High Stakes Tests: EVERYONE Has Had Enough
By Linda Dobson
EDITOR’S NOTE: Well, that was short-lived. During communications on the evening of 8/19/11, one of several moderators, Shaun Johnson, realized that Parent at the Helm was “a homeschooling blog,” and as a “professional educator,” he does not condone homeschooling. That wasn’t enough. He, with help from an anonymous friend, proceeded to indulge in name-calling, auto-ego-stroking, and inviting homeschoolers and parents and those who voice support of same to leave. The stated purpose of the group seemed to sway from opting out of high stakes tests to, no, it’s really about saving the public school system by getting rid of tests. Ultimately, he must have figured out how to delete contributors and, poof, they were gone.
Interestingly, after this display of ugliness typically reserved for politics and “save the system” comments, someone pointed me to his most recent post on Huffington Post about how he’s thinking about starting a charter school. Oh, the hypocrisy. It was a very enlightening experience, lending mucho credence to my ongoing message to parents: The system is broken, and cannot and should not be repaired. If you don’t believe me, here’s a bit of what Dr. Peter Gray has to say in his latest Psychology Today post which asks if real education reform is possible:
People will begin to understand that they have a choice. Which will they choose–conventional schooling, where they must do as they are told, or freedom? What have people always chosen when they truly understand that they have a choice between freedom and dictatorship?
At some point in this process a tipping point will be reached. The number of people choosing freedom for their kids will be so great that there will no longer be enough public interest in the conventional schools to continue funding them. Instead, there will be a clamor to develop good safe parks, craft centers, well-equipped libraries, Sudbury-type schools where children can get away from their parents to play and explore, and other excellent public learning centers–places that provide rich opportunities for learning without compulsion. These will cost far less than do our public schools. It is very expensive to keep children in schools by compulsion, for the same reason that it is very expensive to keep convicts in penitentiaries.
I’ve left the post here – sans my recommendation – because it’s a good idea, just one in need of leaders who respect and value children and parents.
There’s a new kid on the Facebook block called OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST: The National Movement. The group is rapidly gaining momentum, pulling out of the woodwork parents, teachers, believers in traditional and alternative education, Bartleby Project fans, and parents who have already said NO to the high stakes tests this year. Randi Weingarten (President, American Federation of Teachers union) left a note declining her invitation. Surprised? Me, neither, but it’s always nice to know who has a clue and a care about the damage being done to children every day by these tests – and who doesn’t.
The High Stakes Tests Gorilla
I started homeschooling my children in 1985. I didn’t want “the degrading grading” experience for my kids back then, and the test monkey has since grown into a gorilla. The No Child Left Behind Act was bad enough, but Race to the Top revisions take high stakes tests to insanity. Federal meddling has replaced what semblance of education used to exist in the school system with unadulterated programming, condensing children’s lives into high stakes test scores, the results of which tell us, at best, which kids get most freaked out under stress and, maybe, which ate a good breakfast that morning.
Even as OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST: The National Movement gets organized, those-who-would-bury-children-in-tests continue the onslaught. The state of Washington is already counting its millions (possibly $60 million, to be exact) from Race to the Top money because it’s already on track with “Requirements to win includ[ing] establishing a pre-kindergarten testing system, implementing a quality assurance system for early learning programs and expanding access to quality preschool for low-income and disadvantaged kids.” Yup. A pre-kindergarten testing system. Those are your tax dollars hard at work; I don’t know how we ever managed to survive to adulthood without being put through a pre-kindergarten testing system!
At the other end of the spectrum we have legislation introduced in June with five co-sponsors titled Growing Excellent Achievement Training Academies for Teachers and Principals Act. “Teacher training programs would be held accountable for producing educators who demonstrate the ability to boost student achievement before they even graduate.”
How do you suppose they plan to have potential teachers demonstrate ability to boost student achievement before they even graduate? The gorilla just got 100 pounds heavier.
High Stakes Tests Opposition Action So Far
The good folks at OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST: The National Movement are collecting data on state practices regarding opting out, so if you have some I hope you’ll consider sharing it. Someone is working on a brochure that all will be able to print out and share with the (still too many) parents who don’t know they have a choice.
Good comments are emerging from the rapid communication taking place. One of the most recent, vital comments notes that while it’s great to opt out of the tests, what about the fact that when children are supposed to be working on an education, they instead are bombarded with the “test prep” that no more resembles education than a bag of Cheetos resembles a healthy dinner? This, in turn, spurred conversation about the desire and need for customized, individualized approaches for the kids who don’t need test prep because they’re not going to take the test, hopefully moving action and solutions closer to the educational experience homeschoolers provide for their children every day.
The high stakes tests gorilla is on a rampage.
I encourage you to visit OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST: The National Movement and peruse the important conversation that’s already taken place. And lend your voice if you’re in agreement.
You won’t have to worry about finding messages about high stakes tests from Randi Weingarten.