Saturday, August 27, 2011

United Opt Out National: Our First Action

Our first action has been posted at our Facebook group page OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST:  The National Movement.  Join us there for support in completing the action - we have fellow writers available and support docs to boot!  While we will continue to gather information per state on opting out, make no mistake - we are not just a depository for information - we are a launch pad for action - weekly consistent action that will make it clear that we are DONE.  We are done with corporate ed. reform eating our schools alive.  We WILL spread the word. We WILL make OPTING OUT the name of the game.  Our new website is in the works UNITED OPT OUT NATIONAL

Here is our first action posted on our Facebook group page.  A new action will be posted every Saturday. 
Good morning everyone! Is your coffee in hand? Your fingers nimble and ready to type? I hope so – because today we launch our first action. Our first action will be to write op-ed pieces on WHY someone should opt out of the state test.

An op-ed is an opinion piece offering an alternate view. As we know, the current view on testing is push the test….love the test…hooray for the test…we need the test.

We represent a different view – we want to opt out of the test in order to return a whole and equitable public education to America’s children.

Check out our Op-Ed supports document. Morna has created a flyer which offers key points to discuss why someone would opt out. I have also listed Shaun's op-ed - if there are more good examples post them on the comments in this strand of conversation. Morna has also created a template for anyone who would like a jumpstart.

We would like to submit these op-eds to our local newspapers no later than September 1st at 9 p.m. eastern time. Be sure to mention our website in your piece.

If your piece is not accepted, then post it online or send it to us and we will post if for you! Alright everybody - take action!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Opting out of the State Test: You Can Do It.

Earlier this week I shared an opt-out letter from Ceresta Smith, a mother and National Board Certified Educator in the state of Florida, who chose to opt her child out of the state test.  I was particularly interested in learning more about Ceresta’s story because I had been told, and believed, that it was not possible to opt out of the state test in Florida.  Her story is a wake up call for all of us who have felt defeated by the current testing system or believed that our children had no choice, but, to take the test.

After reading my interview with Ceresta, please join our Facebook group:  OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST:  The National Movement.  We plan to change the current narratives about the importance and necessity of high stakes testing. We are providing support, state by state, to help organize parents and students as they opt out of the state test and develop understandings of alternatives to high stakes testing. 

And now, please read my interview with Ceresta and share it…again and again.

What events and information led you to make the decision to opt your child out of the state test?

My initial wake-up call was when Jeb Bush's A+ Plan and NCLB introduced high stakes testing to Florida.  It was harmful in my opinion to label schools with letter grades.  They became institutions of chronic anxiety instead of institutions for genuine learning.  It worsened when I began working in an African-American low-performing school.   I realized that a great racial divide that resulted in separate and unequal schools had emerged over the years.  African-American students and educators suffered extreme forms of abuse inside their school buildings on a daily basis as they were held under "sanction." By the time RttT and Rick Scott's Students' Success Ac became a reality, my husband and my moral values could not allow for our daughter's participation in what we perceive as a manipulative tool that had very little to do with improving the quality of education. 

How did you opt your child out, and how did the school and/or community respond to this?

We submitted a letter stating that she would not participate in FCAT testing.  We listed the reasons why. We were told by an administrator that there was no such thing as opting out.  We were told that our daughter would have to sit in the testing area for more than four hours while the other children were taking the test.  She would not be able to do anything other than sit there.  I told the administrator that sounds like abuse.  Once I said that, our daughter was able to remain in a non-testing area. 

Some parents worry about the social ramifications for the child when opting out - what was you child's experience?

Our daughter was grilled by on-site administrators that encouraged her to take the test.  When she said she would not because in her opinion it was racist, they agreed to offering her the opportunity and accepting her response without further questioning or prompting.

Florida is considered a "no opt out" state by many people, yet you were able to do it.  Do you feel this could be easily accomplished in other states where parents are told they cannot opt out? If so, how?

