As you know if your child is in 3rd-5th grades, we are coming up on the weeks of school devoted to the State tests. If your child will be taking the tests, we wish you luck!
While the PA has not, as a body, taken an official stance on this enormously complicated issue, we are deeply concerned about the implications of high-stakes testing and the ways in which it is reshaping more organic methods of learning and assessing both teachers and students across the country. Below is a letter from Jen Nessel, the chair of the Community Action Committee, on the movement to opt out of the tests and what to do if you want to opt your child out. This is a letter that represents a point of view but also tries to provide accurate information. Please read it!
If you choose to opt your child out of taking the tests, you will be joining a growing movement of concerned public school families across the country who are standing up and saying no—
NO to replacing learning with test prep.
NO to punishing teachers and penalizing schools based solely on standardized test scores.
NO to turning our classrooms into profit centers and handing over $2.7 billion a year to testing companies, when the tests are a fundamentally flawed tool, don’t measure what they claim to measure, and are riddled with errors.
The high stakes of the tests are causing schools across the country to “teach to the test” and abandon curriculum that is not on the tests, subjects like history and science, art and music. Teachers are discouraged from placing value in things that cannot be tested and quantified. Since socio-economic status is by far the best predictor of test scores, as scores are increasingly tied to evaluations and bonuses, teachers have a disincentive to stay at the schools that serve the kids with the greatest needs. More and more teachers are leaving the profession altogether or moving to private schools, where the students don’t have to take the tests.
Opting out is an act of civil disobedience. The more people do it, the more their voices are heard. But not everyone will want to opt out, and their reasons will vary: no one should be judged by their decision either way.
If you choose to opt out, here are some things you should know and some resources that might help you make the decision. Families should be aware that rules can change, and there is no way to be 100 percent certain of the consequences for opting out. Based on our research and current guidelines, we believe the information below to be accurate.
How will opting out affect my child’s chances for getting into middle school?
How will opting out affect my child’s ability to graduate into the next grade?
What will my child do while the rest of the class is taking the tests?
How will opting out affect my school?
How will opting out affect our teachers?
The more families from more schools from more districts, cities, and states that boycott the tests, the better we can show politicians there is strong opposition to high-stakes testing and what it is doing to our schools.
If you are considering opting out, please let me know if you have any questions firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading and thinking about this important issue.
And now for a word from my son, Oscar, who’s in 3rd grade:
“OPT OUT! OPT OUT! OPT OUT!”