WHY MY KIDS ARE OPTING OUT
Interview with Sea Cliff Parent Noah Blumenthal
Why are you opting your children out of the exams?
This is the strongest form of protest available to us to tell our administrators and the Albany lawmakers that we will not have our education system given away to corporate interests. The vast majority of school teachers and administrators I’ve spoken with believe the test is harmful to the education process. Our own Superintendent and Board of Education twice last spring brought in and endorsed speakers, Young Zhao and NYS Regent Roger Tilles, who spoke against these standardized tests.
Since these tests do nothing for my children, their teachers or our schools and do much to detract from quality educational pursuits, I feel opting out is the most responsible action I can take.
Some who are opposed to the testing, oppose opting out in favor of other methods of bringing about reform - for instance, lobbying efforts or ignoring the tests at the local level by administering them but not teaching to them. Do you have any thoughts on those approaches (which I am guessing you strongly support as well), and arguments of those that oppose the testing but also oppose opting out? For instance - it may send kids the wrong message, it can hurt the school, etc.
I support everyone’s right to seek reform in their own way. I simply feel that opt out is the most effective statement. Unfortunately we live in a society in which big actions and big money get the attention. Big money currently seems to own the NYS Education Department. If we are going to fight that we need big action. The biggest action I see at this time is opting out.
As for the message it sends the kids, that depends not on whether or not they take the test. That depends on what you teach them about your choices. My kids are learning to think for themselves, not to blindly trust the government, and to engage in civil disobedience. They are learning that we expect them to work hard in school all year long, not just for six days of testing. They are learning to study for and take every important test that life throws at them - the state test simply doesn’t qualify. They are learning that a great education is worth fighting for. They are learning a sad but important lesson about how moneyed interests corrupt political processes. And they are learning that it is tough but worthwhile to be the brave individual who steps out from the crowd. In the words of our own elementary school anti-bullying program, our state education department is the bully and our kids are learning to be the upstanders, not the bystanders.
As for opting out hurting the schools it seems the test itself hurts the schools. The test is a challenging and unnecessary cost at a time when budgets are already stretched. The state test hurts our schools by requiring the district to put kids into special services that we all have to pay for, even when the teachers and administrators of our district and parents of those children all agree that the services are unnecessary. So if a kid has a bad day on test day, that costs our district money. We have to pay for extra teachers to administer and score these tests. That costs us money. We have to pay for test prep materials and practice tests and the tests themselves which is great if you are the company producing all of these materials, but not so good for our community. Opting out has yet to produce any significant consequence for any school district, but opting in has already cost us dearly.
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TRADITIONAL METHODS OF PUSHING FOR REFORM ARE TAKING ROOT
Eileen Stanton, North Shore Parent Action Committee
The issue of High Stakes Mandated Testing is a concern of some parents around the country. For those against testing, refusing to allow their children to take the tests is a parental right and viewed as the best way to impact changes in the current mandates. NSPAC sees refusing the tests as a personal decision best left to each individual family and supports whatever decision is made. Over the past year, we tried to offer information so that parents can make their decision a well-informed one.
"Standardized" is a film that brings the multiple issues facing testing together to offer a complete understanding of where testing started and how it has evolved.
NSPAC is ultimately looking for a sensible solution to testing. Perhaps going back to more responsible testing the way it used to be. Testing has its place in education. When testing was done for purposes of broad evaluation done in 4th and 8th grades, the results were used as an additional source of information to evaluate a student. Now, with testing done every year, results of the tests not being shared with teachers, teacher evaluations dependent on the students score and the costs of testing put to the district tax payers, it just seems wrong.
The traditional route of causing change has begun to take root. Encouraging more of the same by pushing for changes in legislation, encouraging more appropriate student and teacher evaluations and insisting that educators be involved in the processes still has the chance of impacting change!!
Continuing to encourage the administration and BOE to back up the NSSD mission statement and resolution on high stakes testing is equally as important.
After testing is completed this year and results are reported, parents will have a better understanding of what direction their efforts need to go. If needed, NSPAC will be available to help in the efforts.
Comments and suggestions are welcome at: