About 100 people attended a rally organized by Oregon Badass Teachers to protest Pearson, a corporation whose name has become synonymous with high stakes testing. Many attending belonged to organizations that fought to pass legislation that would make it easier for parents to opt their children out of such tests. Stand for Children opposed the bill with saber-rattling threats urging the governor to veto it. Kathleen Hagans Jeskey, event organizer, announced during the march that Governor Kate Brown had just signed the Opt-Out bill into law drawing ecstatic cheers from the crowd.
Protesters, adults and children alike, took the stage to attest (no pun intended) to the horrors of high stakes tests in their lives. Johnny-Moneybags-Pearson literally offered kids money with strings attached — to no art, no music, no library, and so on. They weren’t having any of it.
Bill Gates surprised the crowd by arriving from Seattle, Washington in the Opt-Out Bus. He graciously posed for photos with members of the group causing some to wonder, “Does he finally realize the harm Common Core high stakes testing is doing to America’s children?” We can only hope.
All in all, it was a good day for Oregon’s children.
So I walk into the learning store to see what’s available for parents to purchase in their attempt to assuage the dreaded Common Core beast that has entered into the lives of their children, uninvited. As a teacher I had frequented the store and spent considerable time and way too much of my paycheck there. As a retired teacher, I sometimes buy games and flashcards to tutor struggling students. I have to admit it. The #2 Ticonderogas, the scented fluorescent markers, legos, scores of smiley-face stickers, laminated posters hot off the press, paints and puzzles, more legos . . . I love that store.
I chat with the sales clerk. I want to know about how parent resources have changed since Common Core State Standards and high stakes testing have become the driving force in our public schools. I refer to Arne Duncan’s assessment of suburban moms, the very parents who frequent her store:
It turns out that many suburban and middle-class parents have issues when those reforms are extended to the schools that educate their children. This has been taken as a sign that these parents are ignorant or selfish. As U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has put it, “Pushback is coming from, sort of, 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, and that’s pretty scary.”
I offer up some more facts about the test, and she listens patiently. “Although some parents are beginning to opt-out their children from high stakes standardized tests, others are hunkering down for the challenge believing that their children will defiantly beat the odds — as only one-third of students are predicted to pass the SBAC or PARCC,” I explain. She nods and sighs deeply.
“Parents come in and ask for books to help their kids with Common Core and the tests, and I direct them to these shelves,” she says as she gestures. She directs me to shelves of books displaying Common Core icons on the cover. I browse the math selection.
I expect to find booklets rich in worksheets and answer keys delineating the 108 steps required to solve a Common Core fourth grade word problem as demonstrated by this Arkansas mom.
Instead I find the same standard content from the same familiar publishers. There are no convoluted word problems with 108 steps that can just as easily be calculated in two. Confused, I ask the sales clerk what had changed in the new booklets the store is now selling as Common Core material.
She grins sheepishly, shrugs a little, and says, “The Common Core icon on the cover.” She timidly bites her lip and hurries away to help other customers offering no further explanation.
I get it. This store isn’t in the business of selling out kids by providing the ridiculous CCSS resources that make a mockery of learning. They aren’t betraying families with children who need a little boost to learn math. On the other hand, it’s deceptive to market math materials as Common Core relevant when clearly they are not. It must confuse parents who are trying to figure out what all the fuss is about. They miss the opportunity to find out just how convoluted Common Core math really is.
Immediately, I see the predicament the store had been forced into by an education system that no longer makes sense. Selling education materials should not present a moral dilemma to shop keepers promoting the joy of learning. UGH!
Thank you Yong Zhao for the wonderful and entertaining insights in your keynote speech to over 600 parents and educators at the Network for Public Education in Chicago this past week. And thank you, too, to Mercedes Schneider for transcribing it so masterfully so that we bloggers can highlight delightful excerpts from it for our posts. Without further adieu, Yong Zhao:
Parents with their kids in tow flocked to Play Date PDX Sunday evening to learn how to opt their students out of high stakes standardized testing. The kid-friendly venue provided a pleasant atmosphere to share information about the worrisome test their children will be subjected to this year.
In December of 2013 the Oregon Department of Education said the new tests are needed primarily because Oregon’s current tests, known as OAKS, don’t cover the skills schools must impart under the Common Core State Standards that Oregon mandated schools cover by 2014-15. But parents and teachers say not so fast. Members of Oregon Save Our Schools, headed by the Opt Out of High Stakes Testing Committee chaired by LuAnne DeMarco, organized the event to share information about the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC (referred to as s-bac) and how parents may request that their children not be required to take the test.
Quintessential primary teacher Emily Crum objects to the new tests for several reasons. In states where the SBAC has already been given, two-thirds of students failed. Similar results have already been projected for Oregon students. Too much time is spent preparing for tests that are developmentally inappropriate for children. The tests take away valuable teaching time and leave little time for kids to be kids. Emily asked families to create posters citing their reasons for opting out of the test. You may view the posters here.
More than 90 people came to receive information and resources to support their decision to opt out. You can find that information and opt out forms here.
Many parents are finding out more about the dark side of high stakes testing and are not willing to simply follow the order of the task masters who are not acting in the best interest of children. Read here why one mother and educator will be opting her children out of the SBAC.
Oregon is not alone in questioning the efficacy of the new tests that supposedly align to the Common Core State Standards. Fair Test and United Opt Out are promoting resistance to the tests nationwide.
Ultimately, the question becomes, “What kind of school experience do we want for our children?” Do we want schools with rich curriculum and exciting experiences, a place where teachers and children want to learn and work and play? Yes. We have the power to opt out of standardized testing!
“The Rally to Educate the Gates Foundation” in Seattle, Washington and is sponsored by Badass Teachers Association (WA-BATS), a grassroots group of career educators defending our public education system from private interest groups, on Thursday, June 26, 2014 at Westlake Park, 401 Pine St, Seattle.
The first 45 minutes of the rally features speakers including Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and UW Associate Professor Wayne Au.
Deb Mayer, Catherine Carroll, Kris Alman, Anthony Cody, and Kathleen Jeskey join Washington teachers and activist to bring some badass action to protest the Gates Foundation’s shady involvement in privatizing our public schools. Our schools are not for sale.
Catherine Carroll wants to teach the whole child. She objects to scripted curriculum, inappropriate standards, fake TFA-type teachers, phony education nonprofits, high-stakes standardized tests, and billionaires scheming to privatize our public schools.
Parents object to the corporate insistence on RIGOR in the classroom, the emphasis on standardized testing in reading and math at the expense of art, music, P.E. and library.
The “Corporate Vulture” casts a pall on equitable public schools for all.
Seattle’s finest escort education advocates from Westlake Park to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
WA-BATS refuse to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality and refuse to accept tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.
WA BATS demand that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation divest from their education agenda which includes: Over Testing, Race To The Top, Teach For America, Ignoring Poverty, Class Size Increases, Charter Schools, Big Data-Piracy or Sharing, Union Busting, Narrowing Curriculum, Ignoring Parent Voice, Value Added Measures, Appointed School Boards, Privatizing Public Schools, Replacing Teachers With Screens, For-profit Business Model Policy, Tying Funding to Test Scores, Outsourcing to Private Vendors, Treating Kids Like Widgets, High Stakes Testing & Common Core State Standards.
Rally Attendees Say YES TO: Parent & Educator Voice! Creativity! Small Class Sizes! Civics! Science! Music! Art! Drama! Physical Education! Parent Involvement! Libraries! Counselors! Experienced Teachers! Learning Through Play! Project Based Learning! Learning Support Staff! Adequate Compensation! Democratic Governance of Schools! Relevant Educator Training! Less Testing and More Learning! Transparent Decision Making! Equitable Funding For Every Child! Recognizing Each Student’s Potential! Culturally & Developmentally Responsive Curriculum! “
In 2014 political power resides in monetary wealth and public policy is being determined by the mega-rich not the expert practicioner-in many professions. No one is asking teachers what schools need.
