DENVER - Alex Kacsh is learning that it's not easy to stage a rally at the State Capitol. But, the Jefferson County Open School student wants kids to take a stand against standardized tests.
"Standardized testing is confining students to a certain curriculum and to a certain knowledge," Kacsh said. "It just damages the students. It damages the teachers and it damages the curriculum."
The 17-year-old started a movement called Students4OurSchools. He was hoping that hundreds of other students from around the state would join his cause on the west steps of the Capitol to speak out against the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program tests or TCAPs. But, only about 20 students turned up.
"Obviously, we were hoping for more," Kacsh said. "I'm still learning. We are still learning how to do this, how to get our voices heard and have a civil, peaceful protest."
Though the crowd was small, the message was not.
"We believe that TCAP right now is not the way of teaching us," Kacsh said . "Today, we stand because we want to be part of the discussion on how our education is run and what we are taught."
Kacsh believes the TCAP test pigeon-hole kids because of its focus on the core subjects like English and Math. He says art students or musicians are not represented by the tests.
"I would love if students were able to have a portfolio-based system where we are able to track our growth from the beginning to the end," Kacsh said.
He took the protest on a march to the Colorado Department of Education where Joyce Zurkowski works. She is the Executive Director of Assessment and says the TCAP tests are part of following federal law.
"With our limited resources and it terms of needing to prioritize, those content areas of reading, writing, math, and science, those are the highest priorities," said Zurkowski.
Though, opponents claim that the state spends $50 million on TCAP testing. Zurkowski says the actual cost is closer to $15 million, which she points out is minor compared to the entire state education budget.
"So, we are using less than one-third of one percent to assess our students and give us feedback on well we are using the other 99 percent," said Zurkowski.
Starting next spring, the state of Colorado will used a different method to test kids. Zurkowski hopes the new system will more acceptable to all students and families.
"The new system is going to address some of those concerns," said Zurkowski. "We know folks want to back results more quickly."
Kacsh wants all testing to go away. He says even though today's rally was relatively small, it is just the beginning of a long fight.
"That's the main thing is we want to get the word out and be part of the conversation," said Kacsh.
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