By May 17, 2015 Uncategorized 3 Comments

One of the more successful initiatives out of the federal government over the past few decades has been its aggressive campaign against tobacco use in America, particularly cigarette smoking in children.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of “preventable death” in the United States, killing about 443,000 people per year as of 2004.

According to the Centers for Disease Control the percentage of adult Americans who smoke has declined since 1965 from 42.4% to 18.9% in 2011, but the rate has leveled off in recent years.

The American Lung Association reports almost 3,900 children under 18 years of age try their first cigarette every day, and more than 950 of them will become new, regular daily smokers. Half of them will ultimately die from their habit.

This represents about one in five American teenagers. The good news is this statistic is down considerably from 36.4 percent of all children under 18 in 1997 when rates peaked after increasing throughout the first half of the 1990s. The bad news is that 20% of America’s youth are still making the decision to smoke.

For many years the US Surgeon General has required that cigarette makers post warnings on their products to discourage potential buyers, especially young people, and advise them of the research-based and very real negative effects of cigarette smoking.

Current law requires cigarette makers to use one of the following Surgeon General’s Warnings on their products.

  • SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy.
  • SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health.
  • SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking by Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, And Low Birth Weight.
  • SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide.

In 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This legislation requires graphic (pictorial) warning labels to cover the top 50 percent of the front and rear panels of the cigarette package. After several years of legal action on the part of the tobacco industry, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the companies’ challenge to the law in 2013. As a result, Congress directed the FDA to revise these labels to avoid future legal challenges.

Here were some of the recommended labels suggested by the FDA:

Anyone care for a smoke? I didn’t think so!

The question is why anyone knowing this information about cigarettes continues to smoke? Because it’s a habit that’s hard to quit.

In addition to conveying important health information, warning labels decrease the attractiveness and appeal of cigarettes and help to create an environment where non-smoking is the norm. Strong warning labels also counter the alluring and persuasive images the tobacco industry uses to market their products.

Based on the effectiveness of anti-tobacco labeling, I started thinking about how we might be able to transfer this strategy to high stakes testing (HST) in America.

Maybe similar warning labels could decrease the attractiveness and appeal of HST and create an environment where non-testing is the norm. Additionally, we could counter the persuasive narrative the testing industry uses to bilk billions of dollars out of strained state education budgets.

What if Pearson and the other major testing vendors were forced to clearly communicate the negative effects of high stakes testing on their test booklets and Parent/Teacher Guides

I have a few suggestions of my own, but I know that some of you will have even more creative ideas. Please feel free to share your suggestions  in the comments.

Since, the federal government and our own legislature can’t seem to get out of their own way and do what is right relative to excessive testing, we might as well have some fun with it!

  • EDUCATION GENERAL’S WARNING: Excessive Testing Causes Unhealthy Anxiety, Heart Palpitations, Feelings of Inadequacy, and May Complicate Learning.
  • EDUCATION GENERAL’S WARNING:  Twenty Years of High Stakes Standardized Testing Has Served Only to Rank, Sort, and Punish an Entire Generation of Students Living in Poverty, Disadvantaged Homes, and Dysfunctional Communities.
  • EDUCATION GENERAL’S WARNING: Quitting Excessive Testing Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Future Academic Growth.
  • EDUCATION GENERAL’S WARNING: High Stakes Testing of Young Children May Result in Hives, Puking, Loss of Sleep, Incessant Crying, and Dislike of School.
  • EDUCATION GENERAL’S WARNING: Test Based Accountability May Suck the Joy out of Learning!
  • EDUCATION GENERAL’S WARNING: Excessive Emphasis on Testing Will Compel Many Quality Educators to Leave the Teaching Profession.
  • EDUCATION GENERAL’S WARNING: Inappropriate Testing and Labeling of Students With Special Needs is Potentially Illegal, Immoral and Harmful to Child Development.
  • EDUCATION GENERAL’S WARNING: A Focus on High Stakes Testing Will Prevent Schools from Implementing Real Reforms to Develop 21st Century Skills in Students.
  • EDUCATION GENERAL’S WARNING: Excessive Testing Will Create a Generation of Young Adults Adept at Memorizing Meaningless Information, Yet Lacking Skills in Problem-Solving, Creative Thinking, and Teamwork.
  • EDUCATION GENERAL’S WARNING:  Government Entities and Corporate Raiders are Using High Stakes Testing to Support a False Narrative That Public Schools are Failing. Some Will Use These Results to Close Public Schools to Implement Private Charters and Vouchers With a Goal to Resegregate America.
  • EDUCATION GENERAL’S WARNING: High Stakes Testing Will Funnel Billions of Dollars to Testing Vendors, But Do Very Little to Improve Public Education in America.

Or maybe we should just keep it simple:

“High Stakes Testing Has Been Proven to be Harmful to Children, Teachers, and Schools. The Costs Greatly Outweigh Any Perceived Benefits”

The question is why does anyone knowing this information about High Stakes Testing continues to force testing upon students and schools? Because it’s a habit that’s hard to quit.

Oh, and it makes LOTS of money!

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