Rebel in Training

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I opt my kid out of standardized testing.

Yep. You can, you know. Did you know? Probably not, but you can.

Emily has two parents who both know how poorly constructed standardized tests are, as well as how they are effectively designed to track students into tiers of education. I call this the "We wouldn't want any poor kids to be in AP English - General English is good enough for them." mindset.

I also do not believe in punishing or rewarding any single teacher based on how well my - or any other kid - takes a test. Standardized tests don't assess quality of teaching, AT ALL. They assess how well a single kid takes a single test on one single discrete day in time.

Teachers shouldn't teach to tests. Good pedagogy speaks to this. We have boatloads of educational research to support this. And yet what do we ask teachers to do when we tie their job security to how well a class of children test? Um, duh. They teach to the test.

Pearson helped write NCLB. It should shock no one that they are making billions of dollars off of the standardized testing that has followed. Race to the Top is no better. Common Core is laughable, with it's design to fail built in the fabric of the design. The SAT and ACT will shortly be going the way of the GRE as more colleges concede that these scores are no true barometer of a student's potential success in college.

As an educator, the only way out of this stinking quagmire that I can see is to withhold my child from being a data point. No data, no stick to beat the teachers.

Emily knows all of my concerns about testing. She is both relieved and occasionally embarrassed about her mother's deep commitment to this opting her out.

But here is what I didn't see coming. Emily has started informing her peers...who inform their parents.

We had four other children opt out this week.

My school psych colleague smiled when I told her this yesterday. "Oh, I am going to hear about you!", she said, laughing.

I know. I know that I have become the over educated parent who won't shut up about this. I know.

I don't care. My kid is not a data point to be used by Pearson to make more money soaked in the anxiety vomit of young children. My kid needs all of her instructional time focused on curriculum, not hours going over how to take the tests, or in assemblies exhorting the children to DO THEIR BEST ON THE TEST BECAUSE IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!!!.

Alfred Binet, creator of the very first sort of standardized test, wrote prodigiously on why this should never be generalizable. Yet, here we are.

Join me. Opt out.

* They don't even hassle me anymore, the way they once did, because there is no argument valid enough to ask me to allow my child to be used in a manner that I find suspect and unethical. They will hassle you, though. Principals will call you. School Psych people will pester you. They will lie to you to get you to acquiesce. Teachers are forbidden to even discuss an opt out option with parents, on pain of being fired.  This is a sickness and it needs to stop. 

Can you pass that dish of oppression?

Monday, October 13, 2014

It is no secret that my politics are.....quite left. I AM that left wing bleeding heart liberal that gets demonized in the press. The fact that my spouse is a bit more left than I am makes for an interesting parenting experience.

Now, aside from the lack of godliness in the home ( which I am sure indicates a lack of "values" or whatever the hell else won the republicans the last election)- there is a decided "anti-establishment" theme to many of the books in our home.

Look, there is the Marx reader ( my husband's), See there Alfie Kohn's books on the failings of the American educational system, Behold "Lies my Teacher Told Me" on my bedside. Our child had no regular alphabet in her room - she was looking at the "Alternative Alphabet" - featuring "P is for Peace and Y is for Yoga". You get the point.

So when our daughter comes home from public school with a cut and color Columbus day ship and asks us if we are going to have a Columbus day feast to honor Columbus - you get two dumbfounded adults scrambling for a response.

Terrance's response: "Daddy isn't into Columbus. I don't do Columbus day."

Oh, very helpful. Thanks ever so much. That was quite illuminating.

I bring out the children's book "Encounter" by Jane Yolen- which we read, and re-read at this time of year. Being an early childhood person, I tend not to answer my daughter's questions with the same cut and dry responses my husband uses. I want to engage her thought process and get her to think critically. Terrance thinks that this is a bullshit approach.

So we talk about what the experience of the Native People's must have been like. That discovery isn't the same when you discover something that belongs to someone else. It would be like me walking into her room and "discovering" her Playmobil house and claiming it as my own. Not very heroic.

"That's stealing.", she says.

"Yes it is, honey. That's why daddy and I are uncomfortable with Columbus Day. He may have been very adventurous to sail over the ocean to find and see new things- but he was very unkind to the people he found living there already."

And Emily - as always - absorbs this information to the best of her ability. And says:

"Can I stay up late and eat popcorn?"

Fight the power, honey, fight the power.

Originally published in October 2006

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