To Die Alone on the Hill… or Not

Hello hill, I knew we would face this day.

Tomorrow is a big day in my public education career with Tulsa Public Schools. As most of you know, in October I made a decision to stop administering the MAP test to my students. A lot of uproar occurred. Most often, the question is “What kind of push-back did you receive?” I HATE answering that question! What I want to tell everyone is that I had a lot of support and was able to continue on my stance of not administering a test. Because, well, I did. I did have a lot of support from all over the nation. That wouldn’t be forthcoming though. That would be a minuscule part of the story. There is a big middle section. Everyone knows the beginning. But, tomorrow marks the end of the story. I have a choice. To die alone on the hill… or not.

Just a brief MAP Testing Explanation: MAP testing is a benchmark test. It is awful. The worst of all 13 options that meet RSA testing requirements. I am certain it is designed to set children up for failure. Certain. It is adaptive in nature and the target score is constantly moving. So, even if a child is at or above grade level in reading, there is a very high chance the child will still fail the test. Failing the test means remediation plans, money, services, and labels. We LOVE labeling children in this country. For some reason, we have the mentality that if we tell children they are stupid, oh, I’m sorry… “limited in knowledge” or “Unsatisfactory” they will then improve. This is research based. We also love utilizing research.

If we take a good look at MAP, we know that it is common core aligned. We have laws in this state HB3399 that speak to the specifics of utilizing common core testing for evaluation of teachers or students. How is this even legal?! Try to get anyone to answer that question! I dare you! I can’t even get a returned e-mail when I ask that question. (Walk away from the edge, Nikki…. walk away and stay on topic.) 

Anyway… When people ask the question “What kind of pushback did you receive?” I would be deceiving if I didn’t lay it all out there. This has been the most difficult trial in my career. What kind of pushback did I receive?I placed myself on a limb with one other colleague. It was a lonely limb. We lost friends. We lost good administrators. We lost all support from our administration. We lost teacher autonomy.  We cried a lot. We slept a lot less. We put ourselves under a microscope and were/are called out for every single thing you can call out a teacher on. Our TLE scores have plummeted from 5’s and 4’s to 3’s and multiple minuses. We have to call in several representatives in all our meetings in order to have the slightest allocation of justice. My colleague is leaving the nation. Oklahoma is losing a highly effective teacher in the midst of a huge teacher shortage because of this injustice for children. I am searching for a new position. We are no longer welcome in the school we teach. So, yes, I would say I had some pushback.

One of my most memorable moments was when a supporter/mentor of mine through the process said in all seriousness “Did you expect to draw this line and not get your ass kicked?” The answer is, no. No, I did not. I knew I would “lose”. I knew that the money and power in my district was greater than me. I knew at the end of the day that they would choose testing over children or good educators. I knew that a lot of the people who held the power to save me would cower. It’s simply the nature of the system. It’s not really all that personal.  We are teaching/learning/testing in a system of fear. Everyone is scared! Everyone!

So, here I am… at the very end of the school year. If I do not give the test tomorrow, I will be fired. If not fired, I will be placed on a PDP. This PDP will be a result of a bad TLE score. Even though I have NEVER been docked on my teaching skills, they will fire me. The PDP will keep other principals in the district from hiring me. Nobody wants to take that on.  It is a ton of paperwork and a large annoying workload.

What is so disheartening about the whole thing is the perspective of the district. It would be more beneficial for them to fire me than to listen to my concerns or work with me. They played a good game. They put up a big show for the media. They told everyone that we were putting together a testing task force. And, we did. Us teachers met together weekly and worked hard to research all the assessments going on in our district. We voted and put together a recommendation. That was in February. Even after multiple follow-up emails, we have never heard the results of those recommendations. Nothing has changed. Nothing was done. Just one more giant middle finger in the face of all those teachers that worked after contract hours to make the system better for children.

They do not care. That is the bottom line. I don’t know an adjective that properly describes this level of heartbreak I feel for our schools. They will openly, without care, choose to be in the business of eliminating good educators in order to get the testing data. Testing is the MOST important thing in public schools. I am living this reality. Your children are living this reality. Every other teacher in the district is living this reality.

So here I am… left to die alone on the hill, the testing martyr, or not. I am forced to choose between labeling children, causing children to pee their pants, throw their chairs, scratch their faces, and cry; or, I can not administer and be fired. Here I am. Left to die alone on the hill… or not.

