I have to admit something here. There are times when I just don’t get it. I don’t really understand all the “activism” on Facebook and Twitter. When people change their profile pics or link a picture that indicates a stance, what difference is that really making? I guess it raises awareness, right? I’m all about thinking for ourselves, taking a stand, working to make a difference. But sometimes we go about this in ways that are convenient or make us feel good but aren’t really going to change a darned thing. We need to be thoughtful about what actions we can take that will really influence the people with the power to change things.
Take “opting out” of State tests for example. If you haven’t heard about this, it’s been talked about for a couple of years. I’ve been reading about it on Twitter and in the news, WIVB did a story on it recently and we had one parent inquiry about it here at school. I understand that it’s about parents trying to send the message that we have too much focus on testing in our schools, that our children aren’t just a number, that the testing is all about corporate reform and making more money for Pearson and other vendors.
You know what opting out does? It just counts your child as absent. There’s a lot of misinformation out there right now, but I’m telling you, our guidance from the New York State Education Department indicates it counts as an absent. If we as a school district fall below a 95% participation rate, it becomes a factor in determining if we’re a school district in good standing.
Look. Everyone is frustrated with the amount of testing right now. It’s a complicated issue which requires a real look at the APPR plan and all that it entails. I just don’t think that telling our youngest students, our grades 3-8 children, that they are going to opt out of testing is the way for us, as adults, to get it done. Especially in the elementary grades, our children want to please their teachers, to do well in school, to achieve. What a hard thing it must be for the little fourth grade girl who has to look at her teacher and say, “I’m refusing to take the test Mrs. Smith.” It feels to me like we’re using our children as pawns to fight an adult fight, to join an adult conversation.
Kids take tests throughout their entire school careers. We did too; don’t you remember those reports coming home to your parents? I never remember it being a big deal. Our students have taken the 3-8 tests (formerly the 4th and 8th tests) for decades. We want our students to do well on the assessments because we want them to learn as much as possible throughout their 13 years with us so that they really are college and career ready. And even if parents “opt out” from testing for their children, the curriculum is still there—students are all learning the content that prepares them for the state assessments. Why not take the tests?
Now, all these pre and post assessments for the Student Learning Objectives in EVERY subject? That’s another story. But I have to believe that the increased attention to the state testing (that we’ve had for a long time) is intensified because this is really a story about teacher accountability—and all of the new provisions for the APPR. Let’s not use our kids in ways they don’t understand to make a difference that won’t change anything at the State level.