Thursday, September 6, 2012

An excellent opt-out letter.

A member of my community shared this excellent opt-out letter with me today. It was addressed to the school board, superintendent and principal.  I have set it up as a template if you would like to use this letter or adjust it. 

Dear ____________________
    Last school year our family “opted out” or withdrew our children from some of the standardized assessments imposed on children across the state. Our decision to opt out in no way reflected on the teachers, administration, or school board. This was not an easy decision for us, but we feel that we had no other choice. We simply see these tests as harmful, expensive, and a waste of time and valuable resources. 
    This year we will continue our effort to eliminate unnecessary and harmful assessments in our public schools. Our children will not participate in any assessments other than those solely for the use of the individual classroom teacher.
   We refuse to allow any data to be used for purposes other than the individual teacher’s own formative or cumulative assessment. Any assessment whose data is used to determine school ranking, teacher effectiveness, state or federal longitudinal studies or any other purpose other than for the individual classroom teacher’s own use to improve his or her instruction will not be presented to our children. To be clear, our children will not participate in the following:

·      Any state assessment other than Regents exams.
·      Any so-called “benchmark” exams whether they are teacher-designed or not, since these exams are imposed by entities other than the individual teacher.
·      Any surveys, or “field tests” given by corporate or government entities or testing companies.
·      Any “standardized” test other than Regents exams.
We will be encouraging other parents to stand up against the testing fad and, more importantly, the corporate and government takeover of our schools. We believe in and trust our highly qualified and dedicated teachers and administrators. We believe that our children’s education should be trusted in the hands of those who are most experienced and who personally know the needs and individual requirements of each child. Teachers already know how to determine those needs and requirements without mandated standardized testing. Our schools will not suffer when these tests are finally gone.

They will flourish.

____________________ should have a unified policy in place to address children who will be opting out of assessments.

Thank you.

With deep respect,
*For those of you outside of New York, Regents exams are state exams in various subjects that are required for high school graduation.  Some eighth graders may take Regents Exams if they are in a honors or advanced course.
From a brainstorming session I had with fellow opt-outers: we advise approaching your school as soon as possible.  
No longer is the opt-out battle being fought only in the spring.  The progress monitoring tests such as AIMSweb and DIBELSpre-assessments and benchmark exams will be a regular part of our children's education.   For example: Kindergarteners in the district in which I teach will face 11 days of AIMSweb, a pre-assessment, benchmarks and a post-assessment among the required assessments.  Certainly not the way children age five should be educated.
NYSED has just announced that field tests will be given this October to grades 4-8, in addition to the usual waste of our students time when these "fake exams" are given in the spring.
Sadly our children see these tests as a regular part of their school day.  Unlike the state testing in the spring, parents are not informed of this testing that dominates our children's educational experiences.  Parents also need to be aware that many of these tests will be used to create a database containing information about our children.
 The corporate reformers are giving parents more and more reasons to opt-out and save our children's education.  Now is time to act.
(9/8 update) My 2012 version of the opt-out letter:
  I added AIMSweb testing and also requested that our schools inform parents of all testing dates to the example letter.