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How School Administrators Tried to Bully My Daughter into Taking a Meaningless Test

What really happens when a student decides to opt-out of statewide exams? One parent-teacher's perspective on the backlash her daughter experienced when she said no to the test.
 
 
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The following letter was originally submitted to United Opt Out, a national campaign to eliminate high-stakes testing in public education. Its author is both a National Board Certified Teacher and the parent of a high school student who recently decided to forgo statewide testing in her Denver, CO school. Their experience is detailed below.

To Those It May Concern:

I have dual roles in the work force. I am a teacher who, this year, received my National Board accreditation and was recently honored by legislators for this achievement and my commitment to high quality education. I am also a parent who takes seriously my role as an advocate for and mentor of my children. I currently have a daughter enrolled as a Freshman in Denver Public Schools. I am highly supportive of my child’s public education, her teachers and her school. My two roles often intertwine. The dichotomies that sometimes present themselves can be difficult to navigate.

National Board teachers are well aware that the bottom line in an educator’s practice is knowing that the decisions made daily in the classroom have positive and real effects on student learning. As a mother, I look for these opportunities in my own children’s education. Recently, around our dinner table, the topic has turned to the up and coming CSAP/TCAP tests. As both an educator and a parent, I question the cost to benefit value of these tests. The amount of effort and expenditure put toward state tests in relation to the type of information received, in my opinion and experience, is not justifiable and needs to be reexamined and reconsidered by our legislators.

My daughter and I have engaged in several discussions regarding this testing over the last month. She entered preschool the year the tests began and has never known an educational environment that has not been test-oriented. As her parent, I have attempted to support the testing by making certain that she sleeps well the night before and has breakfast the morning of the test. I have encouraged her to do her best and have listened to recaps of how she has navigated the “Tell about your favorite outfit” writing prompt. To her credit, and with a definite call out to the majority of her teachers and a recognition of her environmental upbringing, she has scored advanced in all areas each year she has been subjected to the tests.  Kudos to her.

My daughter’s and my conversations regarding the inherent (or lack of inherent) value of the test began in January of this year. We discussed the lack of voice and power educators have when it comes to administering the tests. We contemplated the power of parents in standing up against the status quo and this led us to examine the possibility of her parents opting her out of this year’s testing. Instead of taking the statewide exam, my daughter independently decided that she would prefer spending the testing time researching the issues surrounding standardized testing and writing to her legislators about the effects of testing on her education. When given the choice, she commented, “It would make more sense to me to spend the time doing something productive and worthwhile... something that might make a difference and that would challenge me. Something that has meaning to me.”

Uncertain of how this decision would affect the larger picture, we began to explore the option by contacting the Colorado Department of Education, the school and doing internet research. We received a response by the Colorado Department of Education outlining four misconceptions, three of which we questioned the validity [of]. The only one that concerned us was the potential impact opting out would have on the school and the teachers. My daughter has had a positive experience her first year of high school – it should be noted that much of this can be attributed to a dedicated and supportive drama teacher at the school – and we were concerned about how the decision might impact the school.

 
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