Opt Out of Assessment

 

OPT OUT of STATE ASSESSMENTS

Nothing resonates for parents and educators more than the call for resistance to high stakes assessments for children as young as 5.  Texas Kids Can’t Wait strongly supports parents and all others who are calling for an end to standardized assessments, an end to using assessment scores for purposes other than to evaluate curriculum, an end to the time and expense of assessment, an end to the time and expense of test prep, and an end to the terrible stress that the current testing regimen places on all involved.

Jennifer and Kyle Massey, Waco parents, have decided, as have thousands of other parents across the country, to take on the system and to opt their children out of all assessments and all test prep activities.  As the kids tell us, they want an EDUCATION, not a TEST-A-CATION.

On this page we will document this family’s activities in their passion to change the system.  We suggest that this family’s path might be a good blueprint for other families and educators.

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It all started this week (March 22, 2014) with Kyle Massey’s Tweet and link to the letter that they wrote to their child’s school and to the Waco ISD.  @STAARtest picked it up and wrote their own message, below:

From @ STAARtest
A must-read from beginning to end. Potent. @kyledmassey: Formal letter to OPT OUT of @STAARtest http://t.co/NIgFe4OYAL #STAAR #txed #txlege

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Texas Kids Can’t Wait copied that Tweet onto our Facebook page, and it exploded.  In less than one day we have had over 12,000 people read the Massey’s letter.  A copy of the letter follows:

Ms. Lisa Cain, Principal

Hillcrest Professional Development School

Waco Independent School District

Waco, Texas

Dear Ms. Lisa Cain,

March 20, 2014

This letter is to respectfully inform you that our fourth grade child

XXXX XXXXXXX, will need to be excused from all mandated standardized testing (e.g. STAAR test) during the remainder of the school year. This is also to include classroom activities that are intended as STAAR test preparation, such as practice tests and test-taking training exercises. As we are morally and ethically opposed to these school activities, we are making this decision with recognition of our parental rights and obligations under the due process clause of the FourteenthAmendment of the United States Constitution and the Texas Education Code (Title 2, Subtitle E, “Students and Parents, Section 26, “Parental Rights and Responsibilities”).

We maintain that it is our parental right to choose to opt our children out of school activities that are harmful to children as stated in the Texas Education Code CHAPTER 26. PARENTAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES Sec. A26.010.EXEMPTION FROM INSTRUCTION. A parent is entitled to remove the parent’s child temporarily from a class or other school activity that conflicts with the parent’s religious or moral beliefs if the parent presents or delivers to the teacher of the parent’s child a written statement authorizing the removal of the child from the class or other school activity. Please consider this letter to be our written statement of authorization.

We want our children to become critical and creative thinkers, not subservient test-takers. Public education in this country has been the victim of thirty years’ worth of neoliberal hegemonic attacks in the form of political and economic policies. These corporate attacks have negatively altered the structures, pedagogical practices, and intended democratic goals of public education. As we reflect on the intended goals of public schools in a liberal democracy – to prepare citizens for active civic participation, and indeed for global citizenship, for example –we believe it is morally wrong to put children through the ordeal of standardized testing which has no benefit totheir personal education or development as citizens.

 We do not want William or his teachers shackled to a faulty testing product such as the STAAR test, or any standardized test for that matter. High-stakes standardized testing is not the education experience we want for our children, and thus we are choosing to opt William out of all STAAR testing activities.

The following summarizes some of our reasons for our belief that the practice of high stakes standardized testing is morally wrong:

AFFECTS SOCIO-EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING: This system of constant testing seems designed to produce anxiety and depression. Evidence has accumulated over the last few decades of the detrimental effect of frequent testing on students’ enjoyment of school, their willingness to learn, other than for the purpose of passing tests or examinations, and their understanding of the process of learning. A well-documented direct impact of testing regimes is that they induce test anxiety in young learners and that perceived low scores negatively affect students’ self-esteem and perceptions of themselves as learners. Any negative impact on motivation for learning is clearly highly undesirable, particularly at a time in a young person’s life when the importance of learning to learn and lifelong learning is widely embraced.

KILLS CURIOSITY AND LOVE OF LEARNING: High-stakes standardized testing actually limits and reduces the amount of QUALITY learning experiences. Rather than focusing on a child’s natural curiosity, testing emphasizes (and drills in) isolated facts limiting teacher’s ability to create environments that stimulate a child’s imagination.