Teachers are told that they don’t have high enough expectations for kids. This is ludicrous. Our governing system is becoming undemocratic but worse it IS harming children who need a wholistic classroom experience beyond test scores.
The Gates Foundation must accept that teachers are more than software; that learning is individualized; and that education is a public endeavor.
Excellent public schools are the cornerstone of a free society: big money is buying the education agenda. People must stand up to this oligarchical shift and reclaim public schools with the whole child at the center.
Business reformers need to spread their expertise in places where they know what they are talking about. Teachers are experts when it comes to student learning. Ask us what kids need to thrive and learn. We are happy to tell you.
Portland area organizations are joining together to present Standardized. The movie is gaining attention around the nation as parents, teachers, students, and community members are becoming aware of the true cost of standardized testing. A national movement is growing to opt out of high stakes testing. A panel representing students, parents, and educators will answer questions following the screening. All are welcome.
Find a printable, interactive poster to share here: Standardized Poster
For decades, standardized testing has been a part of public education. Within the last ten years, however, education reform has promoted even more testing. Test scores, mistakenly viewed as effective assessments of student ability and teacher/school effectiveness, are anything but. STANDARDIZED sheds light on the invalid nature of these tests, the terrible consequences of high-stakes testing, and the big money that’s involved.
During the first week of March, 2014, hundreds of educators, parents, and students met for the Network for Public Education Conference in Austin, Texas to address the topic of so-called “education reform” of America’s K-12 public schools. On the last day of the conference, Diane Ravitch, representing all those attending, called on Congress to conduct formal hearings on the misuse of high-stakes testing in our public schools.
The call for Congressional hearings – addressed to Senators Lamar Alexander and Tom Harkin of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, and Representatives John Kline and George Miller of the House Education and Workforce Committee – states that high-stakes testing in public schools has led to multiple unintended consequences that warrant federal scrutiny. NPE asks Congressional leaders to pursue eleven potential inquiries, including, “Do the tests promote skills our children and our economy need?” and “Are tests being given to children who are too young?”
A panel discussion and Q & A on the growing movement of resistance to standardized testing, featuring Jesse Hagopian, leader of the teachers boycott of the MAP test at Seattle’s Garfield High School; Uvia Murillo, a Woodlawn Elementary parent who opted out of the OAKS test for her son; Elizabeth Lehl, a Vernon Elementary teacher; and Alexia Garcia, a Lincoln High student and leader of the Portland Student Union campaign urging students to opt out of the OAKS test. KBOOs Jamie Partridge recorded the forum at Grant High School on March 16, 2013.
Why Opt Out?
High stakes testing fosters test score-driven education rather than meeting the individual needs of students.
The emphasis on testing puts pressure on the child, who learns that it’s not learning that matters but getting a “good” test score.
The child who does not pass the first time is identified for intensive coaching, making the child feel different. The extra time devoted to coaching is time the student may lose in enrichment subjects, PE, recess, and other activities that make school enjoyable.
The tested subjects become the focus of instruction to boost scores, leading to neglect of useful and enriching subjects such as music, art, shop class, even writing.
The tests favor middle class students and disadvantage low-income and minority students and students limited in English proficiency. As a result, disadvantaged students suffer a narrowed curriculum and are denied access to subjects that might engage them in school.
Investing money towards testing, new tests, and data collection diverts money away from providing a quality, well-rounded education for all students. That is money that could be used to lower class sizes, provide counselors and aides, and more time for teachers to interact with parents and students.
High stakes tests fuel push-outs, drop-outs and the school-to-prison pipeline.
Opting out gives parents a say in public education. Top-down mandates from federal and state policies have left the public, and the people most directly impacted – students, teachers, and parents – out of public education policy decisions. Opting out makes your voice heard.
