Thursday, April 21, 2016

Threats, Lies, and Punishment

Hundreds of thousands of American parents have opted their children out of the high stakes standardized tests that are sucking the joy and, indeed, the actual education out of our public schools. This is is a powerful, successful mass movement, one that continues to grow as more and more of us come to understand that these tests are an enormous waste of time, measure little more than socio-economic class, are developmentally inappropriate for elementary-aged children, and cause undue stress and anxiety for our youngest citizens and their families without providing benefit for anyone other than the "education" companies that make millions off of the testing regime.

Yesterday, a former Woodland Park parent who has chosen to protect her son from this plague by opting him out for the past three years, received this form letter from the school district:

What if my child doesn't take the assessment?

Students who do not take the assessment receive a score of zero.

Families who refuse to allow their children to participate in assessments, including Smarter Balanced, must submit the refusal in writing, signed and dated, to go in the student's permanent record file. Parents or guardians must submit this refusal annually. Families may use this refusal form, or submit a clear written and signed document. Refusals should be submitted to the child's principal. 

Here are consequences:

  • Students who do not participate will receive a "zero" score on the assessment and no score report for teachers or families to view.
  • A zero will negatively impact the school's overall results.
  • Refusals jeopardize the school district's federal funding.
  • Teachers will not receive results that could be used as a tool to measure the student's academic growth.
  • Families will not receive results that will enable them to chart the student's growth over time.
  • Beginning in 2016-2017, Smarter Balanced will be used as the achievement measure for Highly Capable eligibility. In order to be designated as Highly Capable or as an Advanced Learner, multiple criteria are considered, including but not limited to measures of both cognitive and achievement abilities. If a student goes through the Highly Capable referral process, but refuses to participate in Smarter Balanced testing in 2016-2017, the student will not meet all of the criteria for Highly Capable services or the Spectrum program. Note that families in this case will have the option to appeal the decision.
  • High school juniors without assessment results will not be eligible for the remedial testing waiver offered by state colleges (see above).
  • Students who do not participate will receive supervision but not instruction during assessment time.

Although it's not as bad as it could be, I suppose, this parent described it, accurately, as "fear mongering." Raising the specter of "zero" scores, evoking the infamous "permanent record," and suggesting barriers to entering highly capable programs might be laughable to those of us whose children aren't directly involved, but I can only imagine the emotions these threats would evoke were I the child's parent.

Right across the country, public schools are pushing back against the opt out movement by engaging in a campaign of threats, lies, and punishment in order to force children to take these unnecessary, ineffective, and in many cases damaging test.

Earlier this week, a friend who teaches in a local public school told me of a meeting in which a parent was reduced to tears at the thought to subjecting her son to one of these tests. She pleadingly asked if her son really had to take the SBA test and was lied to both through implication ("Everybody in the whole state takes the test") and omission (teachers and administrators are not allowed to tell parents that they have the right to opt out their children). A mother wrote recently to tell me that after she opted her daughter out of testing, she was told her child would be punitively excluded from a celebratory end-of-testing ice cream party. Some children who receive "supervision but not instruction" during testing time are required to "sit and stare," a particularly cruel punishment for young children.

It's time to bring an end to this era of high stakes standardized testing abuse and opting out is the best way to bring that about. And despite their best efforts, we are winning. Last year, over a quarter of a million parents saw through the threats, lies, and punishments and took a stand against these tests that are devouring our schools. For more information and support, contact the Network for Public Education:

Message from Diane Ravitch about Opt Out from Shoot4Education on Vimeo.

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KBeck said...

Thank you for yet another right-headed post. I'm pleased to hear that parents are choosing to opt out, in spite of the fear-mongering, and I do have hope that sanity will return to our education system at some point in the not too distant future.

Unknown said...

Your wisdom and clarity are so needed and appreciated,more now than ever.
Thank you.
Nina Spitzer