More parents opting kids out of standardized tests
Monday, September 9, 2013
DELAWARE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — While his eighth-grade classmates took state standardized tests this spring, Tucker Richardson woke up late and played basketball in his Delaware Township driveway.
Tucker’s parents, Wendy and Will, are part of a small but growing number of parents nationwide who are ensuring their children do not participate in standardized testing. They are opposed to the practice for myriad reasons, including the stress they believe it brings on young students, discomfort with tests being used to gauge teacher performance, fear that corporate influence is overriding education and concern that test prep is narrowing curricula down to the minimum needed to pass an exam.
“I’m just opposed to the way high-stakes testing is being used to evaluate teachers, the way it’s being used to define what’s happening in classrooms,” said Will Richardson, an educational consultant. “These tests are not meant to evaluate teachers. They’re meant to find out what kids know.”
The opt-out movement, as it is called, is small but growing. It has been brewing for several years via word of mouth and social media, especially through Facebook. The “Long Island opt-out info” Facebook page has more than 9,200 members, many of them rallying at a Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., high school last month after a group of principals called this year’s state tests — and their low scores — a “debacle.”
In Washington, D.C., a group of parents and students protested outside the Department of Education. Students and teachers at a Seattle high school boycotted a standardized test, leading the district superintendent to declare that city high schools have the choice to deem it optional. In Oregon, students organized a campaign persuading their peers to opt out of tests, and a group of students in Providence, R.I., dressed like zombies and marched in front of the State House to protest a requirement that students must achieve a minimum score on a state test in order to graduate.
“I’m opposed to these tests because they narrow what education is supposed to be about and they lower kids’ horizons,” said one teacher at the Seattle school. “I think collaboration, imagination, critical thinking skills are all left off these tests and can’t be assessed by circling in A, B, C or D.”
For many parents and students, there have been few to no consequences to opting out of testing. Most parents are choosing to take their younger children out of testing, not older students for whom it is a graduation requirement. It’s unclear if things will change when the Common Core Curriculum and the standardized tests that will accompany it are implemented in the 2014-15 school year.
Some states were granted waivers for No Child Left Behind, which requires districts to have at least 95 percent of students participate in standardized testing or be at risk of losing funding.
Kristen Jaudon, a spokeswoman for the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, said the test Seattle deemed optional is not required by the state. Ninety-five percent of students in a given school must take standardized tests that are required by state law. She said parents who pull their children out of testing wouldn’t be able to identify if a student was having problems in a particular subject and the move would deny educators the chance to see if the curriculum is working.
“We are bound by state law to test kids in our state. It’s not optional,” she said.
Julie Borst of Allendale, N.J., didn’t want her rising ninth-grader to take state standardized tests last year because she has special needs and isn’t learning at her grade level. Borst is also concerned about the corporate influence of testing on education.
Borst said the school and superintendent asked the New Jersey Department of Education for guidance. Rather than staying home, Borst’s daughter had to go into the principal’s office each morning of the test and refuse to take it. Borst then drove her home.
“It was kind of convoluted and kind of a dance you do, and the result is the school district, they don’t get dinged,” Borst said.
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