for the job market” and “weeding out bad teachers?”

They are unless you do something about it. Signing and circulating this petition is one way of sending a message that excessive testing is demoralizing our children as well as undermining the teaching profession and that Washington needs to start listening to teachers, parents, and students themselves.

Mark Naison
With a Brooklyn Accent 


  1. JoeWeinstein says

    It’s all just the latest chapter in the great continuing saga based on a 19th and 20th century notion that education is not custom development of the individual but rather ‘schooling’, i.e. regimentation – enlightened or otherwise – in groups of 20 or 30 or whatever. 

    I agree that it was more tolerable and even enjoyable and enlightening when I was a kid in California schools, with a variety of things, from reading and writing and arithmetic and algebra and geography to drawing and music and pottery-making and drama.  But face it, kids – especially the very youngest and then again the adolescents – were not born to sit in school doing other people’s things for six hours a day (let alone one single thing like a test), even a nicely worked out balanced program of activities.  . 

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