Assessments are done. The 2011-2012 school year is behind us. And never in Kansas history have we seen so many Kansas school administrators sink to lying, deceit and misrepresentation.
In previous years, Kansas schools resorted to convocations, pep sessions, and other “soft” methods to coerce students to take the state assessments. However, this academic year has seen gun-to-the-head dishonesty to force parents to send their students into another round of assessments.
Time and again Kansas parents, who have become fed up with their child being a cog in a test-prep factory, have asked to have their child opted out of the state assessment. And far too many times, the school reply has been to tell the parents that the student is required to take the assessment.
Indeed, some schools and some superintendents have upped the threat to students: if you don’t exceed the 50% math mark, you will be held back to take that class over. This claim has popped up so uniformly that I suspect that it is a party line developed by conspiring Kansas superintendents.
They would have done well to consult a school law attorney first. To hold back a student who is doing A-work in day-to-day math coursework, when the student freezes up on a one-time standardized math test is clear and simple educational malpractice. The state assessments were never designed for use in grade promotion. Treating a student in this manner would be a clear case of educational incompetence.
Some schools are also incorporating the assessment score as part of the class grade---also malpractice.
Unfortunately, under NCLB, schools do have a gun-to-their-heads to make constant progress toward 100% proficiency by 2014, with plenty of penalties if they do not achieve that level. In response, some schools pass on this school penalty to parents, misrepresenting the assessment as a “requirement.” Kansas, unlike some states that require an appropriately-designed assessment to graduate, does not have the right to compel parents to send their child into assessment.
Parents have every right to opt-their child out of the state assessment. Teachers (and school boards) do have the right to require educationally-appropriate course curricula and prohibit opt-out (with the exception of the religious and health sex-ed opt-outs). But this test is not a part of school curricula, but a measurement instrument that is ultimately required of school districts to meet No Child Left Behind federal mandates. All federally-mandated measurements come with opt-out.
If the number of students taking the test falls below 95 percent of total students (or 95 percent of the larger student subgroups), the school’s data no longer qualify for it to meet AYP. It is because the stakes are so high that some school administrators have threatened students with retention if they did not take the tests. For those who know their WWII history this memorial season, this case of “good people doing bad things” will remind one of the Vichy French and or Norwegian Quislings. For those whose history education was inadequate (the topic is not on official curricula), these are people who betrayed their own country by aiding an invading enemy, In this case, it is administrators who are betraying their teachers, students, and community by coercing compliance with assessment. And while students are not being killed, their spirit, enthusiasm for learning, and future creativity are being killed.
There are a few heroic Kansas schools where the administration still tells teachers to continue teaching the full range of topics and not drill for the test, and let the assessment scores fall where they may. That is reminiscent of the Dutch who all wore “Jude” badges when the Nazi directive came down ordering all Jews to do so. But such school administrators will not last long in this Fourth Reich.
The threats worked this year. Enough Kansas parents fell into line to keep schools above 95 percent participation. But more Kansans are becoming fed up with the federally-led narrowing of the curriculum, elimination of creativity, and mind-numbing teach-to-the-test drilling. Unless education policy changes, there will be more parents pull their children from assessments next year. And there will be more “happy clickers’ (students who rapidly click through the computerized assessment answers without reading).
When this assessment terror finally passes, will the public accept these administrators’ lame excuse: “I was just following orders from above”?