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A Parents Guide to Testing 101, 201, and 301 – FREE!

Hey, Oklahoma! You can still Opt-Out!

I am going to apologize in advance for the length and lack of organization in this post. Don’t go! Just stick with me. This is the Testing and Opt-Out 101, 201, and 301 course. Ha! It should be broken into several blogs, but there is no time for that. It will be informative. I am going to try to cover the following topics/questions:

  • What has occurred this opt out season?
  • What goes on during testing?
  • How can parents opt out?
  • Who can opt out?
  • Opt Out Guide
  • Questions I can and cannot answer for you

What has occurred this opt out season?

So, here we are, down to the final minutes of opt-out. In five years of opting my kids out and helping others do the same, it never fails that as the testing window is on our front door, the parents concern is multiplied by one hundred.  I get it! You have been doing the test prep packets for weeks. You are hearing the moms at Chick-fil-A talk about how upset they will be if their child faces retention because they just aren’t good test-takers.  You have seen it in your child… the tummy aches, the not wanting to go to school, the frustration as they fill in bubbles on their massive worksheet packets. The stories are now a reality. It is time.

The SDE has had several complaints about the questions on the practice tests. They released this statement today. In a nut shell, the practice test packets that your child has been doing all day at school and bringing home is an absolute waste of time and has very little to no correlation to the actual test. Ha… great. Listen, I have respect for Joy, I do. She has been vocal in expressing her stance on parental rights. She has also shown no reserves in denouncing high stakes testing and the over-testing crisis our students are facing. However, the SDE is notorious for making ridiculous statements. For example, at the beginning of opt out, I recorded a conversation I had with the SDE accountability/assessment department. I called them asking if I could opt my child out of testing. Here is the exact quotes from the convo. If I were tech savvy enough, I would post the recording. Instead, I will play it to myself, pause to type, then play some more. I’ll consider it a nostalgic moment from childhood where I did the same thing with Paula Abdul cassettes in an attempt to memorize lyrics. I digress…

Nikki and SDE Conversation

N: Hi, I was wanting to get some information on opt-out for my children.

SDE: Ma’am, there is no opt out in the site of Oklahoma.

N: Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, I have heard that. I guess I should rephrase. I do not want my children to take the test. What do I need to do in order to refuse the test for them? As in, who do i contact and what is that process?

SDE: There is no process. It is a state law that every student in 3rd through 8th grade must take the OCCT.

N: I thought it was a state law that schools must administer the test, not that student’s must take the test..?

SDE: No, Every student must take the test.

N: Sorry… I am just looking for clarification here. Testing for students is a mandated and there are guidelines, but I cannot find anything showing it is a law. Is it illegal for my children not to take the test?

SDE: Yes. Since testing is a state law. To intentionally not take the test would be breaking the law.

N: Wow! So, what would the implications be?  Could I just leave my children at home during testing days?

SDE: The schools handle these situations differently, but they could launch investigations with state for truancy or negligence in refusing to take the test.

N: Are you kidding me? Ok, thank you for your time.

SDE: You’re welcome. Let us know if you have any other questions.

Any other questions? Are you kidding me? My brain was about to explode! I then had several other parents call, all reporting the same news. Several posted on Facebook about their experiences with the SDE. I even asked some principal friends to call and they were told the same thing. I knew that the message must change and it must change quickly. So, I contacted some people and enlisted some help. I was assured that the SDE would change their tone.

On March 27, less than two weeks away from the testing window I received word from a principal that the SDE had changed their message! I called the SDE and pretended to be a non-informed parent, message had changed.  I also had those same principal friends call back, and they too were told that their students could indeed refuse the test. They explained how it would be entered as a “did not attempt” and no further action would be needed. The parents needed to submit an email or written letter stating which test they were refusing their child’s participation. Rejoicing in this change, I also knew it was crunch time. How much damage had been done already?  How many schools would not call back the SDE?  How many parents felt defeated and did not continue to pressure the SDE or dig for more help or research? I can;t help but wonder how many people would have joined the movement or made an informed decision if they hadn’t been lied to.

What exactly happens during testing week?

Listen, I cannot speak on every district. I can tell you what happens in the majority of the districts. Please hold your e-mails telling me how great your child’s teacher made the testing day.  I do not want to hear about how they are having a party afterwards. Grrreeeaaatttt…. that still doesn’t change the fact that students will be retained over this test. That doesn’t change the fact that students will vomit over this test. Frankly, I am just not interested. You can tell  yourself whatever you need to tell yourself. I am going to look out for those children nobody is parading around the school talking about.

