Why Parents Are Opting Out of High Stakes Testing

Reggie Fullwood

A wise man once said,” All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”
Why is this quote relevant? Because it is testing season in Florida, and around the country, and students in grades 3 and up will be subjected to hours and hours of testing that will not give their teacher or parents any meaningful feedback.

In fact, results will come in after the students have completed their year and hung out all summer; and then in the fall schools and parents get worthless results. Teachers and parents are not allowed to view the questions so that they can potentially help students in areas in which they didn’t do well.
Sounds a bit dysfunctional to me. And that’s the major argument against these annual high stakes standardized tests. What is the real value?
Teachers are constantly saying that they actually want to teach children. They want to be creative with their lesson plans versus focusing a large percentage of their time on test preparation.

So what are parents doing about it? Well, in this great democracy of ours, parents really don’t have many options.In a state where the Republican led Legislature is constantly promoting educational “choice,” it is interesting that parents are not given a choice of either to allow their children to participate in annual standardized tests.

So parents have gotten creative and are “opting out.” There is no opt-out policy, but parents have decided that enough is enough, and they are forcing the issue.
The Opt-Out Florida Network even offers a pocket guide for parents interested in joining the movement. According the organization last year, in Florida alone, the Dept. of Education reported that 20,709 tests were successfully refused. Some reports show that nationally over 645,000 public school students refused to take standardized exams during 2015.

While many members of the state legislature have essentially ignored the movement, Former Senate President Don Gaetz wrote a letter to Education Commissioner Pam Stewart asking specific questions about a parents right to opt their child out.

In Stewart’s response to Gaetz she said, “If students were to opt out, students and parents would not know whether students have mastered the subject content in their courses, which is a basic process of learning.”

So are we discrediting teachers and their role and responsibility?

Teachers apparently can’t be trusted to evaluate their own students without benefit of a standardized test score?

While the opt-out movement around the country mostly involves parents, there are teachers that are supporting the effort. There seems to be a growing group of people that share the opinion that standardized tests are not the best assessment tool for students.

Here are a few realities about standardized tests that reinforce their lack of real value. Standardized tests don’t provide any feedback on how to perform better. The results aren’t even given back to the teachers and students until months later; and there is no feedback on how to improve these test scores.

Standardized tests don’t recognize or value diversity.People have different cultural backgrounds, different levels of proficiency in the English language, different learning and thinking styles, different family backgrounds, and different past experiences. And yet the standardized test treats them as if they were all identical.
And my Republican friends would argue against this point, but standardized tests favor those who have socio-economic advantages.

Test companies, a multi-billion dollar a year industry, not only create and implement the tests, they also manufacture the courses and programs that can be taken to “prepare for the test.”

If you have the money, you can even get special tutors that will help you do well on a test. If you don’t have the money, and your school is in a low socio-economic area that gets less funding than rich suburban schools, then you’re not getting the same preparation for the test as those at the higher socio-economic levels do.
And because so much emphasis is placed on standardized test results,, teachers are spending more and more time “teaching to the test.” Our children are not getting a well-balanced education.

While I haven’t downloaded my Opt-Out pocket guide yet, I am definitely thinking about it. Last year, I saw how stressed out my third grader got over these tests and it is preposterous that students and parents have to deal withthis type of high stakes valueless testing.

Signing off from Tallahassee,

Reggie Fullwood

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