You may have heard yesterday and today about the opt-out movement across the country as the state exams are underway. I am glad the movement is getting media attention, but the coverage has been unfairly and incorrectly against teachers and parents. Before I go on with this post, I ask for your help in getting fair media attention by “liking” or commenting on my plea to the Daily Show. Here is the link to my comment on his page: https://www.facebook.com/thedailyshow/posts/10152323021691800.
Here is a very helpful link that answers many questions about opting out, such as why you may want to opt your child out, and how to do so. http://www.scribd.com/doc/194885441/New-York-Opt-Out-Guide-11-13. And here is one parent’s letter about opting out: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/04/02/parent-why-we-opted-our-child-out-of-state-testing/
I will let those links speak for themselves while I focus this post on the results of opting out that I have already seen.
Yesterday, students who opted out were either bullied into taking the exam after all or forced to sit in a room with nothing to do but stare at the walls. In some cases, they were embarrassed by their unknowing teachers, and were told things like, “I know your parents forced you into this.” I hope that in some schools students were allowed to be productive and read or do work, but I have not heard this to be the case.
In the media, parents were shown protesting outside of schools against “the educators” who were giving the exams. This is not parents against teachers as the media would have you think. Parents and teachers are in this together. Most teachers don’t want to give these tests or teach to these tests any more than students want to take them.
The media coverage of this movement didn’t begin until yesterday. This was too late to opt out of the ELA exam that was already underway. More than 20,000 students opted out of yesterday’s exam in New York, and I know it would have been many many more had parents been aware of this option. I am afraid that the parents who were aware were mostly middle to upper class parents of native English speakers. As an ESL teacher, I worry that non-native students and their parents are less likely to have known about this option, and of course are more likely to suffer from low test scores. (I won’t elaborate on that here, but a major focus of my book is how unfair these exams are for ESL students.) If my fears are correct, this also means the scores on the exams this year may be far lower than in past years. I can guarantee, the media will portray these falling test scores as the fault of teachers.
There should be alternate ways of assessing our students instead of high stakes, one-size-fits-all exams that are unfair for so many of our children. I hope the opt out movement will continue to grow until we teachers and parents can force more permanent change.
If you haven’t done so already, please like and/or comment on my plea to Jon Stewart. Thanks!