Let me paint the scene for you. The walls are covered in black paper. All the posters are covered. All the windows are closed. All the books and materials are locked away in cabinets or wrapped in the black butcher paper. There is literally nothing on the walls. It’s a game of “hide all the materials we have used as tools all year-long, then test the students without the tools we taught them to rely on.” Fun times.

I found out that my district is telling teachers that they are not allowed to let children read a book after they complete the test. I was completely mortified by this. I felt it to be inhumane and vulgar. So, I sent an email to several people high up and in charge whom I will not name. Since e-mails are public record, I will go ahead and post that correspondence below.  (Oh, P.S. I am notorious for not utilizing spell check or proofreading. So, grammar police, you will probably want to look away, if you haven’t already. I am sure there are mistakes. )

Good evening,

I have had many teachers reach out to me today stating that in their testing meetings, they were told by their administration that children, upon completion, would need to sit and stare. They could not read. They could not do a crossword. They could not have scratch paper. Nothing. They complete the test then sit and stare. (This is not specific to Skelly… This is multiple sites, highly qualified teachers.)

Every teacher that reached out to me was given the same message. They were told that this had to do with the tightened security laws in the test.

I’ve since taken a look at the testing PowerPoint that I assume was sent out from your department (testing) that states the children can read a book. It’s a PowerPoint that encourages as little stress as possible.

I know you are aware of my stance on testing. I am not going to go off on a rant. But, I do want to say that these are 8 year old children, much of whom are in poverty. Many of these students have exceptionalities. Many of these students are being denied accommodations that they normally receive. These young children are already feeling the pressures of the world way too early. Now, they have retention over their heads and all of the damaging self-esteem issues that follow.

Can you imagine the stress they will feel when their classmates are sitting and staring…just waiting on them to finish their test? We’ve put all this pressure on this one high stakes test and then we’ve taken away their right to a book? The one escape they have for that session. We take it?

I feel very alone in this district as far as understanding and empathy for early childhood students. 3rd graders are STILL early childhood.

I’m hopeful this message of sit and stare pressure is not coming from your departments. In fact, I highly doubt it is. But, could someone please send out a statement to ALL of the district that allows children to have access to books after completion? The whole school turns upside down for the next three weeks. We all feel it, regardless of the grade we teach. Nobody likes it, including you all. But, I think we have a moral obligation to make it the least excruciating for students as possible.

Thank you for listening to me. I’m hopeful that our district can send a clear message so that teachers feel less burdened from bizarre rule enforcement and children feel less squelched.

Sincerely,

Nikki Jones

I was hopeful that I could get some empathy. I was sure that everyone would be like, “Oh, Nikki… that is crazy town! We would never take away the rights to read from children and make them sit at desks, palms facing down, and stare for an hour or more! We love children more than that!”

Here is the reply:

This was not the information that was communicated to Building Test Coordinators at the meeting last week. Whether or not students can read after testing is a SITE decision. It has not been a directive from Accountability to not have students read a book following testing.

However, the SDE does state in the Test Preparation Manuals and Test Administration Manuals that the only tests that can have scratch paper are the Math paper/pencil tests and online tests.

I apologize for the confusion this may have caused.

I translate this to: “Whether or not buildings wish to treat their children like prisoners is up tp them. It is a site decision. We will not be releasing any sort of statement for the benefit of children. That would be silliness. And, after all, we will have no silliness in school, especially during testing week!”

(Maybe this is why I am not paid to translate anything.)

So, I could not accept that. I had to send one last heart string pulling plea. And, true story, I had tears dripping down my cheeks as I typed the e-mail regardless of my family staring at me like I had lost it.

Thank you for your response. This is very sad to me. You have principals at sites directing teachers to make children face forward, palms down, sit, and stare until all testing is complete. Other sites are stating that only after 90 minutes can you pick up a book.
For the life of me I cannot understand why me, a first grade teacher, is the only person in this email burdened by this tonight. I had to leave my living room because tears were streaming down my face for these children. These are children! When did schools become about not allowing children the right to read?
All anyone is going to say is that this is a site decision? Has anyone ever forced you to do anything like that? Can you put yourself in the shoes of the most pressure filled situation you’ve been in, then after you make it through it, you must sit silently, palms down on the desks in front of you and not move or speak. You just get to sit there. No relief or escape from the situation. Has anyone ever made you do that? Probably not.
I hope we can say more than, “it’s a SITE decision.” Please consider saying more.

