A Florida Mother’s Concerns

I recently became privy to a correspondence between a Florida mother concerned about the upcoming FCAT, and the response from her school’s principal.

Here’s what the principal wrote:

…I have a little concern to run by you. I heard that you were not sending XXX in on FCAT day. I understand your concern with one size fits all standardized testing, I do. However, there will always be high-stakes testing in public schools. When the FCAT leaves, common core and PARCC takes over, with the continuation of EOC exams that all students take or they are not promoted or do not graduate. PSAT determine National Merit Scholars and SATs and ACTs determine college admittance. There are GREs, Miller’s Analogies,LSATs, GMATs, etc. When a parent disagrees at this level, 3rd grade, public school testing, to simply not take the test, it does one thing- it hurts the teacher and the school. From now on, teacher evaluation is based in part, on student performance on these tests. Like it or not, it is. So is school funding and school grades. A charter school that only receives FTE dollars relies heavily on on additional funds like A+ dollars received due to school grade based on test scores. When high achieving students, gifted students do not take the tests, it only hurts us, it helps nothing at this level. We can say that a school grade is not important, but that is why many families come here to begin with. To institute change, to make an impact, lobby, fight your legislators, go to Tallahassee! That is where the impact will be felt! To merely not show up on test day, only impacts CCA in a very negative, hurtful way. As an administrator, I understand your concerns better than anyone else, but my first concern is the students and how this impacts them and their teachers. I wanted to point this out to you. I know how strongly you feel about this. But I wanted to share my concerns with you. Thank you very much!

Now, I don’t claim to know much (anything really) about the struggle against standardized testing in Florida.  But I do know how hopeless I would feel if I received a letter like this.  What would I do?  How would I respond?

The Florida mother is grappling with the same questions, and although she has yet to formally respond, her thoughts on the matter are quite moving and thought-provoking.

Just received this from XXX’s principal.  While she is very clear about how XXX’s absence from the FCAT test would harm her teacher and school, NOWHERE here does she even acknowledge how this is harmful for XXX, in the third grade.  She cannot acknowledge how harmful the entire process of testing has become – not simply because the test itself is flawed, but how the entire curriculum has (had to) become driven by THE TEST.  I interpret her plea as pressure to have my eight year old child perform as required in order to protect her teacher – an adult, and her school – an institution, and by extension, herself as well.

Who protects my child at school, if not her teacher, and the institution to which she is entrusted daily?  As a parent, I now feel backed into a corner, forced to speak for my child, who has no voice here. She’s just a data point now.  It’s there in black and white.

She (blindly) accepts that high-stakes testing is a reality that we, as a collective, can no longer escape, or challenge.  I do not accept this.  Yes, I accept that testing is a reality, but the degree to which our children, teachers, and schools are currently subjected to high-stakes testing make no sense.  She cannot see that in the absence of this kind of testing, that teachers would be free to be creative, innovative…better.

While I have no doubt that XXX is a gifted student, she has not been identified as such.  Dr. P is concerned that I am pulling one of her high performers from the school’s numbers.

XXX likely faces a diagnosis of AHDH, Primarily Inattentive – all documented.  She is a creative powerhouse, but it takes her a lot of time to release all that genius.  She will not have an IEP in place by the time testing rolls around, and there is indeed a possibility that she will not test well.

I have been reassured by her teacher that she has been maintaining a portfolio for XXX, as have I, so I have no concern about having alternative documentation to demonstrate her proficiency, as required by Florida Statutes.  In the absence of FCAT scores, I have no doubt that she will be promoted to the fourth grade without any difficulty.  However, at this point, I believe that a low score would be more harmful to her than no score and see no valid reason to subject her to it for the sake of satisfying everyone else’s needs, and not her own.

I am very clear that my work with the Coalition is my fight for MY CHILDREN to have the education they deserve, that will best prepare them for their brave, new world, with challenges to come that we have not yet imagined.

I am cognizant that my activism could be politically harmful to my kids at their school.  I have considered writing an open letter to the entire PTSA, or at least to the parents of my kids’ classmates to explain my intentions…oh boy, talk about free advertising!

I am thinking very carefully about how to respond to her.  It occurs to me that she might have been better served by leaving well alone, with only my child not testing.  What will happen after I address her e-mail?  Who else will begin to question it?

I am asking for your input.  I need ammo, people!

Do you or does someone you know share this parent’s concerns?  Comment here and let her know you support her efforts!

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6 thoughts on “A Florida Mother’s Concerns

  1. And herein lies the difficulty.
    When is silence compliance?
    When do we sacrifice the good of the individual for the good of the group?
    How do we define the group?
    By class?
    By school?
    By state?
    By nation?
    In terms of humanity?
    We, individually and collectively create our circumstance and narrative.
    It’s no small task.
    Sometimes the best way to know is to get quiet enough to hear.
    Once you’ve checked in…don’t let anyone else’s fears keep you from your path.
    Bless your heart.

  2. It would be a huge concern to me that the tests she cites are all high school, college, and graduate school related. There is a world of difference between an 8 year old and someone in the latter years of high school and beyond. I see no reason to require high stakes standardized testing at an early age in order to somehow prepare for those tests. If they can acquire the knowledge and skills to do well on the PSAT and the SAT, as well as the others, I’m pretty sure they can master coloring in the little bubbles at that time as well. I see no reason to subject a child to years of testing because testing is required should they pursue higher education. The test in those cases is also not the sole determining factor of whether they are allowed to proceed (one can go to community college with poor SAT scores and then onto university, for example), and no one’s job hinges on how you perform on the SAT, etc. Last I checked, professors are not fired if their students do not get good scores on the GRE. One system does not necessarily lead directly into the other.

    I think the focus here should be on the individual child and how it’s affecting her. There appears to be a presumption on the principal’s part that the effect on the child is neutral, and I think attention needs to be brought to the fact that you, as her parent, do not believe that to be true.

  3. Education is about the community – and sometimes it happens within a school community – but not always. Testing should never be a child’s responsibility – to help the teacher or the school – this is backwards. As a parent, teacher, and professor of education (in Florida too!) – I urge this parent to advocate for learning and education – and fight against the violence of schooling!!

  4. I think it was Tim Slekar in one of his posts that discussed this issue at a BOE meeting and the response was, “it is, what it is”………..after several of these responses, he said, “but what if IT’S wrong?”…………..that’s the way I feel here……it is so wrong on so many levels to be doing what we are doing………..it is coercion and intimidation on the backs of 8 year olds…………..I say make a public statement to the PTSA and seek out others who agree and take it public to the board and the media………….such stands are NOT easy………..but all of us concerned have to start being brave……….or else this will not stop until the casualty list gets a lot higher……..

  5. I don’t blame you. My kids will not be taking the FCAT (2013) this year as well. The school my kids attend they (Rock Lake Elm) teach to the test (FCAT) the kids do more FCAT practice in class then they do anything and I am tired of it!!! You are doing the right thing. I also informed the schools principal as well but she didn’t have a respond even close to the principal from your school.

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