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Texas Test Refuser Says Test Prep Has Stolen Her Thirst for Knowledge

Kimberly Marciniak is not expecting to spark a revolution in testing or even a drastic change in state policy, but she is determined to boycott the standardized test this spring that every child must pass to graduate from a Texas public high school.

Fifteen-year-old Kimberly Marciniak is boycotting the standardized testing this spring with the support of her parents.

The 15-year-old freshman at the North East School of Arts at Lee High School hopes her actions will send a message to her school district: High-stakes testing has stolen her thirst for knowledge and tarnished what she treasures about school learning.

"I don't want to be a statistic and I don't want to be a human guinea pig for the district," Marciniak wrote in an e-mail to a San Antonio Express-News reporter.

Marciniak said her motives are based on principle and her strong belief that attaching high stakes to standardized testing is wrong.

"Higher standards come with a price," she said, recalling her first contact with the state's standardized tests as an eighth-grader at Eisenhower Middle School.

Marciniak said she's not a troublemaker and has no plans to disrupt others. In fact, the teen is among the best students of her class.

Her parents support her boycott of the test, which won't affect her academically this year. However, she could fail to graduate if she refuses to take the exit test in high school.

Marciniak's decision to put her pencil down reflects a growing national anti-testing trend. In Massachusetts, New York, Washington and California, students and parents have boycotted state tests in recent years.

"I believe the test is unfair to minorities and those who can't afford a good education," she said, noting students from low socioeconomic backgrounds typically do not perform as well.

The test she plans not to take, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, will make its debut this spring.

Ninth-graders will take the TAKS benchmark test, said Donna Taylor, the principal at Lee High School.

To receive a high school diploma, Marciniak must take the exit test during her junior year.

"I can't force her to take the test, but she needs to know how this will impact her academically," Taylor said. "She has a passion, and I can understand that."

Marciniak's commitment and eagerness to speak out are rare for this generation and in someone so young.

Her father, Robert Marciniak, a doctor and researcher at the division of oncology at the University of Texas Health Science Center, sat with his daughter recently and listened to her argument.

After attending private schools in Boston, she moved with her parents and young brother to San Antonio in 2001, when she enrolled in Eisenhower Middle School.

The freshman student saw how her favorite class history became a grind because of preparation for the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, or TAAS.

Marciniak wrote an essay for her pre-advanced placement English course depicting the transformation of a once-fun class into a test academy.

The essay, in which she presents her opposition to high-stakes testing, was given an award as the most persuasive work in the class.

"It was April, and going to Coach Bloomer's third-period history class had become a dreaded task," she wrote. "Since November, he had been systematically destroying my interest in what had once been my favorite subject."

Both parents admit that they don't quite understand the root of her passion, but they haven't found any strong argument to counter her views.

"She is not capricious," Cathy Marciniak said. "I understand that she is defining herself as a person. I admire her because she is willing to confront the consequences of her actions."

Some of her peers at Lee expressed surprise at her plan, even as several students interviewed agreed that their classes have focused too much on the test.

Eleventh-grader Jennifer Buchhorn noted that Marciniak's act of civil disobedience will not prevent the state from testing students.

"I think that not taking the test is going a little too far," the 16-year-old student council member said.

Marciniak, who considers herself a normal, if nerdy, teen, one who reads newspapers and watches reality shows, noted she has no intention of starting a movement.

But she hopes to provoke more discussion about the role of testing. Meanwhile, she is trying to negotiate an educational alternative with her teachers, one that will not encourage copycats to skip the test unless they are motivated by similarly strong beliefs.

"I believe as an individual that education is the most valuable asset our nation has. Education holds the promises of demolishing intolerance, preventing future injustices and winning the ongoing war against ignorance," Marciniak said.

— Mc Nelly Torres
Student rebels at standardized test
San Antionio Express News
Feb. 1, 2003


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