Apparently, they are still considering.

The point of this is to say, gone are the days of music quietly playing in the background, snacks at your desks, scratch paper to doodle on, crosswords or color sheets for after you are finished, or a book to read. Gone are those days, enter prison days. Jeeze Louize.

How can parents opt out?

This could not be easier. Seriously. You can submit a one liner stating you do not give permission for your child to participate in the OCCT exams. Or, you can copy, paste and adjust this gem below:

Dear (principal, teacher)

I am taking the time to write this letter to thank you for all the work you put into my child’s education. I am a product of public schools and I believe in public schools. I also believe in my child’s teacher and I respect him/her as a professional. I believe that my childs teacher knows exactly where my child is academically. I also trust him/her to do their job in evaluating my child’s learning with in-class assessments and grades on projects, classwork, and homework.

I also believe in my child. I know my child inside and out and they are more than a test score to me. They are more than what any data collection tool can tell you about my child. I want my child to continue pursuing learning and to see school as opportunity to seek knowledge, not a testing factory. I want to protect my child from any additional squelching of confidence, curiosity, and creativity. I am supporting my child. I am refusing for them to participate in the OCCT because I want my child to believe me when I say that I believe in him/her. I do not need a piece of paper to tell me about my child. The school doesn’t either. I am not selling my child out to the State Longitudinal Data System. I am not buying into the fear that schools are failing and my child is failing. I am not going to allow my child to be a part of the data used to promote that message. I am refusing the test.

Again, I refuse for my child to participate because I believe in my child. I believe in his/her teacher. I believe in the school. I believe in public education. The high stakes testing being  administered today has no place in any of those entities.

Again, thank you for tirelessly pouring into my child. Thank you for the work you do in public education. And, thank you for respecting my refusal.

Sincerely,

You can adapt that letter to say whatever you want. Of course, that letter is my heart. But, I think it is the heart of many. When you create your letter, be sure to say that you are refusing participation in the OCCT. It is imperative to say refuse and to name the test, OCCT.

Opt Out Guides

Now, if you want a more formal letter, that is fine. We have those too! You can visit the United Opt Out site and look under our state to find guides, formal letters guided by legal counsel, and cover letters. I encourage you to also take a look at the get tough guide. Then, add yourself to the map! You do not have to list your information or name.

Questions I can and cannot answer…

Typically, I sit with each person and I walk them through their case. However, there are hours until testing. I cannot do that. There are too many people needing too much info. With that being said, feel free to message me. But, please…. please… look through the FAQ’s here and the questions I cannot answer first. I am a teacher and a mom, so I am busy. I live attached to my phone and try to respond asap.  I will pay close attention and have other hands on deck to help me out the next few days, but there is actually a lot of info in these links I am providing. So, check them first. Thank you for understanding!

I cannot answer…

  • Will my child’s teacher treat him/her differently if I opt out?
  • Will I receive push back from my school?
  • Will my child be made to sit and stare?
  • Will they provide my child with an alternative assignment?
  • What should I expect the schools response to be?

Ok, so I get that all of those questions are real concerns. I would wonder the same thing.  However, I have no idea. I wish I knew the workings of every school like that. Actually, I wish there were clear procedures to how opt out is handled. I hope your child’s teacher can see the good in opt out. I hope that you will not have any push back.

My advice is to make these issues clear in your correspondence. Communicate that you want your child to be able to read in the library, or whatever you wish.  Ask what accommodations they can make. Ask them to work with you. For the most part, schools have been accommodating and understanding.

That’s all folks…

All I can do now is this last blog post and try to respond to your messages. We are approaching the end of the time frame. I have done over 200 opt outs, probably closer to 300 already in our state. I wish I could add another 0 to the end of that. But, this is higher than any other year! I will tell you that over the course of a week I have gotten over 100 new emails from parents! Like I said at the beginning, parents are feeling it. Kids are feeling it. Teachers are feeling it. Schools are feeling it. No matter how many disgusting “testing is fun” pep assemblies we have or testing reward incentives (gag) that we give, the kids are smarter than that. Nobody is fooled. Nobody is looking forward to the next three weeks. And, it’s ok to not act like this a good thing. It is ok to be real with kids. They deserve honesty and respect.

