We’re opting out…

…of state mandated testing, that is.

I’ve been trying to decide how to open this blog.  There are so many things I want to talk about.  But lately it has been education that keeps coming back to dominate my thoughts.  Let me preface this post by saying that all of the views here are mine as a parent.  This is how I see it, how I understand it!

My son is 4 1/2 and attends Pre-K at our local school.  I grappled with the idea of sending him off to school so young.  I toyed with the idea of homeschooling.  I am very interested in the concept of “unschooling” (a topic for a later post I’m certain).  But ultimately I decided that Pre-K would be something that he would enjoy, and all of his friends would be going there.  I thought, “Pre-K, how bad can it be?–it must be play-based.  It won’t actually be like forcing an extra year on his already 13 year long educational sentence.  And besides I can always go back to the possibility of homeschooling.”

How wrong I was!  With New York State’s adoption of the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts (ELA) & Mathematics and a new teacher evaluation system, higher “standards” are being touted in all grades, even Pre-K!  This means that students are being evaluated using standardized tests on a scale unprecedented in our nation’s history.

Teachers and schools are also under scrutiny based on student test results.  In fact, the learning milieu is so tainted with the stench of testing that teachers are forced to spend a majority of their classroom time covering material for the test.  This leaves little room for innovation and creativity.  In short, the teaching profession is being undermined and good teachers are not given the opportunity to do their job.  Teachers and administrators are under the constant stress of producing better test results.

Education is being homogenized with a system that forces everyone to learn the same thing, at the same rate, and in the same manner.  Forget about a child who shows real promise in art or music; these are just two of the subjects that are being underfunded or eliminated entirely in the pursuit of progress.  Even in the platinum subjects of ELA & Math, the manner in which they are taught is being greatly restricted.

Though there are many reasons why I oppose this new system of reliance on standardized testing (one could write a dissertation), there is one thing that disturbs me the most.  We don’t trust teachers anymore to assess our children.  We don’t trust our schools’ administrations to assess our teachers anymore.  But we can pour billions of dollars into private companies to produce the curriculum and the tests that our schools are required to use.  Companies like Pearson and Renaissance Learning are making a fortune doing this.  They sell us products that are beautifully packaged and propagandized to make us feel like it’s for our schools’ best interest.  The government seals the deal by dangling more state aid above the heads of our schools.  And they take it, because after all, who really wants to be responsible for turning down extra money when most schools struggle with their annual budgets?  In reality the extra money is just a drop in the bucket with the overall budget with which a school must contend.  And one must question how many hours our administrators and teachers are spending jumping through hoops in order to get this reward, and to thwart the ever looming possibility of having it all taken away if they don’t cooperate, or if their students fail.

Anyway, I suppose this is a topic I will visit many times over and so I must allow myself to leave out many crucial details with this post.

In closing, let me get back on topic for a moment.  I submitted a letter to my son’s school stating the many reasons that he will not be participating in any of these tests.  WE ARE OPTING OUT!  And you can too.  There are so many great resources out there for familiarizing oneself with the opt out movement.  Here are links to the sites that got me started.

www.nystoptesting.com

http://unitedoptout.com/

and a great group to join for all of you in New York State:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/OptOutNewYork/

I have been repeatedly asked why I’m doing this, and that has been part of the motivation which led me to start this blog.  But mostly, other parents I talk to just aren’t aware of what’s happening or how it affects their children.  It has also been insinuated that opting out this early is silly and pointless.  By opting out my son from his Pre-K assessments, I might not be able to directly change the curriculum his teacher must teach or the manner in which she must do it.  The Pre-K assessments might not be the high-stakes tests that start in third grade.  But what I am doing is this:

I am attempting to preserve his individuality, his creativity, and his autonomy.  He won’t realize it now (he’s 4!!!).  But as he advances in the school system, he will possess an inherent curiosity to question what he is being offered.  And as he gets older I hope to instill the self-confidence he will need to say “NO” on his own.

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26 thoughts on “We’re opting out…

  1. Bravo! You, as a parent hold the only power card in this mess. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your honest consideration of testing and evaluation as well as your crucial choice to opt your child out. YOU are the answer!

  2. I applaud you! You have made a decision that is in the best interest of YOUR CHILD – which is what I believe all parents should do. As a teacher of first graders – THANK YOU for your courage and your desire for your child to have a REAL education, not a test based one!

  3. Know that you have many, many supporters that consider you a pioneer. I dare even say hero! We are so happy to have parents on our side, fighting to get our schools back!

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  5. You ARE a hero! And I say this as a teacher who is (hopefully) soon to opt myself out of this profession!

  6. Thank you so much!! As a veteran teacher of 22 years I am so overjoyed to hear from a parent who gets it, and is reaching out to other parents! State Ed won’t listen to the teaching professionals, I certainly hope they will listen to parents. I can’t thank you enough!

  7. You are absolutely correct in these statements: “…the learning milieu is so tainted with the stench of testing that teachers are forced to spend a majority of their classroom time covering material for the test. This leaves little room for innovation and creativity. In short, the teaching profession is being undermined and good teachers are not given the opportunity to do their job. Teachers and administrators are under the constant stress of producing better test results.” This is why I left the profession that I loved, disillusioned and frustrated. After 23 years, all of the joy of teaching was gone. I miss my students, but none of the stress.

  8. Good for you! I am currently a teacher outside of Houston with a three year old child. We aren’t testing pre k yet but I am sure it will come. It has always been my plan to opt my child out of taking elementary tests. I know the first year after moving here from Maryland, I honestly felt like I was torturing my third graders with 3 all day untimed tests…something I do not want my child to experience. I wish I could do the same for all the children I teach!

  9. Horray! Good for you! Join the clubs…we’re all over the place and glad to have you on board! Additional groups that I know of and I’m sure there are more:

    Change the Stakes/GEM ‘changethestakes@googlegroups.com’ NY group

    Time out from Testing

    United Opt-Out http://www.unitedoptout.com

    Class Size Matters NY

    Chris Cerrone ‘nystoptesting@gmail.com’ NY

    Diane Ravitch NY

    Don Perl/CBE http://www.thecbe.org CO

    Fair Test http://www.fairtest.org

    Occupy the DOE

    Parents across America http://www.paretnsacrossamerica.org

    ParentVoicesBrooklyn

    Restore Education Funding (Nyack group)

    Bartleby Project http://www.bartlebyproject.org

    Susan Ohanian http://www.susanohanian.org VT

    Marisa Kaplan marisa@edgeeks.com collecting information pieces from students

    http://www.buildbetterschools.com CO

    Coalition for Educational Justice–NYC

    http://www.students4ourschools.org/faq.html CO

    U4Kids@yahoogroups.com CO

    http://www.angelaengel.com CO

    http://www.eduperspectivescv.org/index.php CA

    http://pwceducationreform.wordpress.com/prince-william-county-pwc-prince-william-county-schools-pwcs-education-virginia/ VA

    texasparentsoptoutstatetests@yahoo.com.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlEM4MGNeTY&feature=related MUST SEE!

    Kathleen Oropeza http://www.fundeducationnow.org/ FL

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/We-Support-Schools-Snohomish/302417236448130 WA

    http://gemnyc.org/ NY

    http://communityvoicesforpubliceducation.wordpress.com/

    http://gemnyc.org/2012/05/20/the-inconvenient-truth-behind-waiting-for-superman-now-online/ MUST SEE!

  10. Welcome to a growing family. We can stop this crazy train when we band together and tell those that are trying to destroy our schools–enough. We’re out.

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  19. After a year and a half of public school it took 8 months to unschool my grandson to the point he wanted to learn again. Don’t let this happen to your child. Opt out if you can but in our experience the majority of class time was teaching to the test!!!

  20. Hurray for you! You are a brave parent who may meet with unpleasant judgements, but I can tell you are strong enough to handle it. Many, many years ago there was a program called Accelerated Reader. Children took a test to determine reading level, read books at their level, took little tests on the computer, and advanced their levels. It was a little more complicated that that, but if done correctly, a very effective teaching/learning tool, and students loved it! Motivation was high and many, who had previously disliked reading, developed at least a liking, if not a love. This program was started by a mom, at home, to help her children both improve their reading and enjoy it also. Eventually, the program was marketed and the STAR tests were born. Accelerated Reading and Accelerated Math started out as wonderful programs, but we know the story about Pearson and what has now happened. After almost 35 years of teaching, I left the profession. When I left, teaching and learning had become a burden, no pleasure, no joy, no satisfaction, just the daily grind to master bits and pieces, skills, facts. I do remember the days when we had fun in school (not all of the time), didn’t worry constantly about test scores, learning could be made interesting in many circumstances, not anymore. I can guarantee that all of my students who learned statistics (mean, median, mode) in my fifth grade class, have retained this skill. If I were a child today, I would hate school, what a shame. Shame on those who have created this mess!

    • Thank you! It is indeed such a shame that education has become so unpleasant for EVERYONE. The teachers in my district are not yet speaking up, but all I hear from seasoned teachers like yourself are the horror stories about where education has landed. I feel so sorry for teachers that leave a once loved profession with such a horrible taste in their mouths. It should NOT be this way!

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