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100 Children’s Book Authors Ask White House to Ease Standardized Testing Mandates

More than 100 children’s book authors and illustrators have sent a letter to the White House to ask President Obama to ease the country’s mandates for "excessive" standardized testing in our nation’s schools. Such an emphasis has a negative impact on kids’ love of reading and literature, they say. The letter is being promoted by advocacy group FairTest (The National Center for Fair & Open Testing).

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"We...write to express our concern for our readers, their parents and teachers," say the authors and illustrators in their letter to Obama, a copy of which is also addressed to the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers based on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration."

The 121 authors and illustrators - who include Maya Angelou, Judy Blume, Donald and Nina Crews, Jules Feiffer, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Phillip Hoose, Marissa Moss, Patricia Thomas, Judy Viorst, Rosemary Wells, Jane Yolen, and Paul O. Zelinsky - also write in their letter:

"We call on you to support authentic performance assessments, not simply computerized versions of multiple-choice exams. We also urge you to reverse the narrowing of curriculum that has resulted from a fixation on high-stakes testing.

Our public school students spend far too much time preparing for reading tests and too little time curling up with books that fire their imaginations. As Michael Morpurgo, author of the Tony Award Winner War Horse, put it, "It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children."

Teachers, parents and students agree with British author Philip Pullman who said, "We are creating a generation that hates reading and feels nothing but hostility for literature." Students spend time on test practice instead of perusing books. Too many schools devote their library budgets to test-prep materials, depriving students of access to real literature. Without this access, children also lack exposure to our country’s rich cultural range.

The authors and illustrators say in their letter that they would all support "a national campaign to change the way we assess learning so that schools nurture creativity, exploration, and a love of literature from the first day of school through high school graduation."

A formatted copy of the letter, with all the authors and illustrators names, is available online [PDF].