Sunday, December 30, 2012

An OPT OUT myth debunked.

I have been involved in the opt out of high-stakes testing movement as a parent for almost a year now.  One of the constant comments I hear from concerned parents or educators is that the top academic achievers are the students who opt out, therefore hurting their teacher’s and school’s scores.  This is a major misconception about opting out.

I have talked, emailed, and used social media to communicate with many parents who are involved with the opt out movement.  I have also advised families who are curious about boycotting state testing programs. What I have found is that parents promoting opting out have children across the academic spectrum.  Yes, there are some high achievers, but there are also average students, children of all abilities who experience anxiety and students who receive special education services.  The one common denominator is parents who understand the damage of high-stakes testing.

Why is this myth of the “honor roll” opt outer a common view?  The use of student assessment results has created much fear.  Schools can be labeled failing. Teachers in many states are now evaluated using student exam scores.  Federal and state governments have used carrot-stick policies that have forced schools into raising test scores to avoid punishment.  Some administrators and teachers may fear losing their top students scores.

With the addition of growth scores to compare a student's previous state test scores (or SLO pre-tests), teachers will no longer want to have the top or advanced kids.  The high-achievers have a "ceiling" when trying to show growth or improvement from test to test.

The fear of consequences has resulted in a high-stakes testing culture that is harming the education of our children.  The test prep culture has been a part of many schools located in impoverished areas for years, but has begun to invade the suburbs as teachers are being evaluated by test scores.
Some believe the madness of high-stakes testing will come crashing down in a few years.  We cannot wait. My oldest child is currently in fourth grade. If the high-stakes movement were to fall apart in five years, she will be in high school.  What educational opportunities will she have lost in that time?

If you think high-stakes testing will collapse on itself, do not bet on it. Do not wait.  We need to take action. Companies such as Pearson Education are reaping huge profits from the testing machine.  The closing of public schools as a result of test scores has created a privatization movement with charter schools who are public in name and funding only.  Charter School operators and management companies are seeing dollar signs.  Corporate America is looking at education as a source of profit .

The power of Corporate America is what the supporters of our public education are up against. It will take strength in numbers to defeat those who a seeking to destroy our children’s education. Opt out your child.  Tell your child’s teachers and school that your actions are in support of your school. Most teachers agree, but are afraid.  If significant numbers of parents revolt more educators will join the fight to save public education.  Do not let the myth of removing top students from testing prevent you from saving your child’s education.