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Re: Achilles Heel letter finished

Hi George:
Here's the letter..Hope this is what you want. It has been a long day of
taking Mom to the doctor and then back to the nursing home. So I am not my
sharpest right now.
A Jan. 22 Washington Post story “Parents Campaign to Take Back Kids’
Summers: High-stakes Tests Has Cost Some August,”
reveals what is clearly the Achilles heel of the billion-dollar high-stakes
testing industry: testing-related school calendar change.
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/21/AR2006012101005.html) .)
The story is about a parent backlash in Florida to earlier and earlier
school start dates and legislation pushed by those parents (Save Our Summers
gathered 8,000 online Florida signatures) for a start date closer to Labor Day.
Similar actions against school calendar tinkering can be found in thousands
of communities across the nation. The week before the Washington Post story,
parent opposition in Williamson County, a suburb of Nashville, forced the
school board to back off a proposal for a year-round school calendar, which
would have opened school doors in mid-summer. Parents there dug deep into their
pocket to oppose the calendar change, even renting a kiosk in a major shopping
mall where they spent the weekend distributing information to as many people
as they could about the detriments of school calendar change for education
quality, family life, taxpayers, businesses and the school budget.
As the Washington Post story notes, “Legislators in Florida, Georgia,
Tennessee, Alabama and Pennsylvania are weighing bills this year that would peg
school start dates to Labor Day. North Carolina, Texas, Minnesota and Wisconsin
passed similar measures in recent years.”
School officials across the nation are finally being forced to admit, as
they have in Florida, that the impetus for the school calendar creep is
high-stakes testing required by the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind school
accountability law.
Ironically, the proposed Florida law pegging the school start date to Labor
Day, was drafted by a Democrat and has the support of Republican Gov. Jeb
Bush, brother of President George W. Bush who crafted NCLB. The Republican
governor’s support for the measure is not surprising when you realize a later
start date cuts even more instructional days before the test date, which could
adversely impact test scores and thus reaffirm the Republican portrait of
public schools and its teachers as failures that need to be replaced by a system
of private schools and school vouchers.
As the Washington Post story notes, school officials have been placed in the
untenable position by the testing industry of having to move up achievement
testing from late spring to early winter--usually February or March—in order
to be assured of getting back scores before the next fiscal year, when
financial rewards and punishments are handed out based on test scores.
Parents may not understand all the political subtleties of the school
accountability movement and high stakes testing. Nor understand the pressure
high-stakes testing places on school administrators and teachers, whose very
jobs, careers and livelihoods hinge on the outcome of a mere 5 to 51/2 months of
instruction these tests measure. Parents also may not understand the money
motives of the Business Roundtable in their support of high-stakes tests and
related school calendar tinkering.
But parents clearly understand the disruptions to summertime family life and
family values caused by calendar creep, some schools having incrementally
moved school start dates to mid July.
The line drawn in the sand by parents in Florida and elsewhere may very well
signal the beginning of the end of high-stakes testing.
It is just a matter of time before the parents realize who the real enemies
of summer are and the arrows will really start flying at the testing industry
and the network of politicians they fund.
Billee Bussard, a semi-retired Jacksonville, Florida journalist, is editor
of _www.SummerMatters.com_ (http://www.SummerMatters.com) , where she posts
information on school calendar issues she has been researching since 1992.