The Opt-Out Option
High stakes standardized testing is still a terrible thing, in case you were wondering. And more and more parents are starting to realize that since their policy makers aren’t going to change things on their own accord, it’s time to take matters into their own hands to send a message. Active parents are finding the opt-out option to be the best choice for their children – protecting them from undue stress, and supporting their children’s educators at the same time.
Now that it’s springtime it’s officially testing season across the country, and those behind PARCC and similar corporate sponsored standardized tests are still the only ones benefiting from the whole process. However, there is a steadily growing opt-out movement happening around the Common Core tests that parents and students alike are using as a kind of civil disobedience. Refusing to be a results statistic from a poorly executed test is a great way to solicit change in education standards.
While browsing around I’ve found numerous articles discussing how to opt out (in New York and New Jersey, at least), who is opting out (including the President’s daughters), the (non)importance of PARCC tests on a child’s overall school experience (again, for New Jersey, but most states follow the same basic policies), and what opting out entails. The Franklin Foundation also provides a resource for parents interested in opting-out, just email email@example.com with your school district, city, and state information, and their research team will respond with a local or statewide opt-out resource to use.
One particular type of story that caught my eye was the exposure of how some districts have been handling those students who opted out of testing. Some students were forced to “sit and stare” and were not allowed to read or do other activities as they would be “distracting” to the other students. Some opt-out students weren’t allowed to sit in another classroom or library to read during testing because there “weren’t enough staff to watch over them,” so they also had to sit and do nothing for days during test periods. School districts are at such a loss on how to handle these high-stakes tests in so many different aspects it’s a wonder how things got off the ground in the first place. I guess it never occurred to those who adopted these tests that people would rally against them. These aren’t teachers defending standardized tests, these are administrators and policymakers stuck in a “must test” mentality.
But what’s important to keep in mind is why opting out should be an option, and what should come next. It’s easy for a child to agree to refuse a test because it’s boring and stressful, and parents don’t want their child to have to sit through hours of rigorous testing that disrupts the school day, especially if those tests have poor assessment values. But opting out of tests like PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and state tests is just the first step of many in saying NO to corporate-funded education. We still need to find better and more effective ways to assess our student’s academic growth and retention, and bring them to the attention of policymakers and those elected to protect our children’s futures. Also, it’s good to remind those students who are in favor of opting-out of standardized tests that they are doing so to send the message that they are more than their test results, and that they should show this through their applying themselves in productive ways. Getting education back into the hands of those who properly educate should be the number one goal in this reformation movement, and refusing to play by PARCC and Common Core rules is only the beginning, but a good start.
If you’re a parent, are you opting-out? If you’re an educator, are you letting parents know the option exists or is your school clamping down on that sort of thing? Let us know and share with the community.