REDUCES A CHILD’S CAPACITY FOR ATTAINING NEW KNOWLEDGE: If children cannot actively make connections between different topics of study, they don’t remember what they learn from day to day. Most standardized tests are still based on the recall of isolated facts and narrow skills.

REPLACES HIGHER ORDER THINKING WITH SKILL, DRILL AND KILL: Most tests include many topics that are not important, while many important areas are not included on standardized tests because they cannot be measured by such tests. Teaching to the test does not produce real and sustained gains on independent learning measures.

NARROWS THE CURRICULUM: The loss of a rich curriculum has been documented in research and in teacher testimony. The use of high-stakes tests is universally found to be associated with teachers focusing on the content of the tests, administering repeated practice tests, training students in the answers to specific questions or types of question, and adopting transmission styles of teaching. In such circumstances teachers make little use of assessment formatively to help the learning process. High-stakes tests are inevitably designed to be as ‘objective’ as possible, since there is a premium on reliable marking in the interests of fairness. This has the effect of reducing what is assessed to what can be readily and reliably marked. Generally this excludes many worthwhile outcomes of education such as problem-solving and critical thinking.

REDUCES SOCIALIZATION AS A CENTRAL CORE OF LEARING: The reduction of opportunities to learn to socialize through and collaborative classroom activities reduces children’s opportunities to develop healthy social skills. Being seated alone at a desk taking a test all day, or for a significant portion of the day, isolates children from learning how to develop community-based problem solving skills they will need as adults.

WASTES VALUABLE EDUCATIONAL TIME SPENT TAKING TESTS: Texas Public Schools will spend one of every five days or nearly 20% of the school year conducting tests. According to the Texas Education Agency, Texas public schools will spend 34 out of the 185 day long year conducting tests mandated by the state government. This does not include the regular testing in schools such as six-weeks tests, quizzes, and final exams.

VIOLATES ALL CHILDRENS’ RIGHTS TO A FREE AND APPROPRIATE EDUCATION: High-stakestesting leads to under-serving or mis-serving all students, especially the most needy and vulnerable, thereby violating the principle of ‘do no harm’. For example, students living in poverty, who already lack critical access to books and free reading, are condemned to test prep instead of having opportunities to read. Monies desperately needed for vital school resources such as clean drinking water, supplies and roofs that don’t leak are being spent on testing materials. Texas spends $44 billion per year on public education, of that $1 billion is spent just on testing days!

LIMITS THE EDUCATION DECISION-MAKING POWER OF COMMUNITIES: Largely though standardized testing, neoliberal reforms have transferred the control of schools away from the local school boards, where control has resided since the founding of public schools, to the state and federal levels, which create policies about which communities have little input but are mandated to implement. States and the federal government have managed to gain control in part by adopting a discourse of civil rights and equity, and by not imposing specific curricula on schools but, instead, leaving it to the local school districts to implement curricular policies to achieve the test score goals, what can be described as steering from a distance. In this way, the state and federal governments are able to take credit for whatever perceived improvements result from their policies, and, conversely, whenever their policies produce negative results, they can blame someone else, usually teachers. Teachers have suffered the brunt of the blame since the publication of a Nation at Risk (1983) thirty years ago. Consequently, the negative portrayal of public school teachers in the USA has demoralized many educators.

For these reasons above, and since we choose to prioritize education, we cannot in good conscience, in our roles as his parents, and as educators ourselves, allow William’s well-being and the furtherance of his education be subject to the STAAR tests that will be administered this spring.

As we have been told countless times by various education entities in the state of Texas, the purported purpose of these tests is to gauge how well students are mastering material and provide information to teachers and schools so that they may “differentiate” and improve instruction. Over the past year of communicating with William’s teachers, in addition to the results of the numerous district benchmark tests he has already completed this academic year, we feel we have more than enough information to identify William’s strengths and weakness and his progress with the taught curriculum concepts. His teachers already have countless pages of test results to interpret and work from, in addition to the observations, notes, and results that they have been collecting through ongoing formative and summative assessment practices throughout the school year with respect to William’s daily classroom work.

Forcing William to take the STAAR tests in April of 2014 will not significantly add to the information that we already have, especially since we would not be allowed to even see the STAAR tests that he would actually take. The score cards provided by the test-makers will not provide any additional insight into how we may best serve William moving forward, as we and his teachers, along with other school personnel who know William and work with him every day, continue to work diligently to share our experiences and collaborate to provide William with the most effective and individualized education possible.

