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Texas Teen Says, "Let's End the Testing Craze Here and in Washington D. C."

The girl who will challenge the state of Texas' new standardized test loves history, quotes Elie Wiesel and John Adams and is about to read "Les Miserables."

She also loves Winnie the Pooh, "American Idol" and wearing pink socks imprinted with pictures of pink beavers.

Kimberly Marciniak doesn't want to overstate what she's doing.

"I'm not a martyr," she says, the headphones of her portable CD player around her neck.

But she's principled. That's why the 15-year-old next month will refuse to take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) when it's given to her freshman class at the North East School of the Arts on the campus of Robert E. Lee High School.

The TAKS replaces the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills as the standardized test that Texas high school students must pass to graduate. As with its predecessor, it's controversial because of what many consider an overemphasis on standardized tests and the national debate over whether such tests are a fair and accurate measure of students' knowledge and potential.

Those are among the reasons that Marciniak, who moved with her family to San Antonio from Boston in July 2001, is philosophically opposed to taking the test.

"It holds certain biases toward minorities and not rich white puppies like myself," she says.

Her father, Robert, is a doctor and medical researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center, and her mother, Cathy, home-schools Kimberly's younger brother.

Across the nation there are other students refusing to take similar required state tests. But Kimberly's decision to boycott the test took root last year in middle school when she dreaded going to the history class she loved because of the teaching for what was then the TAAS test.

Last month, she delivered a well-researched and precisely written speech in her English class that argued against students taking the TAKS. Her classmates gave her a standing ovation.

If her parents don't totally agree with her boycott, they respect it.

"I don't need to understand the depth of her feeling on this subject," her father says. "But I can find no reasons to refute her feelings on this subject."

Her mother also supports her decision.

"It's principled, not capricious," her mother says. "I admire her. She's willing to pay the consequences."

The consequences are uncertain and do worry Kimberly.

"My two biggest fears are being expelled from NESA and being sent to an alternative school," she admits.

Donna Taylor, principal of Lee High School, says that Kimberly's boycotting of the test this year and next year isn't that serious, but boycotting it her junior year could keep her from graduating.

"It's a state-mandated test," Taylor says. "She has to think about it."

Taylor respects Kimberly's principles.

"I respect a strong woman," she says. "She's a high flyer."

Kimberly will go through with her act of civil disobedience.

"I'm just an average kid. My room is messy 99 percent of the time; sometimes I throw teenage tantrums at my mom," she says. "But I have to go through with it. These are my beliefs. I have to take a stand and say enough is enough. Let's end the testing craze here and in Washington, D.C."

— Cary Clack
North East student plans to boycott state's standardized test
San Antionio Express News
Feb. 1, 2003


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