It’s also ok to opt out. Under HB1384 you have the right to “opt out of any data collection instrument”. IT is also ok not to opt out. This is your decision. You are the parent. You make the decisions for your child!

I am here for support. I can answer questions about 3rd grade retention, 8th grade OCCT and the drivers license, and IEP’s. I can help you if you get something weird back when you submit your refusal letter. I am here. I get it. I was once where you are, submitting my first refusal letter. This is it.

Good luck and solidarity to you!

Are you smarter than a first grader?

In October I gave the MAP test to my first graders. I did not want to give the test. In fact, I had made a Facebook post stating that “I am not refusing to administer, yet.” That post led to this email response from my administrator.

Nikki,

I saw your Facebook post about testing.  Many of your stances I am in full agreement with, however we are paid to do a job that has nonnegotiables tied to it.  One of them is the MAP data.  This can,in fact,  be a good tool to help instruct us on what skills students are missing.  Literacy First assessments can do the same. I know that you are fully capable of assessing your students in ways that are developmentally appropriate, however, we are required to assess our students with MAP and iRead.  I am sure you will find a way to use the data from these assessments along with your data to drive your instruction.

 If TPS is where you want to work and serve, these nonnegotiables will not change.

Well, I guess I can say that TPS warned me.  After receiving that e-mail, a series of e-mails ensued and I refused to give the testing the next month. Now, my administrator outwardly appears to whole-heartedly back the MAP testing.  I’ve since received a memo stating that I can no longer utilize any other assessments in my classroom.  I am expected to ONLY utilize the MAP and iRead data for instruction, small grouping, etc.  This is nonsensical and can easily be placed into the file of “all the things we are doing to get rid of this insubordinate teacher”.

In an attempt to rid my students of this overbearing and inappropriate testing, I now spend hours each day researching the test and reaching out. I’ve spent countless meetings with administration trying to better understand the history of the testing in my district. I’ve met with head of research in order to hear her stance.  I’ve served on testing committees to attempt an open-minded approach at reviewing the test. I’ve searched high and low… real low… for some answers.

I am DESPERATE for someone who backs the MAP test to explain their stance. DESPERATE.

I have yet to find anyone that backs the testing because they actually support the test.  So, I’ve decided to stop wasting my breath working with the sheeple of the district administration and focus on the parents. Let’s face it, with the new superintendent coming in, the testing is not going to decrease. Just look at her recent post on the nationally despised PARCC test. Looking forward to working with Gist.

New focus: Teachers and Parents

Teachers

This is a tricky group. I LOVE teachers. True story. Teachers are world changers. Teachers are what shapes the future. Teachers inspire. Teachers shape and mold. Teachers care. Teachers, as a whole,  are also subordinate. Dammit… I didn’t seem to get that trait.

Teachers are so used to dealing with terrible mandates that they have an innate ability to magically make it all come together despite the inequity of it all. Teachers rise to the occasion. However, the occasion is bigger than us right now. There is no way to work around the destruction of the MAP test other than to not administer. (And, when I speak of MAP testing, I speak of PARCC and STARR and whatever High Stakes Testing that your district administers. The testing all carries the same agenda.) The point is that the testing has risen above and beyond the magical traits of teachers.

What do teachers do?  What can they actually do about this?

1.)  They can do what they do best and make the most of a negative. Think about it. They do it all the time.

OR

2.) They can refuse.

The list of teachers refusing to administer is growing and I hope that teachers can see there is safety in publicly refusing. You don’t have to fight this battle alone. And, you don’t have to continue the teeter totter of kids/administration. It doesn’t have to be that way and YOU hold that power.

Parents

This is also a tricky group.  Parents, for the most part, are trusting of schools. They drop their most prized possessions off each day with a group pf adults that they feel have the best interest of their child. Parents are told that these tests hold teachers more accountable. The testing is in place to make sure their child is getting the best education possible. The testing is what shows the data to ensure readiness of college and career. The testing is good. The testing is good. The testing is good.

There is now a fear factor built into the test. The fear factor is so strong that it has surpassed all logic. I’ve had pre-k parents in the past show up to parent-teacher conferences asking if they should be concerned that their child is not yet reading. Their child is a year out of diapers and still needing assistance getting their pants up and down. This… this is not an example of a crazy parent. This is the example of a parent living under the umbrella of achievement lies that have been pushed onto them for years. This is an example of the fear. Parents fear that their child will not be successful.