We trust the trained and professional educators at Hillcrest PDS to help us make the best educational and development choices for William and find no value added by these standardized tests. Importantly, it is not just the fact that the STAAR tests would not add any value to his education, but also that they are a detriment to his education, William’s perception of himself as a learner, and his perception of and experiences at school. Please understand that our decision to opt William out of the STAAR tests is one firmly grounded in our moral and ethical beliefs and convictions. We are not making this decision simply to “avoid” a test, but rather to exercise our rights to ensure that Hillcrest PDS does not force William to take part in school activities that are contrary to our moral and ethical beliefs.

Any further attempt by the school or Waco ISD to force William to participate in STAAR testing (including practice STAAR tests) will be seen by us as intentional actions to dismiss or ignore our rights. While we hope and expect that Hillcrest PDS and Waco ISD will support our legal rights, we are prepared to respond with appropriate measures if it becomes evident that this is not the case.

Parental rights are broadly protected by United States Supreme Court decisions (e.g., Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” Furthermore, the Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him [or her] and direct his [or her] destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him [or her] for additional obligations” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35). The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.). In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (262 U.S. 399). The immorality of high stakes testing in the public schools, as stated earlier, constitute an unreasonable state interference in the education of youth in public schools. With consideration of the Texas Education Code, Chapter 26, and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, we would appreciate your cooperation in securing our rights as parents to opt our child out of standardized testing.

Sincerely,

Kyle Massey Jennifer Massey

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Texas Kids Can’t Wait also created multiple Tweets and sent them out.  We don’t have a measure of our reach on Twitter, but there have been literally hundreds of RTs.  The Masseys have also Tweeted their links in multiple messages.

=====================================================================================On the morning of March 23, 2014, we learned that the Dallas Morning News had published a column about the Masseys.  It follows:

Are Texas parents allowed to opt their kids out of STAAR tests? A Waco couple is trying [MULTIPLY UPDATED]

By 
  • Published: March 22, 2014, 5:18 pm
  • Updated: March 22, 2014, 10:40 pm

Nationally, there’s a small movement of opt-outers. Parents who are saying they have the legal right to hold their children out of state-mandated tests. I’d not heard this tried in Texas. Until now. Letter posted on the Interwebs by, it says here, Kyle and Jennifer Massey of Waco. Here’s a nugget:

This letter is to respectfully inform you that our fourth grade child, XXX XXXX, will need to be excused from all mandated standardized testing (e.g. STAAR test) from this point forward. This is also to include classroom activities that are intended as STAAR test preparation, such as practice tests and test-taking training exercises.

As we are morally and ethically opposed to these school activities, we are making this decision with recognition of our parental rights and obligations under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Texas Education Code (Title 2, Subtitle E, “Students and Parents, Section 26, “Parental Rights and Responsibilities”).

I’m blocking the child’s name, although it is in the original letter which is linked on Facebook and pretty easily found online. The letter goes into some detail as to the parents’ putative justification for their legal claim. [UPDATE: The parents have now blocked the kid’s name out of the letter that’s online.]

Read the whole thing here.

I’ve sent a note to the TEA asking for a legal ruling.

[UPDATE: Ever-helpful TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe, who apparently is as addicted to her email as I am to mine, sends this amazingly fast reply:

Look at the Texas Education Code 26.010.

Sec. 26.010. EXEMPTION FROM INSTRUCTION. (a) A parent is entitled to remove the parent’s child temporarily from a class or other school activity that conflicts with the parent’s religious or moral beliefs if the parent presents or delivers to the teacher of the parent’s child a written statement authorizing the removal of the child from the class or other school activity. A parent is not entitled to remove the parent’s child from a class or other school activity to avoid a test or to prevent the child from taking a subject for an entire semester.

(b) This section does not exempt a child from satisfying grade level or graduation requirements in a manner acceptable to the school district and the agency.

Highlights mine. Which seems pretty unambiguous. But that doesn’t mean a judge might not be called upon to make a ruling. Plus, the Masseys are trying to make a federal case of it… so we shall see. ]

[ANOTHER UPDATE: I’ve heard from Kyle Massey, who has responded to the TEA response. He is, as you might suspect, not satisfied. And predicts the possibility of a court hearing. He’s given me permission, so I’ll post his entire response at the jump.]

 

That response from the TEA is what I expected.