Yes, because ultimately, they are protected, as parents, by the 1st and the 14th Amendments of the Federal Constitution.  School administrators will try to intimidate parents due to the federal and state requirements for school site participation in order to receive funding. To date, no school has had to close for lack of test participation.  In contrast, schools that don't meet the letter grade have closed due to their participation.

Many people feel that the consequences of opting out are too punitive to the schools and communities.  How would you respond to this?

Organize and take action - They have to organize and take action on policy makers and the laws that serve to do a community damage as opposed to community building.  We pay taxes, and we have to stake our claim on how that money is appropriated.  We have to file suits, file civil rights complaints, organize town halls, educate the community, push out anti-public education legislators, and most important, protect our children from participating in damaging testing.  I referenced African-Americans and the abuse factor, but I have come to realize that all of America's children are suffering under these abusive and damaging policies.  We literally have to save our children before we lose too many to chronic anxiety, depression, anorexia, dropping-out, massive cheating, and the dumbed-down syndrome.

Finally, if we do indeed drop the state standardized test, what form of testing should we use to best support teachers in assessing the needs of their students?

We need to use national testing in 4th, 8th, and once in high school to inform as to trends and to show a student's performance in relationship to his/her peers.  We have to get back to using the information to design creative and innovative ways to work with all the diversity that comes with students. Never should one assessment be expected to judge the quality of a school, the total capabilities of a student, or the effectiveness of a teacher.  Nor should they be used as a mechanism to destroy public education for the ultimate gain of monetary profit for a few. Instead, we have to accept that the classroom formal and informal assessments that come in a variety of forms are the best indicators for mastery of concepts, processes, and social growth. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

OPT OUT of State Testing (letter courtesy of Ceresta Smith)

Please use this letter..modify as needed!!!
To Whom It May Concern:
Please be advised that our child will not be participating in state standardized testing during the current school year. Furthermore, we ask that no record of this testing be part of our child's permanent file, as we do not wish our child to participate in standardized achievement testing for promotion, graduation, or school/state report cards.

We believe the following of forced, high stakes testing:
•Is not scientifically-based and fails to follow the U.S. Government’s own data on learning
•Fosters test driven education that is not meeting the individual/intellectual needs of students
•Presents a racial and economic bias that is beneficial to white middle/upper class students and detrimental to second language students, impoverished students, and students of color
•Violates the United States Constitution’s ESEA Fiscal Fairness Act
•Supports complicity of corporate interests rather than democracy based on public concerns
•Fosters coercion over cooperation with regards to federal funding for public education
•Promotes a culture of lying, cheating, and exploitation within the school community
•Has used the achievement gap to foster a “de facto” segregation that has resulted in separate and unequal education for minorities

We understand that federal law provides the parent or guardian the right of choice regarding standardized testing when such testing violates spiritual beliefs. In contrast to our spiritual beliefs, which are firmly rooted in a moral code that embraces equity and fairness, we believe such testing is not in the best interests of our child since it fosters competition instead of cooperation, contributes to separate and unequal education for minorities, and belies our child’s intellectual, creative, and problem-solving abilities, while presenting a fictitious picture as to the impact of the pedagogy provided by our child’s individual educators.
Ultimately, our state is required to provide our child with an education in a least restrictive environment that does not force us to go against our spiritual beliefs. My child should proceed to learn and develop at an individual pace following education standards that are imparted under the guidance of education professionals, not market-based reformers, who are able to provide quality pedagogy without fear of reprisal if students - who mature at vastly different levels and come from diverse backgrounds that may or may not be supportive of intellectual pursuit - do not hit the bulls’ eye of a constantly moving achievement target.

Therefore, we request that the school provide appropriate learning activities during the testing window and utilize an alternative assessment portfolio or concordant college testing score to fulfill promotion and or graduation requirements, as our child opts out of standardized testing.

Child’s Name ____________________________________________ ID#_________________________