What do parents do? What can they actually do?

1.) Some parents push for their child to be successful on the test.

2.) Some parents do nothing.

3.) Some parents refuse the test.

The list of parents that are refusing is also growing. Other states are ahead of us in opt-out numbers, but I have faith that we will pull through for children in Oklahoma as well.

Where do we go from here?

1.) We educate ourselves and we offer transparency and exposure. As teachers, we tell parents what is REALLY happening in the classroom. As parents, we step back, do the research, and come at testing with a logical stance.

2.) One way to further your education is to attend the Test-In scheduled for the 28th at the Brookside Library in Tulsa. I am working with others to service OKC on the same day with the exact same Test-In.

3.) We call on legislators, school board members, administrators, educators, philanthropists, and parents to take the test. How can you enforce a test on first grade children that you are unwilling to take yourself?

4.) We ask that those backing the test put their results up on a data wall. Of course, we won’t make you. I mean, children are forced into data walls. But, as a liberated adult, I would NEVER force anyone to put themselves out there like that. However, if you put up data walls or support them; then, take part. Put up or shut up. Oh… sorry… was that offensive?

5.) We make educated decisions on the next step.

So… whats it gonna be?  Are you smarter than a First Grader?  Can you take 55 questions like this? This was taken right from the NWEA testing site under sample MAP questions.

Read the story.
I can always count on seeing a lineup of sparrows on the
telephone line outside my window. They are there night
and day. The sparrows have become my friends through the
summer — I have fed them and they have sung me songs.
Which title tells the main idea of this story?
1.My Friends the Sparrows
2.Sparrows Are Fun
3.What Sparrows Do
4.Sparrows on the Line
Can you handle the test if I create the same situations that a first grader endures?  What if I asked you the same question in Spanish?  What if I asked you the same question with increased levels of vocabulary?  What if I created a way for your fine motor to be limited?  What if I just asked you the question in the EXACT same way a 6-year-old gets the question?  Could you even get it right then?
Take the test. Rise to the occasion. Give an hour of your time. Educate yourself before taking your stance.

Continue reading Are you smarter than a first grader?

I have an issue… guess what it is?

As we know, the testing season is approaching. For my district, Tulsa, the testing season started in September.  We are quite fond of testing as a district and choose to implement beyond Federal and State mandates. We are SO serious about accountability. Well. maybe not ALL of us. In October, a colleague and I got a little out of hand and openly refused to administer any high stakes testing to our first grade students. I’m not going to address that in a narcissistic sounding post right now. But, I will tell you that many things have taken place since I came out of the testing closet.

One of the positives was that Dr. Ballard (after both our emotions calmed) worked with me enough to hear the concerns. He took the concerns a step further and formed a testing task force compiled of teachers from all over the district.  The job of this task force was to look at the testing required by the district, state and federal government. This was eye-opening.

Another positive is that the movement has continued to expand across our nation. I don’t think that the movement continued because of me; but, I am thankful to be part of the growing awareness and refusal.  I am contacted multiple times a day (What’s bigger than multiple..? That’s the number I want to convey.) over the how, what, when, where, and why’s of refusing to participate in testing. Now, as a mom that has opted my own children out for several years and as an educator that refused to administer, I  know a little bit about every test. It just isn’t that simple. I can’t put it into one guide or one sample letter.

Here is where my issue started last week…

I spend a lot of time combating misleading information.  I want to take a minute to offer a public rebuttal to the most recent piece of information put out for parents and schools.  As the NEA, OEA, and the OK-PTA  began releasing statements regarding parental rights, over-testing, and high-stakes testing (HST); parental concerns began to grow and more contacts were made to schools. Then, the Oklahoma State School Board Association (OSSBA) also released a “reference guide for school officials to address the issues.”

I am all about advocating and I believe there must often be tasteful conflict in order for improvement to occur.  I think differing views offer bigger picture outcomes. So, bring your differing views to the table! Just, make sure they are accurate and not misleading.

Today, I reached a point where I felt the need to go ahead and pick apart the OSSBA’s reference guide. (First blog post and I am not making any friends…sheesh. But, truly, this was almost a Facebook post. So for not utilizing my go-to social media for a 1,482 word count… You. Are. Welcome.)

Let’s take a look.

