For the news and views you might have missed
First up, the students speak up. From Students4OurSchools:
On May 10th, we the students will be standing up for our education. We advocate for an authentic education where we are evaluated by portfolios, self-directed projects and self-written evaluations. We will also be asking for a passion-driven curriculum.
We encourage students to walkout during lunch and meet us at the Colorado State Capitol. From there, we will have speeches, a march and a teach-in demonstration where we will be discussing how we want our society to look like.
We will be asking for:
-A democratic education, wherein the biggest stakeholders (i.e. students and teachers) have influence and input
-Equitable funding and access to education
-Inclusivity and anti-oppression
-Engagement in equitable curriculum reform
From a Facebook comment:
NCLB left many students behind if you look at the outcome after 20 years of high stakes testing. RTTT is NCLB on steroids. It didn’t work the first time around, what makes you think it will work now?
We must be the masters of change since Obama isn’t.
And in New York, a great new website by New York City high school students regarding their experiences with testing, Cut Down Testing.
“We are over-tested, under-resourced and fed up!”
Hundreds of Chicago students are taking up the mantle in the fight against the role of standardized tests in public school closures as they walked out-of-state exam Wednesday. Their message: “We are over-tested, under-resourced and fed up!”
Ahead of a school board meeting, at which the demonstrators were banned from speaking, the students rallied outside the district headquarters carrying placards and forming a human chain.
“We’re just trying to make a statement that tests should not determine our future or the future of our schools,” said student organizer Alexssa Moore, a senior at Lindblom High School.
Brian Sturgis, senior at Paul Robesan High School and boycott organizer with the group Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS), declared in an op-ed “We are Chicago students and we are here to save our schools!”
“Mayor Emanuel and his Board of Education want to close 54 grammar schools around the city, all of which are in black and Latino communities: this is racist. These schools are also being judged based on assessments and tests given throughout the year: this is foolish. These school closings will leave neighborhoods dismantled, parents lost, students unaccounted for, and more importantly, will put children in harmful situations: this is dangerous.”
Sturgis explains that Mayor Emanuel and the Board of Education are putting too much pressure on standardized testing and threatening to close schools that don’t have high test scores. When schools are under so much pressure to raise test scores it leads to low-scoring students being neglected, not supported. This is what happened when 68 low-scoring juniors were demoted to sophomore status at a southwest side high school in Chicago last month, right before the state test.
And parents across the country are joining the movement.
A Seattle parent, Sue Peters, stated in the MAP Boycott press conference that her student would be taking seven standardized tests in the next seven weeks before school is out for the summer. That means no library time for seven weeks at the school but lots of test prep.
According to Sue, the lineup of tests are:
Measurement of Academic Progress (MAP) math
Measurement of Academic Progress (MAP) reading
Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) math
Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) reading
Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) science
End-of-Course (EOC) math (geometry)
End-of-Course (EOC) science (biology)
MAP is district mandated and the MSP is state mandated.
EOC is state mandated and required to pass in order to receive high school credit for specific classes. Middle school students who take the EOC are taking advanced classes, so most middle school students don’t take these tests until high school.
The End of Course exam is another product of NWEA which produces the MAP test. It was introduced into the Seattle school district in about 2011, and is another example of the encroachment of testing and NWEA products.
Some of these tests will likely get replaced in the next year or two by the new common core tests.
Sue will be opting out her student from all but the EOC tests this year.
To see a description of the state mandated tests, go to the OSPI website.
In New York:
“My child vomited on your high stakes test,” is one of my favorite buttons. With two weeks of testing ending on April 26th, parent grassroots groups “Change the Stakes” and “Time Out from Testing” led a large after school protest of 500 on the steps of the Tweed headquarters of the Department of Education. Many of these parents are part of the growing opt-out movement where parents refuse to allow their children to take part in a testing process which has turned into child abuse. Note this headline from Albany: “4th Grader Asked to Take NYS Test from Hospital Bed.” The kid was hooked up to medical devices.
To read this story in full, go to The Wave.
Parents Lower the Boom on School Testing
Parents who think standardized tests are a waste of time filed a federal class action against New York and their son’s school, which punished him for refusing to take a test, as his parents instructed.
New York has no policy on “opt-out” protests, so students in one district may be disciplined for “insubordination” while students in a neighboring district can sit out “without fear of reprisal,” lead plaintiffs Melissa and Craig Barber say in the complaint.
They sued the state, its Department of Education, the Rush-Henrietta Central School District and School Board, its superintendent and the principal of Burger Middle School.
The Barbers say they told their son’s school by letter that they did not want him to take the test. But not only did the school punish him for being “insubordinate,” it called the sheriff’s office to send officers to a ball field to be sure he did not play baseball while the school was punishing him, the parents say in the complaint.
For following his parents’ instructions, their son, H.G., was barred from extracurricular activities -baseball practice and a game – his parents say.
They claim the school district “in fact … arranged to have the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department” at the fields, “apparently to discourage [the boy] or his parents from practicing.”
To read this story in full, go to Court House News.
You can join their Facebook page in support of this family.
