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High Stakes Tests: EVERYONE Has Had Enough

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High Stakes Tests: EVERYONE Has Had Enough

By Linda Dobson

OptOut high stakes tests

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.


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12 Responses to “High Stakes Tests: EVERYONE Has Had Enough”

  1. michele says:

    I read your article and joined this group tonight. I read 5 mins and saw that the administrators are negative, argumentative, left leaning, call conservatives & homeschoolers "right winger nuts". Very strange. Go check it out. I promptly removed myself. Very disappointing.

    • grandma_linda says:

      Yes, Michele…apparently it all broke loose shortly after I called it a night. It came of out left field, too. I'm sorry to have put you through that. I'm going to issue an apology on our Facebook page as soon as possible, too. Thank you for your attempt and willingness to help free kids from these high stakes tests.

  2. tfteacher says:

    The group is all about preserving public schools, not destroying them.

    • grandma_linda says:

      I was under the impression, as was the person who invited me, that it was all about opting out of high stakes tests.

  3. tfteacher says:

    And your comments over at the FB page are not moderated. I hope you don't moderate mine out of existence.

  4. Shaun Johnson says:

    Linda Dobson, I expect that everyone's emotions have run a little high, especially after some truths we've all taken for granted were questioned. I respect your passion for the education of children. However, should this become a series of personal criticism, then I ask that we take the debate away from the opt out page and I'm happy to have it in another forum. There is a diverse array of commentators and administrators on that site who are doing good work, and perhaps it is our fireworks that may draw from the central cause.

    • grandma_linda says:

      Along with many I've been blocked from the Opt Out page so there is no "debate" to take away. It was not a series of criticisms; home educators were criticized and either left or were banned. I won't be returning, and my passions will be channeled in directions in which they will be more useful. Thanks for writing; good luck.

    • Sandra says:

      Shaun – To clarify, I chose to withdraw from the group after specific personal attacks on me and observation of the same on others who traveled to that area simply to participate. Unfortunately, I saw the same behavior repeated on another blog as a comment just a day or two ago, by someone other than yourself but in tandem with your comments. I cannot assume anything about the person who commented, except the coincidence of the timing of the post.

      Both political establishments and powerful corporate interests tied to ed reform initiatives rely on disorganization and dissent among groups. They win.

  5. Shaun Johnson says:

    Yes, certain administrative authority was exercised to refocus the conversation. And by the way, it was not my stroke that "banned" certain individuals. At the time of this writing, it is precisely three members that have been dismissed by administrators of the page. Throughout the day, it was apparent that certain members were clearly dominating the discussion, posting constantly throughout the day, responding to nearly every single thread on the wall. So, naturally that individual in particular drew some greater scrutiny. I took it upon myself to push back against that message, which seemed to be shaping up as not necessarily opting out of testing, but opting out of the school system all together. That is not the group's ultimate goal. It is to opt out of testing in order to preserve a public education system, with public schools and public school teachers. It appeared as if certain individuals felt they should be immune from criticism, that their ideas could not be challenged. Once I made some challenges and appeared to question assertions, outrage ensued and emotions ran high.

    But that's not where it ended. For me, that's where it ended. I made no mention of those writing here or anyone else. The discussion was taken elsewhere by those individuals, posting my name on other websites, linking to my writings, casting aspersions at our Opt Out page, drawing inaccurate conclusions about the group's membership.

    We immediately cut off the conversation if people claim to be immune from critique. No one is in this. We all have skin in the game and we all have room to adjust. So, as I say again, if you'd like to continue any sort of discussion, I'm happy to do so in forums that make it clear that the views are mine and yours, not that of the Opt Out page.

  6. Lisa Nielsen says:

    I know many people banned from the conversation and debate and the number was way beyond the three you are misleading readers to believe. I saw no outrage on the board from any who were banned, only civil, respectful, thoughtful discussion as Linda mentions in this post.

    The outrage was from those moderators and a few of their buddies who flung derogatory comments toward home educators, those who support home educators, and those whose religious and political beliefs did not match theirs. Home educators were told by several folks to go away and that they were not qualified to teach children.

    The group changed their goal without notice mid stream from opting out to saving public schools. They also banned members without conversation or informing them of the new direction. Folks like me who were attacked and banned have no problem being under scruity and were happy to respond to such comments before we were banned by this intolerant and discrimintory community. Too bad. Folks like you have a lot to learn and could have been helped significantly from folks like me.

    Like Linda, I too had to publicly apologize to the thousands of people I invited to the group before discrimation and intolerance had reared its ugly head.

  7. Lisa Nielsen says:

    One more point of clarity Shaun Johnson, the conversation was not "taken" elsewhere. It was forced elsewhere because so many members were banned. We would be happy to have the conversation with other members of the intolerant board directly, but are unable due to the censorship of moderators such as yourself. You know you also have been invited to the conversation with some banned members and you have refused to reply or acknowledge this invitation. Please stop trying to mislead people into believing you stand for that which you do not.

    I think you also need to understand the difference between critique, which is welcomed, and name-calling, bullying, and censoring which is what happened to folks who had different beliefs than you and your co-moderators.

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