Vox ætatis: Protesting standardized tests in Colorado

Alex Kacsh is a high school junior in Colorado. He’s also the director of the student-run group “Students 4 Our Schools,” which is based in his home state and fervently opposes any “one size fits all” method in education, including standardized tests in the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP).

The group’s call for changes in education includes sparking “the conversation.” They say they want to encourage schools and teachers to authentically evaluate their students, create education on a personal level, and help students pursue their passions and rediscover the joy of learning.

I thought that was worth a listen, so I invited Mr Kacsh to our blog by asking him if he could answer a few questions about the standardized test protest Students 4 Our Schools conducted in Denver on March 14. His answers are shown below, beneath each of my questions.

DENVER (March 14)—Students led a protest against standardized testing at the Capitol Building.

How have schools changed because of tests?

I began my actions because my school was considered a “turnaround school.” We got this status because we didn’t teach to the test; therefore we had poor grades when it came to our state’s standardized test.

Because of our status, I started seeing my school compromise our program and curriculum to teach to the test. I began to do research, talk to schools and students, and I realized that this was happening across the state. Due to the high stakes of our standardized test where we could lose funds, teachers, and our schools if we have a bad test score, I began my actions.

Why are standardized tests bad for schools?

Right now, our curriculum in schools is driven by our standardized tests. To keep funds, teachers, and our schools open, we have to get a good score on tests—which makes us teach to the test. With this test, we are not teaching the whole child, we are being taught to a one-size-fits-all method, and we are not gaining important skills such as critical thinking, self-direction, conflict resolution, and many, many more.

What I hope to see is more options in education. I advocate for a passion-driven curriculum where teachers are teaching to their passions and students are able to pursue theirs. I would love to see an education system where we are evaluated by portfolios, self-directed projects, and student-written evaluations.

What were your protest’s goals?

Our goal for the past protest and upcoming one is for an education system where we are evaluated by portfolios, self-directed projects, and student-written evaluations. We, the students, want an authentic education. We want to be ready for life after high school and college, and we want to be ready for the work force when we choose to join. We as students do not feel like we are gaining the skills needed, and we want the type of education system that can give us these skills next year.

What are your plans for future protests?

This protest was just a beginning. We are thrilled that we were able to reach out to several different schools and really start the discussion in Colorado and around the country.

Our next protest is planned for May 10, and we are partnering up with many different student groups across the country to make this a nationwide protest. We plan to go into more schools and on-the-ground outreach than what we did for this protest. Also, we plan to create more videos where people can get inspired to walk out of school and join us at the Capitol.

How can students find out more about this?

We plan to create a ton of videos again where there is more information for people to find out. We plan to use students4ourschools.org as a housing where people can find out about protests in Colorado and around the country. Right now, we are still in the planning stage of how we are going to do this, but we hope for our problems to be resolved by the end of April.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.