April 19, 2007 VERSION 5

Proposed Bill of Rights for Test Takers  
by Harold Berlak  hberlak@yahoo.com


Protecting Families Students and Communities

The purpose of a Bill of Rights for test takers is to protect students, families, and local communities from violations of due process and civil rights, and abusive testing and assessment practices.

Problem I:

Students are being denied promotion, access to programs and schools, and being barred from receiving high school diplomas or graduation certificates based solely or primarily on standardized test scores.  These students are disproportionately poor, of color and from immigrant families whose home language is not English. There are also large numbers of students, including the very talented, and students with disabilities who do not perform well on conventional standardized tests. 


1. Prohibit the use of standardized tests as the sole or primary basis for determining promotion, student access to advanced programs or schools, and the awarding of certificates or diplomas. Non-standardized, qualitative modes of assessment should be available to students or particular groups of students who are better served by alternatives to standardized testing.

2.  Require an Educational Impact Report prior to imposition of a system of high stakes assessment or particular methods of assessment by a governing authority. This report would seek to determine immediate and longer term effects on students, schools, and local communities (disaggregated by race, gender, and family wealth), and to assess the human and material resources required to fulfill the assessment requirements. Assessment goals or standards may not be instituted or changed if the resources required for meeting these standards are not provided. 

3.  Grant parents the right to exempt their children from tests and assessments that they deem harmful or inappropriate.  Governments should be prohibited from imposing punitive consequences on students or schools regardless of the percentage of students who may have exercised the right to be exempted from taking a particular test or set of tests.

Problem II

Among the more destructive provisions of NCLB, state, and local testing regulations is that schools that fail to meet certain numerical targets linked to standardized tests face being ‘restructured’ or dismantled. Numerous exemplary schools have been closed or are under a continuing threat of closure.


Prohibit the disestablishment or restructuring of a school or program within a school based solely or primarily on rankings of students on standardized tests

Problem:  III

The pressures on schools to raise standardized test scores particularly those that serve poor children and children of color narrows the curriculum, marginalizing crucial areas of children’s and adolescents’ development and growth. Among the casualties are music, the arts, bilingual education, community internships, civic education, and fitness and health education.


Federal and state governments have the authority to set general guidelines and standards.  However, governments should be forbidden from mandating local school curriculum priorities or specifying curriculum content and pedagogical methods. 

Problem IV

The federal government has used  NCLB Reading First provisions as the basis for dictating to states, school districts, and teachers how reading should be taught.  The US Department of Education currently approves funding only for materials and programs that meet the federal government’s view of science, and its interpretation of  ‘scientifically based’.  The approval process has become thoroughly corrupted. The head of the Reading First program was forced to resign after the Inspector General found gross violations of the USOE’s  own guidelines  favoring highly structured reading programs and materials produced  by corporations, some headed by executives who are among the major contributors to the President’s political campaigns.


The determination of what constitutes appropriate practice should reside solely with teachers, local educational authorities, and communities.  A legal requirement for efficacious or ‘scientifically based’ materials and approaches may not be construed as granting governments the authority to declare what is considered efficacious or scientifically true with respect to personnel policies, curriculum, pedagogy, or assessment.

Problem V

Parents and students are rarely informed by schools of their rights with respect to testing and assessment.  Information about test content, technical specifications and methods of analyzing and reporting test results are often kept secret and withheld from students, parents and the public.


Require teachers and school officials to fully inform students and families of their testing and assessment rights. These rights include the right to know the correct answers; technical specifications and limitations of assessments; standard error of measurement; on whom and how the test was normed or scaled; how cut scores or proficiency levels were established;  and what content, skills, or competencies are purportedly being measured and evaluated by the test.

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