Ohio LWV votes to reject high-stakes testing

Patience and perseverance have their rewards.

On May 12, at the annual policymaking meeting of the League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWV Ohio), delegates from across the state unanimously approved a resolution declaring test-based accountability to be a misuse of standardized tests. Advocating for the end of using tests as a means of holding schools accountable is now part of the organization’s action agenda.

LWV Ohio, a nearly 100-year-old defender of democracy and advocate of sound public policy, has more than 30 chapters and 3,000 members.

Its legitimacy comes in part from its commitment to serious research on its positions and a requirement that its members participate in deciding what matters and what positions to take. It does not jump into issues without serious consideration, and it adheres to democratic methods and principles. The league’s process is a model for our lawmakers. There is nothing half-baked about its positions.

The motion to approve the high-stakes testing resolution was the outcome of nine months of work that started in Cleveland Heights. I was part of a small committee of league members who decided to tackle the issue and pursue the process that is required to gain the organization’s support.

The league does not lobby or advocate for legislation until an idea has been researched, vetted by every local chapter, recommended by its board of directors and then adopted by a vote taken at LWV Ohio’s state convention.

By raising the issue, the league, at a minimum, educates its members and gauges support from engaged citizens. Having the credibility of the League of Women Voters behind our challenge to a destructive public policy made the nine months of research, writing and meetings worth the effort.

Maryann Barnes, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights LWV unit chair, is an expert at navigating league process. With her help, we built a committee, gained support from the Greater Cleveland league to pursue the issue, and made sure we followed the league’s process for adopting new positions. Barnes also applied her meticulous editing skills to shape our support materials.

Cleveland Heights members Robin Koslen and Adele Cohen, and Westlake member Karen Dodson, completed the team that surveyed positions of league chapters in other states, hammered out our rationale and then attended the policy-planning meetings that are held each year to consider what issues to address.

Enough local chapters supported the proposal to make it onto the agenda for the state convention. \

Our committee held two caucuses at the convention to share our ideas and clarify the position with delegates who voted at the final plenary session. The conversations were energetic and heartfelt. It was a thrill to discover that members of LWV Ohio reject high-stakes testing. They understand that it damages students and the quality of education in classrooms, and undermines public education.

This process made it evident to me that the public is way ahead of our state policymakers in understanding that testing students does not improve public schools.

In March, the CH-UH Board of Education passed a resolution challenging test-based accountability, and I hope that other communities will follow suit.

LWV Ohio is one more voice in the conversation. Our next challenge is to make sure league involvement encourages others to add their voices.

Susie Kaeser

Susie Kaeser is a 40-year resident of Cleveland Heights, the former director of Reaching Heights and an active member of the Heights Coalition for Public Education and the League of Women Voters.

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Volume 12, Issue 6, Posted 8:49 AM, 06.03.2019