Each day, we move eerily closer to the inevitable New York State tests for grades 3-8. From what I hear all eyes are turned on New York to see how we react. We are poised to make a difference, to send a real message to policy makers that we will not stand for the abuse excessive testing has performed against our schools and against our children. I’d like to take a moment to say ‘thank you’ to every single person out there who is committed to refusing the tests this year!
Choose to REFUSE!
I can feel it in the air. Something is brewing. We ARE a movement. We are a force with which to be reckoned! If you’re currently undecided, I URGE you to take a stand in the fight for public education. This IS happening! And it’s happening NOW! It is raw and it is exciting. If you are already committed to opting out this year, I congratulate you for being part of the first wave that will take back our public schools. You folks are amazing! And I can’t thank you enough.
Every day I hear your stories of empowerment! You send in your refusal letters and you know you are doing the right thing. I’ve heard wonderful stories about enlightened administrators who understand your concerns and are supportive. They are willing to accommodate your wishes to refuse and are willing to provide alternate activities for your children, or they are allowing your children to read after they have refused the tests. We need to thank these administrators!
As stated in the SIRS (Student Information Repository System) manual, all schools have the option to allow reading.
Unfortunately, the most repugnant stories I hear are those of administrators who continue to regurgitate NYSED’s message that all children must be tested and how beneficial these tests supposedly are. These same administrators seem bent on causing as much aggravation to opt-out parents as they possibly can, and they don’t seem to mind having a child sit for 70 minutes doing nothing but stare out into space. This is child abuse! They reply to parents as the mouthpiece of NYSED, stating they
will not cannot honor the parents’ request. They exercise their authority freely and expect parents to cower. In these scenarios it might be tempting to back down. It might seem like opting out is more trouble than it’s worth.
It’s not! Stay the course. Be strong. You are right, and you are acting in the best interests of your children! Tell them that you’re sorry they misunderstood your letter. Tell them you were not asking for permission. Tell them you were simply informing them as a courtesy and that you STILL INTEND for your child to refuse the test! They have the right to allow a child to read! And if they refuse to do this, I consider this an act of aggression against the children.
These same administrators tend to be the ones touting NYSEDs message of comply or be punished. They are scared that their school will lose funding. NYSED makes it seem like this will be automatic and immediate. But this is simply not the case. Although schools are required to have 95% participation in the state tests, the financial penalty only affects Title I schools, and even still the school district doesn’t necessarily lose any money. If these schools fail to reach 95% participation, then the district must set aside 5-15% of their Title I funding. This money is intended to cover expenses if students ask to be transferred to another district. It is unlikely that parents will transfer their children simply because their school participation rate on the state tests dropped below 95%. In this case, the money stays in the district. This is certainly complicated, and the fear of losing money is the driving factor behind uncooperative schools. But there’s more to it.
New York State has granted schools a three-year waiver from failing to meet their AYP starting 2012-13. Furthermore, Albany already expects our students to do horribly on these tests because they are so new and so much more difficult than the previous years’ tests. Therefore they have also stated that no new districts will be identified as Focus Districts and no new schools will be identified as Priority Schools based on 2012-13 assessment results. You can read their memo regarding this decision here. Because of these reasons, it does not matter if participation falls below 95%! We will not hurt our schools! Now is the time to make a bold statement and REFUSE the tests!
I know some of you are still scared. I know some of you are asking, “what if?” So let me ask you some questions. Are you happy with the education your children are
enduring experiencing right now? Are you happy with the huge percentage of the academic year being devoted to testing? Are you happy with the increased amount of homework your children are bringing home? Are you happy with the fact that your first-grader is stressed out and hates school because he’s being forced to learn material that your oldest child didn’t get until third grade? Are you happy with the boring worksheet curriculum that has suddenly started coming home in your child’s backpack? Are you happy with the unapologetic test prep your children have been performing? Are you wondering why your child’s teacher, who you have always known to be a sweet person, seems cranky lately and began yelling at her students? Are you happy that your school is about to become insolvent and possibly close its doors to its community? Are you happy that you’ve noticed curriculum narrowing and becoming less creative? Are you happy that art, music, and gym have been cut back? Or, if you really stop to think about all the other changes you may have noticed over the past few years, do you find yourself frowning and shaking your head in disgust?
If disgust and outrage is what you feel, then it doesn’t matter if there is any truth in NYSED’s fear mongering. We have to take a stand now, and we cannot allow ourselves to be complicit in the rape of public education.
Choose to REFUSE. You have NOTHING to Lose!
Last year in Seattle there was a mass opt-out of several hundred students. The threat of penalty was there of course, but it is noteworthy that no punitive action was ever taken. Take a look at the brave teachers of Garfield High who refused to administer the MAP tests. They were threatened with discipline for their actions. But in the end, Superintendent Banda backed off. My point is that we cannot be swayed by mere threats. In an effort to call their bluff, we MUST act. We must follow our conscience! We must do what is right. And I truly believe that we will prevail in the long-run. I believe that these threats are empty. But I also know that disgust and outrage at the things going on in our schools are growing rapidly. If NYSED even dares try to punish one of our schools, there is going to be an immediate outpouring of public support for the schools and for change on the grandest scale. NYSED’s ‘comply or die’ tactics are going to backfire. We are being pushed too far. We cannot back down. Let us unite and make our move by REFUSING these tests!