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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.