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Foes of standardized tests plan to hold 'Zombie rally'

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The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board will delve into the budget Tuesday, but first they’ll have to get past the zombies.

Mecklenburg ACTS, a citizens’ group that objects to using standardized testing to rate teachers and schools, will hold a “No Testing Zombies” rally at the start of Tuesday’s meeting. Their slogan: “How is a standardized test like a zombie? They’re mindless, and they just keep coming.”

The march of the undead was cooked up as a fun way to get adults and kids engaged in a serious issue. North Carolina will roll out dozens of new exams this spring, with student results used to rate teacher effectiveness. The testing and rating program is part of a plan that helped the state win a $400 million federal Race to the Top grant.

Laurie Smithwick, who has twins at Chantilly Montessori School, said she became alarmed when she saw a presentation about the tests at school. She worries that the new tests will demoralize teachers and squeeze out the kind of open-ended exploration that characterizes the Montessori approach.

“Too much testing destroys creative thinking,” Smithwick said.

Smithwick talked with Pamela Grundy, a leader of Mecklenburg ACTS, about ways to engage parents like her who aren’t dedicated political activists.

They came up with zombies, a trendy topic that lends itself to an extended metaphor for standardized tests.

“First they suck time and money from teaching and learning,” says the NoTestingZombies.com website. “Eventually they will eat students brains. But only if we let them.”

Smithwick, a graphic designer, created a zombie logo using the school-crossing sign, which is circulating on Facebook and other social media.

On Saturday, organizers in zombie attire went to Atherton Mill and Market to collect petition signatures and build support for Tuesday’s event.

The “zombies” see the school board as potential allies. Superintendent Heath Morrison has publicly criticized the N.C. testing program as excessive, and ACTS leader Carol Sawyer said the group hopes the board will pass a resolution urging state policymakers to back off.

The group has about 600 signatures on its online petition calling on the state to slow the introduction of new tests and avoid basing teacher and school ratings on those exams “until a stable set of tests has been in place for multiple years.”

Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter: @anndosshelms
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