Page 1

  • Paragraph 1: “Most standardized tests are required by state and federal law.”

Well… not the case in my district. Let’s look at 3rd grade. Poor third grade… always under the microscope. In Tulsa, a 3rd grade student is standardized tested AT LEAST 42 times a year. The total minutes consumed adding up to 1,665. Of those tests, only 7 of the 42 are required by the state or federal government. So… MOST standardized tests are NOT required by state and federal law.

  • Paragraph 2: “To further complicate the issue, during the 2014 legislative session the Oklahoma Legislature passed the “Parents Bill of Rights.”

That’s kind of offensive, right?  Sorry to complicate your testing agenda with, you know, parental rights in the education process of our children. They went on to state “The Parents Bill of Rights affords parents or legal guardians of students the ability to object to any learning material or activity and withdraw their child from the activity or from the class or program in which the material is used. The objection to a learning material or activity on the basis that it is harmful would include the basis that the material questions beliefs or practices in sex, morality, or religion. However, the definition of “harmful” does not limit to withdrawal of a child only for the previously listed reasons. As a result, parents could seek to withdraw their child(ren) from standardized testing citing by utilizing the Parents Bill of Rights.”  (In case you were wondering how to opt out of anything in our state… here you go! This truly is ALL you need!)

  • Paragraph 3: “Parents have the right to express their opinions.”

Ok… thanks.  But, just to clarify, parents have the right to refuse the intrusion of over-testing in their child’s educational process. Oh, and we have the right to opinions.

Page 2

  • Now, this page has some areas I can appreciate. They did accurately list the required tests for students in certain grade levels. I think that information is vital to parents and some administrators may need to know as well.
  • Paragraph titled – What is a Field Test?: “a test administration used during the test development process to check on the quality and appropriateness of test items”

Administrators and teachers are not part of the filed testing data or reporting. We never see the items and we never see the results. A friend and I were discussing this today and she said “Educators are not part of the field items process…except for the unpaid labor for testing corporations.” Truth.

Page 3

  • Paragraph 3: “Field tests are a vital element to the development of fair, high-quality tests.”

I was just curious where we could find those high-quality standardized tests? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Paragraph 4: “After field testing, a range of stakeholders – generally teachers, school administrators, curriculum and assessment specialists who represent a range of ethnicities, genders, types and sizes of schools district, and geographical regions – all gather to review data collected from the field test.”

Oh…hmm…that’s not happening. Teachers are being called to sit down and look at the data from field tests? Could we have a little more transparency in this statement?  I would love to see the evidence supporting this statement. Like I addressed above, teachers and administrators are completely in the dark through the field test process.

  • Pages 4 and 5: The Ending

I’m not going to quote this section word for word. You can read it as you will. This section is filled with insinuated fear intended for parents. I see this every single day. The majority of my questions from parents are not about the appropriateness in the testing and direct correlation to their child. They see and can understand what testing is doing to the opportunities in the classroom. Parents don’t want their 8-year-old child taking 42 standardized tests a year. Nobody is going to support that number. However, parents do want to support their schools and teachers. As an educator, I find comfort in that. The value that parents hold for our community schools is touching and admirable. That value is what keeps me on the job. That value is what boosts my morale.

Can I say this to you, parents? Despite what the school system will tell you, I do not care about my school grade, school funding, or personal evaluation if it means robbing your child of educational liberties. If I could give you any informative advice from the last several years of opting-out and working within the system… please hear this. There is a steady increase in testing. The testing is taking away all of our high level learning time. Your children are under distress and are victims of a squelched childhood. These tests attack our most vulnerable and young children and set them up for failure. The tests now have high stakes attached like teacher scores, funding, and retention. There is a reason these stakes are attached. High stakes are in place to cause a sense of fear in speaking out and not participating in the tests. That information alone is enough to throw a red flag for me.

You have rights. I am not begging you to opt out. I am not telling you to opt out. But, please, look into it and know that you have a voice in this matter. I will hear you. I will fight alongside you. This teacher has your back.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I also have an issue… My issue is testing and those who build the fear in refusal and support the test with misleading information.  As I continue to work from within while advocating outward, I am hopeful that our children will see a change and their voice will be heard. I can’t work with children every day and simultaneously let the OSSBA or any other education association push out misleading information embedded in fear. Our schools and children deserve more transparency than that.

For more information on refusing the test, along with opt out guides and sample letters, please visit the United Opt Out website.