From the former co-president of the Peninsula Preparatory Charter School in Rockaway, Queens:
My son and I walked into his school principal’s office on Monday and declared that we refused to take the state exams.
Fittingly, the principal had come from a pep rally for the tests. I paused for a minute. Maybe getting kids pumped up about academics was a good thing but then I thought about all the pressure and anxiety that the rally was masking and I got back to the task at hand.
We were the only ones in the school opting out of the tests. Still, the principal recognized that there was a growing resentment among parents citywide and she was prepared for a case like ours. She calmly explained that the city might punish us for our decision by holding my son back. But she also stepped out from her role as school official and confessed to me that, as a parent, she was not only “proud” of us but that she also had concerns with test-driven public education.
Others also felt this way. A crossing guard I’m friendly told me she put her two sons in catholic school because of her disdain for data-driven curriculum. Both her kids are on their way to college despite the fact that cheerleaders of standardized tests insist the tests prepare our kids for higher learning.
Also, teachers who I had grumbled to about the test-driven curriculum supported us. And who better than teachers, many of them parents themselves, to understand how inappropriate it is to judge children, and their schools, by data points?
I am more than confident that my son would score well on both the English Language Arts and math tests. He reads on a fifth-grade level even though he is in third grade; math is his best subject. So rest assured our decision to refuse this test was not due to fear of poor scores.
One of the strongest motivating factors for our decision was how politicized and pressurized the environment around testing has become.
One example: when we went to the pediatrician to have her sign off on a 504, which would allow my ADHD-affected son to have extra time on his test, she refused to sign. She said a city education official had called to warn her about signing such forms. Instead, my son had to be re-evaluated even though his condition had not changed. The fact that pressure was being placed on pediatricians made it clear to me that the stakes were high indeed. Too high.
When I look at my son, I don’t see a data point or a test score. I don’t look at my son and see future SAT’s or LSAT’s. I see a kid frustrated with “practice tests” and the narrow curriculum his teachers are forced to teach.
I have no doubt my son will go to college if he chooses to. I know life will present him with plenty of pressurized situations but that doesn’t mean I have to “prepare” him now by flooding him with “high stakes” testing, especially not at the age of eight.
No, thanks. We refuse.
Also in New York, a call to parents who live in the state of New York:
Van White, the attorney handling the class action lawsuit of parents whose child was punished for opting out of the state exams in the Rochester area, is looking for information from New York state parents, to be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More specifically, he would like to hear from parents if their children opted out of these exams and were punished in some way by their schools or districts, as well as from parents whose children opted out but received no punishment. He is especially interested in hearing from parents of children who were deprived of some “instructionally related event or material” as a result.
Please send him your stories, along with your name, school, district and your child’s grade level, to help him gather evidence about unequal treatment of students across the state. His email is below; please contact him directly with this information.
More on this case can be found here. The defendants in the lawsuit include the State of New York, the NYS Education Department, Commissioner of Education John B. King, the Rush-Henrietta School District, its Board of Education, Superintendent J. Kenneth Graham Jr., and the Burger Middle School principal. And please forward this message to other parents. Thanks!
A fast-growing, grass-roots movement against standardized school testing has reached Middle Tennessee.
The effort is called “Opt Out,” and it’s all about parents saying enough to all that testing, which they believe gets in the way of real learning.
For the first time, Tennessee kindergarten students are now taking bubble tests.
“Some of the kids couldn’t read, so the test was being read aloud and the kids were supposed to be filling in the blanks, and at that point I was just like, ‘This is just insane, and we are not going to do it again,'” said Nashville parent Coreen Havron.
And the testing may not even be the worst part – consider the weeks of practice beforehand in class.
“In some schools, they start practice for the assessment in August. That’s hard to believe, isn’t it?” said Metro School Board member Jill Speering.
If so much time is devoted to preparing for standardized testing, these parents want to know what the kids are not learning instead.
“I want my kids to do well, and I want them to succeed, but let’s be realistic about where these kids are at. And if you give them too much, it’s going to overwhelm them, and they’re going to shut down and hate school,” said Nashville parent Jennifer Smith.
To read this story in full, go to WSMV.com.
There is also a Facebook page for this group, Stop the TN testing madness.
The leaders of Texans Advocating For Meaningful Student Assessments have sparked a statewide parent movement to curtail standardized testing.
They were dismissed as moms, overprotective and easily manipulated moms. But those women, determined to protect their children from state testing mandates that they say had gone too far, have overwhelmed the powerful business and political forces that made Texas the capital of high-stakes testing.
It started small, with just eight women from Austin and suburban Houston at the center. But the movement spread fast and wide, and now Texas is on the verge of a dramatic testing turnaround.
“Who allowed these big boys to go and play in education? Now the moms have to clean it up, as usual,” said Theresa Treviño, a child psychiatrist and Austin mother who helped launch the parent group, Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessments.
The group has spurred parents from across the state to flood the Capitol phone lines, pack legislative committee rooms and hound their lawmakers to support House Bill 5, which reduces from 15 to five the number of state-mandated tests required for graduation.
To read this article in full, go to the Austin American Statesmen.
United Opt Out is doing a national survey on the issue of high stakes testing, The United Opt Out Refusal Survey