Basically what they are saying is that, yes, a parent does have the right to direct their child’s education in a way congruent to their own moral convictions… but except for this, this, this, and this. That’s BS… just because the State or whoever decides to write in a few so-called “exceptions” into the Education Code, that doesn’t trump my basic rights as a parent. My son is in 4th grade.. so for him, this test is not a graduation requirement, nor is it a requirement for his grade level. That only leaves the “avoid a test” thingy. It should be clear from my letter that I am not making this decision simply to avoid a test. Avoid a test sounds like a scenario such as trying to get a kid out of an exam out of fear that he won’t do well and we don’t want his grade in the class to go down. We are NOT “avoiding” a test. Our moral and ethical objection is with the entire regime of standardized testing due to the various points I spelled out in my letter. It’s absurd, in a country that purports to be all about freedom and choice, etc., that the school district would force (I presume physically) my son to take the STAAR test against not only his will, but also against his parents’ will. Forcing him to do something against our moral convictions is completely wrong no matter what crazy clauses are added to the ridiculous Education Code.

I will prepare some response to this and be ready when Waco ISD get back to me. We are going to continue to fight this. Our son WILL NOT take the STAAR test this year. If they do somehow physically force him in some way.. then you can bet we’ll be pursuing this issue through the courts.

 

 

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Also, on March 23, 2014, the Masseys released a video made by their two children explaining that they want an Education, not a Test-a-cation!  the link to the video follows:

http://kyledmassey.com/optout-video/?utm_content=buffer5d2ec&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

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On the evening of March 23, 2014, Waco Act Locally published on their website a blog by Jennifer Massey that we are reprinting here:

 

Reflections on the STAAR Test: Why Parents Should Opt Out

by Jennifer Massey, WISD parent

Last week my husband and I sent a letter to the principal of the elementary school that our two children attend in Waco ISD informing her that we would be opting our children out of the STARR test (and practice STAAR tests) again this year. I say again because we sent in a similar letter last year. We opt our children out of the STAAR test because we are morally and ethically opposed to high stakes standardized testing. Our letter to Waco ISD clearly outlines our reasons and given that we have made the letter public (you can view the letter online http://kyledmassey.com/opting-out-staar-testing/ ) I’ll just summarize my main concerns with high stakes testing. I should also note that we are not alone. Many parents across Texas and beyond are making the same decision. In fact there is an active Facebook group: Texas Parents Opt Out that provides advice and encouragement to parents considering taking a stand against the testing regime that has engulfed public education in America.

 

The purpose of education is to develop creative and critical thinkers, not subservient test-takers. Public education in the United States has been the victim of thirty years of “reforms” that are steadily destroying our children’s opportunity learn. Under the façade of “accountability” these so-called “reformers” are systematically underfunding public schools, impeding the abilities of our best public school teachers to teach and destroying the creativity of our children. I do not want my children shackled to a faulty testing product such as the STAAR test. High-stakes standardized testing is not the educational experience we want for our children. Therefore I am choosing to opt them out of all STARR testing activities.

 

I am morally opposed to high-stakes standardized test, like the STAAR (and before that TAAS), because research has shown these tests:

  • Negatively impact the socio-emotional well-being of students
  • Kills curiosity and love of learning
  • Reduces a child’s capacity to learn new things
  • Replaces high order thinking with repetitive, multiple-choice skills
  • Narrows the curriculum, limiting what is taught and learned to what is tested
  • Reduces socialization as a central core learning
  • Wastes valuable educational time
  • Violates all children’s rights to a free and appropriate education
  • Limits the educational decision-making power of communities

It is for all these reasons that Kyle and I could not in all good conscience allow our children to take the STAAR test.

 

Under the STAAR system, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for authentic teaching (this is proven in empirical studies, it is not just my opinion). In fact, the testing of students increasingly drives curriculum and compromises both teaching and the role of students in learning. Student scores on statewide tests has become the only language of currency in education policy. Principals report that there can be little discussion of children’s development, of cultural relevance, of children’s contributions to classroom knowledge and interactions, or of those engaging sidebar experiences at the margins of the official curriculum where children often do their best learning. Studies have shown that according to urban principals, many have supervisors who tell them directly things like this: “Don’t talk to me about anything else until the test scores start to go up.”

test pencilThis prescriptive teaching creates a new form of discrimination as teaching-to-the-test becomes a substitute for an enriching curriculum. This is has been found to be particularly true in the schools of poor and minority communities where the high stakes attached to the scores drive many schools replace the regular curriculum with test-prep materials that have virtually no value beyond practicing for the tests. The scores may go up in these classrooms (sometimes due to cheating, as we have seen in recent news stories), but academic quality goes down. The result is a growing inequality between the content and quality of education provided to white, middle-class children and that provided to those in poor and minority schools.

