It’s April in the U.S. and that can only mean two things, taxes and testing season. For those people removed from the public education system, yesterday was the big day in April where we must pay our taxes. But for schools April means nonstop testing, a reduction in learning, and an increase in stress for students, teachers, and parents. It also means, for thousands of parents across the country that they renewed their commitment to opt their child out of the testing madness. If you have not opted out yet, please note it is never too late to save your child from testing season.Some might argue, what is the big deal? Students must take tests so the rest of us can know if the teachers are doing a good job. Besides, didn’t we all take tests when we were in school? Why should today’s kids not have to take the same tests we did? I hear these statements and get asked these questions every year when I remind parents and students of their right to opt out. First, I must push back against the absurd notion that holding teachers accountable through high-stakes standardized testing is the only way to know if they are doing a good job. Evaluating teachers based on their test scores, is not only based on a flawed understanding of how testing works but does not improve teaching. When teachers know they are to be evaluated based on test scores, they teach to the test, or focus all their efforts on students they believe can show some improvement. Everything else and everyone else gets left behind. Instead of improving teaching and learning all we have done is narrowed the curriculum and sorted students based on who has the potential to improve their score. Does this sound like high-quality public education to you?
And please know that the tests students take today, are nothing like the tests we took back in our day. To begin with, the tests we took were not high-stakes. Meaning if we did poorly on the tests we were not likely to be held back a grade or denied a diploma. And our teachers did not have to worry about losing their jobs nor did the principal have to worry that the school might be closed. We took standardized tests, before the corporate powers that be, decided to up the ante and convince state legislators to attach punitive high-stakes to the tests. And since the tests we took were not high-stakes, we did not spend all semester engaged in a test-prep curriculum. Our teachers were free to teach us the curriculum and make sure we received a well-rounded education. Today, if it is not on the test, it does not get taught. This is the consequence of test-based accountability. fact_sheet_on_testing_for_families_final.pdf
As we look forward to spring and begin to think about our summer vacation, please do not forget that you as a parent have a right to opt your child out of all standardized testing. This includes the pre-assessments that many first graders and up must take to ensure they will be ready for the real thing in third grade. To make it easier, parents should opt out of all computer-based assessments that were not created by your child’s teacher. Because if you truly want to know how your child is doing and what they are learning, the only thing you need to do is ask their teacher.
For more information on testing of young children, check out the following documents published by FairTest and DEY: