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