Eighth grade students from the Chattanooga School for Arts and Sciences visited the U.S. Department of Education recently, conducting a seminar with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Principal Jim Boles accompanied the students on the trip, calling it a valuable experience for students and teachers alike. 

The students also toured nearby Williamsburg and Jamestown. Boles said, "We were very excited about the opportunity to show off our school, our students, but most importantly to give students a voice at the highest level." The students wrote essays about their experiences.  Here are some excerpts.   

Kayla Moore:  "My experience speaking in front of the highest educator in the land, Arne Duncan, was very exciting.  I was excited to talk about his letter to parents and administrators about standardized testing.  During this seminar, we discussed the “pros” and “cons” of testing and how it affects not only students, but teachers as well.  This allowed us to speak up on behalf of the student side of this situation.  I personally disagree with standardized testing because it doesn't really show our ability all together and they judge studies based on that grade.  I felt as if we all, as a student body, were finally speaking out.  This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and took advantage of this situation it was quite important.  This opportunity is important because we were the first students from CSAS to do this and because we did it, we are also making a mark on education."

Natalie Ervin: "My experience seminaring at the Department of Education in front of Arne Duncan and his staff, felt like  the student were finally heard.  Personally, I hate test because it doesn't show the true ability of students.  Also, when we are taking TCAP, EOC'S, ACT, etc.  I don't think that there is enough time because when there is five minutes left, students start rushing and getting the wrong answers even though they might know the correct answer.

The importance of having a seminar in front of the secretary, Arne Duncan, and his staff was so that students can be heard and have the chance to not be judged about what they think about testing.  Having the opportunity to go have a seminar in front of some of the most important people that control education was amazing, even though that I thought I was going to mess up or forget my words.  If I ever had the chance to go back and seminar again, I would definitely consider that option."

Kiya Cranford: "My experience seminaring at the Department of Education was nerve-wracking at first.  Your sitting in a room with one of the most important people in the country and your thinking don't mess up.  I was nervous but as the conversation got heated I began to voice my opinion.  Test-taking is a big thing in the United States but lately, they have been giving too many tests.  For example the ACT's.  I'm an 8th grader and I have nightmares about the test.  While at the Department of Education I voiced these issues.  I definitely felt like people heard our opinions, and I hope they take them into consideration.  I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to say how I feel about testing.  It was very important that we said how we felt, and they finally saw the students point of view.  All in all the experience was great and I'm glad that my voice was heard."