 

Research studies have shown that, especially in minority schools, substantial class time is spent practicing bubbling in answers and learning to recognize obviously wrong answers (test taking strategies, not education). Students are drilled on multiple choice test-taking strategies such as the pep rally cheer “Three in a row? No, No, No!” The basis for such advice comes from the publishers of test-prep materials, many of whom send consultants into schools – in exchange for a lot of our tax dollars – to help plan pep rallies and to “train” teachers to use the STAAR-prep kits. Test-prep, instead of actual education, has become the dominant component of what goes on in classrooms. This limits opportunities for students to construct meaning, or to come to understandings, or to connect course content with their prior knowledge. Instead, they learn mostly how to select the correct answer from a list of options.

 

Advocates of STAAR tests sometimes argue that being able to pass the reading skills section of the test is better than not being able to read at all. However, teachers are reporting that the kind of test prep frequently done to raise test scores actually hamper students’ ability to learn to read for meaning. In fact, during test-prep drills, students are taught how to mark answers without reading the sample of text: they merely match key words in the answer choice with key words in the text. And elementary teachers often note that so many months of “reading” the practice samples and answering multiple-choice questions on them undermines their students’ ability to read sustained passages of several pages. The reading samples for the test-prep material are designed for the students to forget the minute they mark their answers. This example of read-and-forget activities is just one way that test-prep takes over the time in schools that could be spent on real learning.

 

That this is happening chiefly in African American and Latino schools means that the gap between what these children learn and what the children in non-test-prep schools, usually middle-class and white schools, learn is widening even more dramatically. The subjects that are either not represented on the test or are represented only little, (things like science, arts, social studies) are also affected as teachers in historically low-performing schools (minority, poor) are increasingly required to stop teaching those subjects in order to use class time to drill for math or reading sections of the test (not to teach reading, but to drill for reading sections of the test). Studies have shown that under the hyper-testing regime common in U.S. schools, there is a growing, cumulative deficit separating minority students from the education being provided to more privileged students (middle class, white).

 

Behind the test scores and the technical policy debates, there is the growing reality that the Texas system of educational accountability is harming children, teaching, and the content of public schooling. Even more significant for the long run, this system of testing is re-stratifying education by race and class. There is a lot of sound research that shows there are many educational losses that a standardized system of testing creates for minority students. What minority children are taught, how they are taught, how their learning is assessed, and how it is reported, what is omitted from their education… all of these factors are hidden in the system of testing.

 

Our decision to opt out is gaining a lot of attention (see http://kyledmassey.com/opting-out-staar-testing/ for more information). Mainstream regional press outlets and social media have picked-up on our decision and are asking the question “can you do that”?” The answer is yes! Of course you can. Many people do not know that it is their parental right to opt out and that their rights as parents are protected under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution and the Texas Education Code. We became aware of this soon after we moved to Texas and began to observe the destruction of good-quality public education. I don’t want to be part of a process that systematically marginalizes the most vulnerable. So we don’t. We opt out.

 

A common question we have been asked over the past few days is “if you children do not take the STAAR test then how will you know how they are doing in school?” Over the past year we have met regularly with those who teach our children. We have discussed the areas that are children are academically strong, and where they need extra help. Our children have completed numerous assignments and test though out the year. Together, teacher observations, student assignments, and results from regular tests completed throughout the year provides a richer understanding of a child’s educational development than one test ever could. Thus the STAAR test will add no value. Importantly, however, it will negatively impact how our children view themselves as learners, and their perception of and experience at school.

 

Another question raised frequently when people learn of our decision to opt out is “won’t this hurt your school?” This question is usually offered by those knowledgeable about the negative impacts of the testing regime and also understand the pressure that schools are under to get as many students as possible to take the test. I sympathize with this concern. Will schools be punished if parents opt out? I doubt it. Especially not if we opt on in larger and larger numbers every year. But my bigger concern here is with the premise of the question. I reject the proposition that we, as citizens and parents, have only two options: to either permit an accountability system that is hurting our schools and children or allow punitive repercussions such as reduced funding or school closures. There is more at stake here and there are a plethora of options open to us. These options include pushing back against the system that is harming our children and saying enough. Choosing to opt out.

