None of the Above: Opting Out of State Standardized Tests
Parents all over the country are telling their children to "Just Say No." Only this time, it isn't drugs or sex they want their children to refuse; it is standardized tests.
When faced with a new breed of exams, parents in communities across the country are choosing "None of the Above." A grassroots parent movement is encouraging parents to "opt-out" of new state tests, based on Common Core Standards that are linked with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RttT) funding. States are told that school districts must have a 95 percent participation rate in order to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Some states have waivers in place, but there may still be consequences, depending on the state.
Advocates of these tests say they are necessary to make sure schools are preparing our children for the future. John J. Brady, executive director of ProtemPartners, who specializes in transitions from high school to college and from college to career, explained, "As taxpayers, we have a right to know how our schools are doing in helping our children prepare for future learning and career. [...] If we only rely on the grades and tests given to our children by the schools themselves, we have no outside measure to see how they are faring relative to other school districts."
Parent and educator opt-out activists, however, say that these tests are quantitatively and qualitatively different from the standardized tests of the past. These parents believe that the number of hours spent in testing is excessive. Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, said, "By itself, NCLB nearly tripled the volume of mandatory testing in public schools across the nation."
In New York State, the State Department of Education has said they expect scores to drop, leading many parents to protest that the Common Core Standards on which the new tests are based are developmentally inappropriate.
Jeanine C. of Long Island, New York, is refusing the test on behalf of her third-grade son for a variety of reasons, saying, "...The Common Core Standards, just as it is named, will create 'common' children."
Parents also question the intent of these tests, which seem designed less to assess and assist student education and more to evaluate teachers and schools and take punitive measures to reorganize and close schools that don't meet progress goals. Johanna C. of Long Island, New York, said, "It is unfair and demoralizing to test [students] on material they haven't been taught yet and then have their results used to assess our teachers’, principals', and schools' effectiveness and growth."
Jeanine C. also points to changes in legislation that allow companies to collect and store student data: "By refusing the test it gives us as parents the power to stop at least one avenue of data mining being done on our children."
This is a "kick-down" chain of stress as the federal government pressures the states, the states pressure the districts, the districts pressure the principals, the principals pressure the teachers and it all lands on the shoulders of the students.
Even worse than the tests themselves, activists say, are the hours students are spending on test preparation. Johanna C. pointed out that this means "less time for meaningful instruction, collaboration, creativity, hands-on learning, getting to know my child and what works best for him!"