How to Opt Out
Send a letter to your child’s teacher and principal stating you are opting out of state testing for reasons of disability or religious belief. “Religion” can be construed broadly and you do not need to invoke a particular tradition or denomination. Suggest an “alternative learning activity” for your child to do during testing time, such as reading, researching, writing, helping younger students, etc.
You may want to call your district just to verify that they share your understanding. Try to make this process as easy on the school teachers and principals as possible by getting all the most accurate information for your district. There should be a testing coordinator at the district level that can also answer any questions.
If your child is in high school and opting out of the 11th grade OAKS assessment, he or she will need an alternative assessment in order to graduate, such as the ACT, SAT, or a locally scored work sample. Be prepared to state your preferred option. If your child is not in high school, no other alternative assessment is required.
Make sure your child wants to do this. Don’t apply any pressure.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will opting out cause my school to not receive funding?
By law, all students are entitled to a free, public education. It would be illegal to withhold funding from schools if students opt out.
Won’t test scores be required for college entry?
State test scores such as the OAKS are not required for college entry. Some colleges require SAT or ACT, but over 815 universities across the nation, including several in Oregon, do not require such test scores for admission. View the list at FairTest.
The Test Administration Manual from the Oregon Department of Educationcites only disabilities or religious beliefs as a basis for opting out. Can I still opt out just because I don’t believe the tests are worthwhile unjust in their use?
Yes. We have checked with local ministers on this. Religion is a set of beliefs. Disagreeing in the use of high stakes testing is a set of beliefs. Additionally, it would be a violation of civil rights to allow some people to opt out due to their beliefs and not others.
Won’t this hurt the ranking of my child’s school?
It can. Schools that do not meet participation targets in all subgroups will have their overall rating lowered by one category. All subgroups with at least 40 students in assessed grades over two years combined must meet the 95% participation target. These subgroups include economically disadvantaged student, students with disabilities, English learners, and seven identified racial or ethnic groups.
Also, according to the new 2012-2013 Oregon Report Card, a school that does not meet participation targets for every subgroup for two years in a row will have their overall rating lowered by two categories and will be reviewed for particular supports and interventions. In 2013-2014, per the new Report Card, a school that does not meet participation targets for every subgroup for three years in a row will have their overall rating lowered by three categories which would result in such schools receiving either a Focus or Priority rating. However, there are no consequences to individual students.
What would it really mean to fall into a Focus or Priority category?
Schools in this category are to receive “interventions” that help students improve achievement. A team would need to examine why participation rate is low. Obviously, this forces an important discussion. Students in Priority and Focus categories based on low test scores receive interventions such as tutoring and closer monitoring of a school. Of course, it would not make sense to apply interventions simply on the basis of participation rates. This may be uncharted territory.
Didn’t receiving an NCLB waiver mean we didn’t have to have such punitive measures?
No. The waiver just renamed the measures. You can read more about that here: http://www.boldapproach.org/policy-blog-templates/stop-nclb-waivers
Won’t this harm my child’s teacher because they have to be evaluated based in part on test scores?
Participation rate should not factor into such evaluations. As a teacher would have proof from families as to their desire to opt out, this decision should not reflect negatively on teachers.
What about the new tests that are coming out, the Smarter Balanced Assessments? Will they be better and take less time and resources and provide better measures of learning?
It is hard to say what the quality will be, but we do know these tests will be more costly. They may take more time if they are given to even more grade levels. In any case, even if they are of “higher quality,” however that is defined, they will still pose the problems we have identified in terms of consequences: lack of application to student learning and narrowing the curriculum to tested subjects.
As parents, students, and educators, we need to voice how our education money in education should be spent. Should it go to more testing? Or should it go to smaller class sizes and programs and services. Find out what others are saying about the Opt Out movement, follow these links:
My wife and I have decided not to put all the pressure of carrying out the Bartlbey Project on our son’s shoulders this year. When he is a little older and decides on his own that this is what he wants to do then we will definitely support him. However, we have not given in to the high stakes testing culture. We are going to “opt out” our son from NCLB testing (PSSAs here in Pennsylvania). We have asked other families to join us and some are considering it, but their support or lack of it will not deter us from our decision.
