I am neck deep in a very serious decision making process about whether I am going to opt my child out of the many, many standardized tests that are headed in her direction. And I don’t mean just for this year; I mean opt out for the foreseeable future.
She is set to take her first test next week—a district mandated benchmark exam complete with multiple choice bubbles!—and as of now, since I’m still in information gathering mode, she will be sitting for it. But lo, this rabbit hole is fraught with switchbacks and multi-forked roads and what I’ve discovered so far leads me—I should say, leads us—toward the very scary, very unpopular, very not-supported, very dangerous option of opting out. I’m scared to do it, for many reasons. But I’m more scared of what will happen if I make my kid take all of these ridiculous, meaningless (yes, meaningless) tests that I do not believe in.
It would be really great if I were able to get a group of parents at my daughter’s school to boycott a certain test as an act of civil disobedience (there’s power in numbers). Well…if I’m going to dream, I might as well dream big: I want many groups of parents, teachers and administrators all across my city to boycott all of the tests for one year. I want us as a group to push back against NCLB and Obama’s Blueprint and our state’s “mandates” and our district’s requirements and say, collectively NO, we do not believe such testing (and accompanying curriculum) to be in the best interest of the children.
No, you will not teach our children math and reading, math and reading, math and reading, at the expense of art and science and social studies and music and physical education. No, you will not teach them how best to memorize or perfect her process of elimination, forsaking creative problem solving and critical thinking and curiosity. No, you will not mine our children for data to which you can then point and twist so it fits your argument for dismantling the public school system for which I pay. No you will not suffocate, strangle, bludgeon and clobber the love of learning out of them with your teaching to a battery of largely meaningless standardized tests. No, they will not be your collateral damage. No, we will not be held hostage by threats to withhold funding for each child who skips the tests to go to a museum, instead. Just: NO.
Anyway. That is my dream and nobody can take it away from me.
In the meantime, my research led me to the following compelling excerpt from a longer and equally !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! must-read piece written by Alfie Kohn, a leading progressive thinker who opposes the rabid movement to privatize (yes, charters, I’m talking about you) our public school system. He is outspoken on the topics of homework for young kids and the incessant testing forced on our children. Time magazine described Kohn as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores.”