Testing Opt Out!

1-05-006Testing Opt Out!

My son did high stakes testing in high school. He described it as a hideous experience often being taken from his classes and placed in the gym as one in rows of students preparing for the tests. The school would move desks into the gym so they would have a huge open area for the supervision of test preparation. They spent days preparing for tests each year.

It seems that the high school experience I had so many years ago has deteriorated into a facility where the wonderful things about school: art, science, literature, inspired teaching as well as opportunities to interact with your fellows, have diminished in favor of standardized tests. Many of my students in the college courses I teach appear as if to do well on tests was the main thing they learned in school. The broad range of skills and the confidence one gets from being educated seems to be diminished among them.

As an educator I know the limitations of testing. Some of my students do well on some kinds of tests like multiple choice. Some do badly. Switch to true-false and some students who did badly do well. It is well known that stress knocks down test scores. So does illness and other factors. One story you hear over and over from other faculty at the college level is the student who takes down everything said in class scoring lower than students who don’t take any notes at all. There are powerful differences in test taking abilities and learning styles.

Testing is a blunt instrument. It has limited accuracy. As a college instructor, there are always students in my classes who do badly on tests that I believe are capable learners who I trust will take away more from the class that those who scored well.

After using tests for years and having taken countless tests myself, I am horrified at what these clumsy assessment tools are being used for. If my son were still in high school, I would opt out. I would not put up with this nonsense. I am familiar with the corporate compulsion to collect data and to crunch numbers. As a business teacher, I believe firmly that this is a corporate fetish. Many numbers are useless and mean nothing. Sometimes it is difficult to discern which numbers are significant when compared to other measures. If you want to see number crunching taken to the level of madness, read David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest. Many things done in Vietnam were designed to produce good numbers. And they did, the numbers show that we the war easily. Is that what you remember about the war? Did that war go well for we Americans?

When cooperation with the system means pain for our children, the generation of numbers used to justify the destruction of our schools and increased influence by testing corporations and anti-public education zealots, it is time to say, “Enough.” Opt out, don’t feed the beast.

James Pilant


Test Season Reveals America’s Biggest Failures | Crooks and Liars

It’s testing season in America, and regardless of how the students do, it’s clear who is already flunking the exams.

Last week in New York, new standardized tests began rolling out across the state, and tens of thousands of families said “no dice.”

According to local news sources, over 33,000 students skipped the tests – a figure “that will probably rise.”

At one Brooklyn school, so many parents opted their students out of the tests the teachers were told they were no longer needed to proctor the exams. At another Brooklyn school, 80 percent of the students opted out. Elsewhere in Long Island, 41 school districts in Nassau and Suffolk reported thousands of students refusing to take the test, and an additional district reported hundreds more.

Reflecting how the testing rebellion may affect upcoming elections, the Republican opponent to New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rob Astorino, announced his intention to opt his children out of state tests.

What is happening in New York is indicative of a groundswell of popular dissent – what Peter Rothberg, a journalist for The Nation and a New York City parent, called a “nationwide movement” – against the over-use and abuse of standardized testing in public schools.

via Test Season Reveals America’s Biggest Failures | Crooks and Liars.

From Around the Web.

From the web site, Change the Stakes.


Teachers of Conscience

A Letter to Chancellor Carmen Fariña

Dear Chancellor Carmen Fariña,

We are teachers of public education in the City of New York. We are writing to distance ourselves from a set of policies that have come to be known as market-based education reform. We recognize that there has been a persistent and troubling gulf between the vision of individuals in policymaking and the work of educators, but we see you as someone who has known both positions and might therefore be understanding of our position. We find ourselves at a point in the progress of education reform in which clear acts of conscience will be necessary to preserve the integrity of public education. We can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children. We will not distort curriculum in order to encourage students to comply with bubble test thinking. We can no longer, in good conscience, push aside months of instruction to compete in a city-wide ritual of meaningless and academically bankrupt test preparation. We have seen clearly how these reforms undermine teachers’ love for their profession and undermine students’ intrinsic love of learning.

As an act of conscience, we are declining the role of test administrators for the 2014 New York State Common Core Tests. We are acting in solidarity with countless public school teachers who have paved their own paths of resistance and spoken truthfully about the decay of their profession under market-based reforms. These acts of conscience have been necessary because we are accountable to the children we teach and our pedagogy, both of which are dishonored daily by current policies.

Does Suspension Make Any Sense?


Cast from the garden?
Cast from the garden?

Does Suspension Make Any Sense?

Why do we suspend children from school? – Slate Magazine

Several schools have suspended children for joking about guns in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. A 7-year-old in Maryland was suspended for chewing a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun, while others have received the same punishment for pointing their fingers like guns or using toy guns that blow bubbles. Suspension seems like a counterintuitive disciplinary tool, since many children would prefer to stay home from school, anyway. Why is suspension such a common punishment?

Because it’s familiar, cheap, and convenient. It’s also demonstrably ineffective. Its deterrent value is low: A 2011 study showed that Texas students who were suspended or expelled at least once during middle school and high school averaged four such disciplinary actions during their academic careers. Fourteen percent of them were suspended 11 times or more. Suspensions don’t even seem to benefit the school as a whole. In recent years, while Baltimore city schools have dramatically reduced suspensions, the dropout rate has been cut nearly in half.

Still, surveys consistently show that parents support suspension, because it keeps those students perceived as bad apples away from their peers. Principals continue to rely on suspension, in part because it creates the appearance of toughness. Parents can’t complain about inaction when a principal regularly suspends or expels bad actors. Administrators may also favor suspension because it edges problem students out of school: Students who have been suspended are three times more likely to drop out. Some researchers refer to a student who gives up on school after repeated suspension as a “push out” rather than a dropout.

Why do we suspend children from school? – Slate Magazine


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