Thursday, March 25, 2021

Opt Out!

In mid-December 2019, on the eve of the the plague that changed our lives, the New York Times reported under the headline "I Just Isn't Working":

The performance of American teenagers in reading and math has been stagnant since 2000, accordion to the latest results of a rigorous international exam, despite a decades-long efforts to raise standards and help students compete with peers across the globe.

Here is most of the cruel failings of American public education, all packed into a single lede: high stakes standardized testing, the blind assumption that curricular standardization is a good thing, the corrosive notion of competition amongst children, and the narrow, narrow, narrow focus on reading a math. Yet even here, where the journalist has apparently bought into all the make-believe theories of the corporate education dilettante "reformers," their efforts have been a disastrous failure, even when measured by their own precious measuring tool: the standardized test. For decades now, through No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Common Core, and Every Student Succeeds, those responsible for education policy at every level have turned our schools into test score coal mines, with our children serving as forced labor on behalf of the only people who benefit from this: the corporations that create the very materials, tests, and curricula mandated by these policies. If we saw this on the stage, we would call it a farce, but it is a real life tragedy.

The best news about the pandemic is that it brought our nation's children a temporary reprieve from the harsh, money-grubbing cruelty of these childhood-stealing policies. With testing suspended, our children's days were, for a shining year, not spent in test prep and the relentless march through reading and math milestones that has come to characterize a typical American childhood. Teachers were suddenly thrust back to the center of the educational stage to do what their training and experience has prepared them to do: connect with their students, improvise, experiment, and invent. But now, as we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as school districts prepare to re-open for in-person learning, those who created the drill-and-kill model of schooling are re-emerging from their very bad year to fear monger about "learning loss" and five-year-olds who have "fallen behind." And, on cue, the party on the left has declared its intent to pick up where the party on the right has left off. It figures that when it comes to abusing children for profit, we find the only glimmer of bi-partisanship in our otherwise divided nation.

It's time to end this destructive game of pretend, and that's all it is, a charade. They have failed by every measure, including their own. The all-work-and-no-play model has done nothing but harm to America's children. The testing masters are desperate and they are going all out to regain their place as the overlords of schooling. The simple solution would be for parents to simply keep their kids home until we break them, but since that isn't possible for most of us, we can send a strong message by opting out of the testing.

Here is a message from a public school teacher who wants to remain anonymous for fear of being fired:

It would be great if folks across all demographics got the message that they are allowed to opt out. (The only folks who ever do opt their kids out are White.) . . . One reason why we are not allowed to tell people is because we could theoretically "cheat" by telling only families of low-scoring students to opt out. (A school did this in Texas -- sent busloads of low-scoring students on a field trip on test day. It's gross.) . . . The test is supposedly there to hold us teachers accountable, like it's the only way we would actually do our jobs. People really buy into that narrative, too. I've heard people imply or straight-up say that Math and Language Arts teachers are the best, because our subjects are tested . . . You know the only reason why they are making us test is to punish teachers and schools for Covid, and also so they can cry "learning loss."

That's the reality of the mess we are in and it has nothing good in it for children. Parents, please opt your children out, not just for their own good, but for every child trapped in this high stakes game of make-believe. Teachers are not allowed to tell you this. Please pass it on.

Update: For information about how and why to opt out is as great place to start.


For the past 20 years, I've been working in a place that puts the tri-cornered relationship of child-parent-educator at the center, and over that time I've learned a great deal about how to work with families to create the kind of village every child needs and deserves. I'm proud to announce that I've assembled what I've learned into a 6-part e-course called Partnering With Parents in which I share my best thinking on how educators can and should make allies of the parents of the children we teach. (Click this link to register and to learn more.) Register now to receive early bird pricing. Discounts are available for groups.

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
Bookmark and Share

No comments: