Stay the Course, Revolution in Progress

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!

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12 thoughts on “Stay the Course, Revolution in Progress

    • My heros are all of you folks that are dealing with these tests this year!!! I guess you could say we’re lucky to be ‘too young’ for those right now! But the climate affects us all and I’m proud to be in this fight with you to make education better for all the kids!

  1. Pingback: Stay the Course, Revolution in Progress | Opt Out Central New York

  2. In “training” the 3rd graders at my school how to pass this test, I had to tell one child not to use any answers from “his head”, just from the text…so sad and so opposite of learning

    • That is indeed really sad 😦 Reading the text is just one small part of learning. I hate how we disregard life experience and the real passion for wanting to know information. Kids would learn more… and better yet retain the information… if we valued how they learn and not just the test as the final goal.

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  4. We live in Georgia and I’m trying to decide whether (and how) to opt out with our 2nd grader this year. He’s had a truly difficult time in school all this year, been on an IEP, been placed in a (VERY) difficult extra learning class in the afternoon that was not helpful, just more work and is now worried about the CRCT testing – in SECOND grade! This just seems so wrong to me. He’s been talking all year about hating school and how he’s not going to college and only going to as much school as he has to go to. It’s awful that he’s decided this at such a young age and I am certain it’s because of our school’s focus on teaching for the tests, instead of teaching our children. 😦
    Stay strong, you should be very proud of yourselves and your children are extremely lucky to have supportive, courageous parents like you who are willing to stand up for them!
    Best wishes,
    Paige

    • It seems so wrong to me too that education reform forces these pressures on our children. But the most heartbreaking stories are those involving our littlest ones, like your second grader. Just appalling! I’m not sure how things work in Georgia, but here in New York we parents are becoming just so sick and tired of everybody thinking they know best about OUR children and we are going to send a big message next week by refusing these tests. Parents need to demand to be in the loop and need to be part of the decision process when it comes to the real, truly best, interests of our children. Good luck Paige! Your son is lucky to have a mom that cares so much about his education.

      • Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m really not sure how things work in GA either as this is our first year experiencing the CRCTs. We are now actively considering homeschooling our kids as they both hate school here. We’re also looking at moving to a different area, probably northwest or up north – and most likely still homeschooling.
        Your children are lucky as well to have such a devoted and passionate mom to support and advocate on their behalf. Stay strong this week, I’ll be thinking of you all and watching to see how big an impact you make!

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