 

Our decision to opt out of the STAAR test is grounded in our moral and ethical beliefs and convictions. We are not seeking to “avoid” a test. Nor are we concerned that our children might not “pass” the tests. Our decision is to fight for good-quality public education in Texas and beyond. The last 40 years of testing have not helped student achievement, and many studies have shown the negative consequences. I understand why some politicians and most corporate bureaucrats love testing ($$$), but I am often mystified that so much of the American public approves of this dominant system of education. In other industrialized countries, where K-12 education is acknowledged to be far superior to what we have in the USA, state-mandated standardized testing doesn’t exist, or at least not like it does here. To me it is pretty obvious that we don’t need these tests. What we need is more trust in our schools and in our teachers. We need more equitable funding. We need to close the opportunity gap. I know that the slogans of “reform” can be truly seductive, and smart marketing and propaganda certainly plays a role in public perception, but as informed citizens we need to look behind those slogans and see what effects our this burdensome system is having on the children.

masseyThis week’s Act Locally Waco blog post is by Jennifer Massey.  Jennifer Massey is a Waco ISD parent. She and her husband Kyle moved to Waco in 2011 from Canada. Their two children William (grade 4) and Olivia (grade 2) attend Hillcrest PDS. Jennifer and Kyle are both educational practitioners and scholars. They passionately advocate for good-quality, equitable, public education. If you would like to learn more about Texas parents who are choosing to opt out of the STAAR test please visit the website or the Facebook page: Texas Parents Opt Out of State Tests.

 

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March 24, 2014

Diane Ravitch wrote her blog about the Masseys:

 

TEXAS: PARENTS OPT THEIR CHILDREN OUT

OF TESTING AND TEST PREP

 

Kyle and Jennifer Massey in Waco, Texas, wrote a respectful letter to their child’s principal explaining why they would not permit him to take the state STAAR tests or to engage in test prep for STAAR testing. As his parents, they care more about their child than the Legislature or Governor Perry or Pearson. They clearly, in this instance, know more than the legislators who are influenced by lobbyists to keep piling on more testing without regard to the best interests of children or our society. They want for their child what “the best and wisest parent ” wants for his own children: a full, rich, creative, liberating education, one that prepares him for life in a democracy, not endless drill and practice for tests that are prepared thousands of miles away, whose sole purpose is to rate their child, his teachers, his principal, and his school.

 

The Masseys write:

“This letter is to respectfully inform you that our fourth grade child XXXXXX will need to be excused
from all mandated standardized testing (e.g. STAAR test) during the remainder of the school year. This is also
to include classroom activities that are intended as STAAR test preparation, such as practice tests and test-
taking training exercises. As we are morally and ethically opposed to these school activities, we are making this
decision with recognition of our parental rights and obligations under the due process clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Texas Education Code (Title 2, Subtitle E, “Students and
Parents, Section 26, “Parental Rights and Responsibilities”).

“We maintain that it is our parental right to choose to opt our children out of school activities that are harmful to
children as stated in the Texas Education Code CHAPTER 26. PARENTAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Sec. A26.010.EXEMPTION FROM INSTRUCTION. A parent is entitled to remove the parent’s child
temporarily from a class or other school activity that conflicts with the parent’s religious or moral beliefs if the
parent presents or delivers to the teacher of the parent’s child a written statement authorizing the removal of
the child from the class or other school activity. Please consider this letter to be our written statement of
authorization.

“We want our children to become critical and creative thinkers, not subservient test-takers.
We do not want XXX or his teachers shackled to a faulty testing product such as the STAAR test, or any standardized test for that matter. High-stakes standardized testing is not the education experience we want for our children, and thus we are choosing to opt XXXX out of all STAAR testing activities.

“Public education in this country has been the victim of thirty years’ worth of neoliberal hegemonic attacks in the form of political and
economic policies. These corporate attacks have negatively altered the structures, pedagogical practices, and
intended democratic goals of public education. As we reflect on the intended goals of public schools in a liberal
democracy – to prepare citizens for active civic participation, and indeed for global citizenship, for example –
we believe it is morally wrong to put children through the ordeal of standardized testing which has no benefit to
their personal education or development as citizens.

