Lisa T. McElroy is a law professor who's spending a year at the University of Denver with her two kids, one in high school and one in middle school. She learned that she could opt her kids out of the standardized tests the school administered. So she did. What followed was a total educational freakout, as the principal, vice-principal and administration alternately cajoled and guilted her over her kids' non-participation in pedagogically suspect, meaningless, destructive high-stakes testing.
McElroy's story is a snapshot of an educational system in the process of implosion, driven by the ridiculous idea that schools are factories whose product is educated kids, and whose employees must be made "accountable" by measuring anything we can put a number on -- attendance and test-scores -- at the expense of actual educational outcomes.
Despite the fact that the best-performing educational systems in the world don't treat teachers as assembly line workers and kids as standardized injection molds to be squirted full of learning, the west continues to pursue this approach, scapegoating teachers' unions and pitting parents against them when the real enemy is the doomed idea that schools are a specialized kind of industrial plant -- and the project of selling off public schools to privatized educational corporations that collect public funds to educate kids, but only to the extent that this can be done without undermining their shareholders' interests.
When I answered that I very much appreciated her call but was going to stick by my decision, she offered several reasons why my daughter should take the test. First, taking TCAP (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, the relatively new set of state standardized tests) would help my daughter on the ACT. Huh. Given that she’s only in seventh grade, I wasn’t buying that one. The principal then said that the test would show us how our daughter was doing academically. But we get a report card every six weeks, and we can follow her progress in real time through an online school portal that lists her grade on every assignment, so we’re all set in that regard. One more try. The test results, she said, reward teachers by showing them that they are doing a good job. My reaction: And seeing their students’ progress doesn’t?
But when the lawyer in me started pushing back, pointing out to the principal that none of her arguments was especially convincing, I got nowhere. Including off the phone. The principal kept going on. And on. And on. My daughter really should take it. She was the only child in the entire school who was opting out. She might feel weird, being different from all the other kids.
I Opted My Kids Out of Standardized Tests [Lisa T. McElroy/Slate]Next post