Animal Testing Is Bad Science: Point/Counterpoint
After all, Kristen is prone to nervousness, pushing her tortoiseshell glasses onto her forehead and rubbing her temples. But now a group of prominent state school superintendents and education experts is arguing that Texas has mistakenly identified Kristen and thousands of other students as falling short, when in fact their performance on the state test is well within grade-level reading standards.
The test, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or Staar, can have profound consequences not just for students but for schools across the state, hundreds of which have been deemed inadequate and are subject to interventions that critics say are undue.
Many Texas students who were told they had not reached grade-level reading expectations on the Staar test also received separate scores that are at grade level. In addition, experts have raised concerns about the quality of questions on the exams, and whether they are appropriate for children in the tested grades. Facing growing pressure from educators, the State Legislature has scheduled a hearing this week to consider the future of the test.
But the Texas Education Agency continues to stand by Staar, saying the system is fair and supported by research. The battle over reading in Texas is the latest in a national war over the future of education reform. From teacher picket lines to the halls of state capitols, public school educators and their political allies are pushing back against decades of laws they say have been punitive to traditional schools.
On the other side of the debate are school reformers who contend that tough accountability systems like Staar are a civil rights imperative, and that they protect low-income students and students of color from what President George W. The Staar tests found that 58 percent of Texas third graders are not reading at grade level.
On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, given to a sample of fourth graders across the country, 72 percent of Texas students were not proficient in reading — a fact the state has cited as evidence that tough local standards are warranted. About a fifth are still learning English. Texas is, in many ways, the birthplace of the American education reform movement.
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It was among the first to use student test scores to rate schools. But the state has also been accused, repeatedly, of lowering standards to inflate performance , and has made a concerted effort in recent years to raise them. Now it is being accused of overcorrecting. But Mr. Cottrill defended the Staar exams, and warned against a false sense of complacency.
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Kristen took the Staar last spring, when she was in third grade. When Ms. Hernandez turned the page on the score report, they saw a second reading score, called a Lexile measure. Teachers and administrators across the country regularly use Lexile measures, developed by a company called MetaMetrics, to help them match students to reading materials. In order to stay on track for college and the job market, third graders should be reading and understanding texts at a measure between L and L , according to national goals developed in as part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
Greg Abbott, denounced the Common Core initiative as an attempt to diminish state and local control of education. Epidemiological and clinical studies have determined that most cancers are caused by smoking and by eating high-fat foods, foods high in animal protein, and foods containing artificial colors and other harmful additives. We can beat cancer by taking these human-derived, human-relevant data into account and implementing creative methods to encourage healthier lifestyle choices.
While funding for animal experimentation and the number of animals used in experiments continues to increase, the U. A review paper co-authored by a Yale School of Medicine professor in the prestigious medical journal The BMJ documented the overwhelming failure of experiments on animals to improve human health. While incidences of heart disease and strokes have recently shown slight declines—because of a change in lifestyle factors, such as diet and smoking, rather than any medical advances—cancer rates continue to rise, and alcohol- and drug-treatment centers, prenatal care programs, community mental health clinics, and trauma units continue to close because they lack sufficient funds.
More human lives could be saved and more suffering prevented by educating people about the importance of avoiding fat and cholesterol, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol and other drug consumption, exercising regularly, and cleaning up the environment than by all the animal tests in the world. No experiment, no matter how painful or trivial, is prohibited—and painkillers are not even required. Even when alternatives to the use of animals are available, U. Because the AWA specifically excludes rats, mice, birds, and cold-blooded animals, more than 95 percent of the animals used in laboratories are not even covered by the minimal protection provided by federal laws.
Between and , nearly half a million animals—excluding mice, rats, birds, and cold-blooded animals—were subjected to painful experiments and not provided with pain relief.
A survey by researchers at Newcastle University found that mice and rats who underwent painful, invasive procedures, such as skull surgeries, burn experiments, and spinal surgeries, were provided with post-procedural pain relief only about 20 percent of the time. In addition to the actual pain of experiments, a comprehensive view of the situation for animals in laboratories should take into account the totality of the suffering imposed on them, including the stress of capture, transportation, and handling; the extreme confinement and unnatural living conditions; the deprivation that constitutes standard husbandry procedures; and the physical and psychological stress experienced by animals used for breeding, who endure repeated pregnancies, only to have their young torn away from them, sometimes immediately after birth.
Animals in laboratories endure lives of deprivation, isolation, stress, trauma, and depression even before they are enrolled in any sort of protocol. This fact is especially apparent when one considers the specialized needs of each species.
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In nature, many primates, including rhesus macaques and baboons, stay for many years or their entire lives with their families and troops. They spend hours together every day, grooming each other, foraging, playing, and making nests to sleep in each night.
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But in laboratories, primates are often caged alone. Laboratories often do not allow social interactions, provide family groups or companions, or offer grooming possibilities, nests, or surfaces softer than metal. Indeed, in many laboratories, animals are handled roughly—even for routine monitoring procedures that fall outside the realm of an experimental protocol—and this only heightens their fear and stress.
Video footage from inside laboratories shows that many animals cower in fear every time someone walks by their cage.
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The most significant trend in modern research is the recognition that animals rarely serve as good models for the human body. Human clinical and epidemiological studies, human tissue- and cell-based research methods, cadavers, sophisticated high-fidelity human-patient simulators, and computational models have the potential to be more reliable, more precise, less expensive, and more humane alternatives to experiments on animals.
Advanced microchips that use real human cells and tissues to construct fully functioning postage stamp—size organs allow researchers to study diseases and also develop and test new drugs to treat them. We can now test skin irritation using reconstructed human tissues e. Medical students are trained with a combination of sophisticated human-patient simulators, interactive computer programs, safe human-based teaching methods, and clinical experience. Today, one can even become a board-certified surgeon without harming any animals.
Some medical professional organizations, like the American Board of Anesthesiologists, even require physicians to complete simulation training—not animal laboratories—to become board-certified. Of course not! Ethics dictate that the value of each life in and of itself cannot be superseded by its potential value to anyone else. Additionally, money wasted on experiments on animals is money that could instead be helping people, through the use of modern, human-relevant non-animal tests. The argument also ignores the reasoning ability of many animals, including pigs who demonstrate measurably sophisticated approaches to solving problems and primates who not only use tools but also teach their offspring how to use them.
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