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!