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Opting Out Interfering with the “Civil Right” of Testing?

May 5, 2015

As I write this post, I have in front of me my permanent education record from kindergarten through eighth grade. It is by way of an unusual set of circumstances that I have this file. The short of it is that the records clerk at the first high school I taught at gave it to me in 1992.

It includes my standardized test scores for grades K, 1, and 4-8.

Yes. I took standardized tests beginning in kindergarten. My first was the Metropolitan Readiness Test, Form B (1973). It assessed my readiness for first grade, in six areas: word meaning, listening, matching, alphabet, numbers, and copying.

My teacher used it to help determine whether I should advance to first grade.

The test was not misused to grade my teacher or school.

None of the other six tests were used to grade my teachers or my school. They were used for diagnostic purposes related to my education.

My tests were not used to make me feel bad about myself by way of expected failure rates publicized in the media. My test results were not manipulated by those who possessed the political power to set any cut scores. There were no cut scores. There was no media hype surrounding my testing. There was no need for my parents to be concerned about my emotional well being due to any punitive consequences that might befall me. I was not worried that my scores could be used to fire my teachers or close my school.

There was no need for my parents to consider opting me out of testing.

Those days do not reflect the testing-pressure-cooker reality of 2015.

The resistance to standardized testing overuse and abuse is alive and well– and growing. One indication of the growing power of the anti-testing movement is the inclusion of an amendment to address the issue of opting out as part of the Senate reauthorization draft of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). That amendment basically states that the federal government does not want to be blamed for any state law concerning parental rights to opt their children out of standardized tests.

The Senate ESEA draft keeps the annual testing that was in place in the previous reauthorization, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). However, in the Senate ESEA draft, the federal government wants states to offer the testing while steering clear of any state-levied blame for states’ decisions regarding parental rights to opt out (or not). (Read about the opt-out amendment in this post.)

In the Senate ESEA draft, the federal government wants to walk a noncommittal fence regarding opting out.

Another indication that the anti-testing movement is gaining strength is the May 5, 2015, press release by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The header reads, Civil Rights Groups: “We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts”: Participation in Assessments Critical for Expanding Opportunity for All Students.

If the anti-testing movement lacked traction, there would be no need for these pro-testing organizations to issue this press release.

Here is where it gets interesting: The writers of the above pro-testing press release maintain that annual testing is critical for the civil rights community because such is a supposedly “the only available, consistent, and objective source of data about disparities in educational outcomes.” But in order for this testing to be useful for “equity,” those outside of this civil rights effort must take the tests. That is, no comparisons among subgroups of students can be trusted if some students are allowed to choose to not test.

In short, opting out is ruining standardized-test-dependent, “achievement gap” visibility.

The civil rights authors hint at mandated testing in NCLB in their statement, “Until federal law insisted that our children be included in these assessments, schools would try to sweep disparities under the rug by sending our children home or to another room while other students took the test.”

These civil rights groups want the tests, and they appreciate a strong federal hand in “being counted” in testing.

However, it is that same federal presence that not only tied testing with punishment to teachers, administrators, and schools, via NCLB; that federal presence also inserted itself in the “common standards and assessments” Common Core-PARCC-SBAC push that has driven parents, students, teachers, and administrators nationwide to actively resist test-score-driven, American education.

So, we now have groups representing civil rights community pushing against the grass roots, anti-testing movement, or the “right to make all students take the test” pushing against the “rights of the individual student to not take the test.”

I wonder how it is that the welfare of disadvantaged children has become dependent upon the testing industry– and how this dependence is not giving these civil rights groups in the press release pause.

Regarding the May 5, 2015, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights press release cited above, the Network for Public Education (NPE) has released a statement in response, entitled, Resistance to High Stakes Tests Serves the Cause of Equity in Education: A Reply to “We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts.” Authored by Seattle teacher Jesse Hagopian and the NPE Board, the statement begins as follows:

Today several important civil rights organizations released a statement that is critical of the decision by many parents and students to opt out of high stakes standardized tests. Though we understand the concerns expressed in this statement, we believe high stakes tests are doing more harm than good to the interests of students of color, and for that reason, we respectfully disagree.

The United States is currently experiencing the largest uprising against high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s history. Never before have more parents, students, and educators participated in acts of defiance against these tests than they are today.  In New York State some 200,000 families have decided to opt their children out of the state test.  The largest walkout against standardized tests in U.S. history occurred in Colorado earlier this school year when thousands refused to take the end of course exams.  In cities from Seattle, to Chicago, to Toledo, to New York City, teachers have organized boycotts of the exam and have refused to administer particularly flawed and punitive exams.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attempted to dismiss this uprising by saying that opposition to the Common Core tests has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” Secretary Duncan’s comment is offensive for many reasons. To begin, suburban white moms have a right not to have their child over tested and the curriculum narrowed to what’s on the test without being ridiculed. But the truth is his comment serves to hide the fact that increasing numbers of people from communities of color are leading this movement around the nation, including:

There is much more to the NPE statement, which can be accessed in full by clicking here.

I will close with the following post, dated May 4, 2015, from Diane Ravitch’s blog:

A reader sent this email to me:

At the 6:43 mark of this latest Fordham podcast,, Mike Petrilli says:

“If this [opt-out] thing goes national, the whole education reform movement is in serious trouble.”

Amen!

std test

 

________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover

 

 

11 Comments
  1. Hannah permalink

    Let the trouble begin.

  2. Laura chapman permalink

    There are over 200 members of the Leadership Council for Civil and Human Rights. Of the twenty to thirty who are making noise, almost all have benefitted from big money from the Gates Foundation and perhaps more than the Gates. The foundations that support charter schools want the testing to continue to support the mantra that all public schools are failing. Part of the recent messaging campaign is enlisting higher education administrators to accept the SBAC PARCC scores in lieu of SAT and ACT scores for admission. In my opinion, the civil rights groups should be hammering the doors of the Office of Civil Rights and picketing other federal offices for remedies to structural issues like redlining communities rather than using test scores of children and teens to make points that end up hurting them and their teachers, many of whom are the staunches of allies and mentors of all children. The irony of the May 5 press release… National Teacher Appreciation day.
    .

    • Laura, I plan to write a post on the funding of these groups tonight.

    • Laura, only one of the 12 civil rights orgs has received Gates money in the past two years. So, I did not write a post on the Gates funding.

  3. Reblogged this on stopcommoncorenys.

  4. Reblogged this on Crazy Normal – the Classroom Exposé and commented:
    Here’s what I find absurd with high stakes tests designed to fail children and punish teachers: I taught in low achieving schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005) where the childhood poverty rate was 70% or higher and less than 8% of the children were white.

    How do these high stakes test going to measure the effects of street gang violence, poverty and hunger?

    For instance, every year I asked my students how many had breakfast before coming to school and maybe two or three hands went up in a classroom with 34 children in it. Further probing discovered that most of the kids had a 64 ounce soda (Coke or Pepsi) for breakfast, because it was cheaper than food, filled their belly and gave them short term energy. The second most popular breakfast was a bag of cheap greasy French fries from the fast food place across the street from the high school. Finding kids who actually ate a nutritious breakfast was almost impossible. When I assigned homework, if even five of those 34 kids did it, that was good. When we worked on an assignment in class, if even half of the children did it, that was good.

    Street gang violence, drugs and killings were also common. Who in their right mind could possibly claim that high stakes testing that fails children and punishes teachers is going to solve all of the problems I dealt with on a daily basis as a classroom teacher in an area plagued by poverty, street violence and crime? How does one of these tests erase the impact of seeing a drive by shooting in the streets outside of the school as school is letting out?

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