This is a story written by Noa Rosinplotz, a sixth-grade student in the District of Columbia public schools. It first appeared on a Facebook page called “Children Left Behind,” a protest site for students and families. Noa sent it to her story, and she also wrote a letter, which follows the story. Students are not widgets; they are not pieces of clay. They don’t like what is being inflicted upon them. Once they become active, everything changes.
In January, when nearly all of the teachers at a Seattle high school decided to refuse to give mandated standardized district tests called the Measures of Academy Progress because, they said, the exams don’t evaluate learning and are a waste of time, people took notice. Since that time many other teachers, parents, and students have joined in to support them. They have released the genie from the bottle and it’s not going back in. Today many people are beginning to question the testing craze.
We oppose the major initiatives embodied in the Race to the Top (RTTT) program that relies on market-based approaches for our schools. Therefore, we oppose privatizing influence of charter schools that drain desperately needed funds from public schools. We oppose merit pay and other initiatives that seek to define teaching and learning through curriculum narrowing/culturally biased standardized tests.
Jesse Hagopian is a leader in the group Social Equality Educators focused on social justice unionism within the Seattle Teachers Association. He has written many articles on education reform. He co-wrote the chapter “Teachers’ Union and Social Justice” for the book Education and Capitalism Struggles for Learning and Liberation. Jesse teaches social studies in Seattle at Garfield High School and is one of many teachers boycotting the MAP Test.
The PPS and Portland Student Unions will be teaming up in organizing an Opt-Out Campaign in which students are encouraged to opt-out of taking their standardized OAKS tests. The Student Unions want to send a strong message against to the standardized testing system as we believe that standardized tests scores are an inaccurate depiction of a student’s knowledge, have an extremely high correlation to a student’s family’s income, have a high correlation with race, are expensive, and in all are taking up class time that we could use learning things that are more applicable to our lives, as well as be developing better relationships with our teachers and peers.
We now have two levels of learners. Those whose fate is to memorize basic facts and the second set of learners who are learning how to think creatively and critically. The second level of students are for the most part in the private schools or the schools in the wealthier communities. With the re-segregation of our schools into neighborhood schools in Seattle, the line has been drawn quite clearly.
It would be like a mechanic whose boss has said,” I want you to use the cheaper version of the brakes even though they’re not as good, I want you to use that.” And mechanic finally stood up and said, “You know this is bad for customers, right? You know the breaks are going to give out sooner, and I feel so strongly that that’s the wrong thing to do that I’m not going to turn to my boss and say no.”
Members of this site are parents, educators, students and social activists who are dedicated to the elimination of high stakes testing in public education. We use this site to collaborate, exchange ideas, support one another, share information and initiate collective local and national actions to end the reign of fear and terror promoted by the high stakes testing agenda.
The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial.
I walked away from the rest of my class and over to the three computers in the corner of my classroom. Two of my 1st graders, Jasmine and Jayden, sat at their computers with their headphones off, waiting for me to reset their computers to Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test number 2.
“I got 162,” said Jasmine. “You got 142.”
“You did better than me,” replied Jayden with a frown.
Shelly sat at the third computer. “I don’t wanna do the computer test,” she pleaded. “Do I have to?”
In Texas, more than 10,000 people joined a recent rally to protest it. In Seattle, high school teachers launched a boycott over it. And in Los Angeles, school board candidates are arguing over it — a debate considered so crucial to the future of education reform that outside donors have poured millions into the campaigns.
If just 6% of the children per school site were opted out of this grossly over-rated system of assessing students and holding educators accountable, we could begin to have a productive dialogue about more humane and complex systems of assessment and education.
Great Schools for America examines issues of public education policy and advocates for the protection of our poorest and most vulnerable students against the rich and powerful who aspire to usurp their rights. We are committed to democratic, not corporate, education ensuring all students access to great teachers, facilities, programs, and projects.