“The following summarizes some of our reasons for our belief that the practice of high stakes standardized
testing is morally wrong:

“AFFECTS SOCIO-EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING: This system of constant testing seems designed to
produce anxiety and depression. Evidence has accumulated over the last few decades of the
detrimental effect of frequent testing on students’ enjoyment of school, their
willingness to learn, other than for the purpose of passing tests or examinations, and their understanding of the process of
learning. A well-documented direct impact of testing regimes is that they induce test anxiety in young
learners and that perceived low scores negatively affect students’ self-esteem and perceptions of
themselves as learners. Any negative impact on motivation for learning is clearly highly undesirable,
particularly at a time in a young person’s life when the importance of learning to learn and lifelong
learning is widely embraced.

“KILLS CURIOSITY AND LOVE OF LEARNING: High-stakes standardized testing actually limits and
reduces the amount of QUALITY learning experiences. Rather than focusing on a child’s natural curiosity, testing emphasizes (and drills in) isolated facts limiting teacher’s ability to create
environments that stimulate a child’s imagination.

“REDUCES A CHILD’S CAPACITY FOR ATTAINING NEW KNOWLEDGE: If children cannot actively
make connections between different topics of study, they don’t remember what they learn from day to
day. Most standardized tests are still based on the recall of isolated facts and narrow skills.

“REPLACES HIGHER ORDER THINKING WITH SKILL, DRILL AND KILL: Most tests include many
topics that are not important, while many important areas are not included on standardized tests
because they cannot be measured by such tests. Teaching to the test does not produce real and
sustained gains on independent learning measures.

“NARROWS THE CURRICULUM: The loss of a rich curriculum has been documented in research and
in teacher testimony. The use of high-stakes tests is universally found to be associated with teachers
focusing on the content of the tests, administering repeated practice tests, training students in the
answers to specific questions or types of question, and adopting transmission styles of teaching. In
such circumstances teachers make little use of assessment formatively to help the learning process.
High-stakes tests are inevitably designed to be as ‘objective’ as possible, since there is a premium on
reliable marking in the interests of fairness. This has the effect of reducing what is assessed to what
can be readily and reliably marked. Generally this excludes many worthwhile outcomes of education
such as problem-solving and critical thinking.

“REDUCES SOCIALIZATION AS A CENTRAL CORE OF LEARING: The reduction of opportunities to
learn to socialize through and collaborative classroom activities reduces children’s opportunities to
develop healthy social skills. Being seated alone at a desk taking a test all day, or for a significant
portion of the day, isolates children from learning how to develop community-based problem solving
skills they will need as adults.

“WASTES VALUABLE EDUCATIONAL TIME SPENT TAKING TESTS: Texas Public Schools will
spend one of every five days or nearly 20% of the school year conducting tests. According to the
Texas Education Agency, Texas public schools will spend 34 out of the 185 day long year conducting
tests mandated by the state government. This does not include the regular testing in schools such as
six-weeks tests, quizzes, and final exams.

“VIOLATES ALL CHILDRENS’ RIGHTS TO A FREE AND APPROPRIATE EDUCATION: High-stakes
testing leads to under-serving or mis-serving all students, especially the most needy and vulnerable,
thereby violating the principle of ‘do no harm’. For example, students living in poverty, who already lack
critical access to books and free reading, are condemned to test prep instead of having opportunities
to read. Monies desperately needed for vital school resources such as clean drinking water, supplies
and roofs that don’t leak are being spent on testing materials. Texas spends $44 billion per year on
public education, of that $1 billion is spent just on testing days!

“LIMITS THE EDUCATION DECISION-MAKING POWER OF COMMUNITIES: Largely though
standardized testing, neoliberal reforms have transferred the control of schools away from the local
school boards, where control has resided since the founding of public schools, to the state and federal
levels, which create policies about which communities have little input but are mandated to implement.
States and the federal government have managed to gain control in part by adopting a discourse of
civil rights and equity, and by not imposing specific curricula on schools but, instead, leaving it to the
local school districts to implement curricular policies to achieve the test score goals, what can be
described as steering from a distance. In this way, the state and federal governments are able to take
credit for whatever perceived improvements result from their policies, and, conversely, whenever their
policies produce negative results, they can blame someone else, usually teachers. Teachers have
suffered the brunt of the blame since the publication of a Nation at Risk (1983) thirty years ago.
Consequently, the negative portrayal of public school teachers in the USA has demoralized many
educators.”

There is more. Go to the link and read the letter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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