Some teachers are finally saying “enough is enough!”
Teachers in Seattle, Washington were the first to break ranks and oppose the teaching-to-the-test. Garfield High School teachers started their boycott in January, refusing to give the high-stakes MAP test that they contend produces meaningless results. The MAP is also used in Kansas schools.
Teachers at three additional high schools in Seattle joined the boycott. Teachers from across the country have written letters of support.
But this resistance is not without risk. Seattle administrators ordered the rebel teachers to give the tests by Friday, February 22, or face disciplinary measures of 10 days unpaid leave. Failure to implement school policy or follow orders is also considered insubordination and can be grounds for immediate dismissal.
Testing season has begun in Kansas as well. And each year, more and more parents are asking schools to exempt their child from our annual assessments.
But No Child Left Behind penalties for schools have not gone away; they have just been modified and renamed. With most Kansas schools still under pressure to increase test scores, they are ramping up pressure on their teachers and students.
One problem is “happy clickers”—students who just don’t care and simply click any answer on the computerized tests. To force students to make maximum effort on the assessments, schools formerly held pep sessions or gave special parties for high performing students.
Now the extortion has gone further. Some school districts require parents to sign a note that promises that they will force their student to make maximum effort on the test. If parents do not sign, their student will be excluded from the celebration party even if the student performs well on the tests. Such corrupt coercion sends a powerful message to our current students that the end justifies any means. A new phrase has gained currency in education: “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”
Kansas parents who want to opt their child out of the state assessments are often told by school administrators that their child must take the tests. However, Kansas is not a state that requires passage of high-stakes tests to earn a diploma.
Parents are limited in opting their child out of internal classwork. There is a general religious opt-out that a parent can exercise for coursework on bonafide religious grounds. And there is an opt-out/opt-in provided for sex education in health classes. But state assessments have nothing to do with internal coursework. They are externally-imposed tests and there is no authority for penalizing any student whose parent opts them out.
Education is about learning, not testing. And “the more time you spend weighing them is less time you have to feed them.” Students come into our classes as unique individuals and they should leave as unique individuals; but the standardized tests drive schools to produce a standardized student.
Parents who wish to exercise their right to pull their students from the mandated assessments not only have to confront school administrators who will attempt to prevent this, but must weigh the ostracism and blacklisting of their child that should not occur.
Parents can find help at the website of United Opt Out National, a support group for parents and teachers who are dedicated to eliminating high stakes testing in public education; they recognize this “...reign of fear and terror...” in schools. The Bartleby Project is another website that helps students “...to peacefully refuse to take standardized tests or to participate in any preparation for these tests....”