What happens when you opt your kids out of standardized tests

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]

(via Hacker News)

Notable Replies

  1. Best sentence you'll read on the Internetz today!

    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.

  2. 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.

    Of course they did. Everything from funding to whether a school is even accredited is based on standardized testing.

    No, really. It was bad before, got worse after No Child Left Behind passed, and will continue to go downhill now that Core Curriculum is being passed. What, learn from Finnish success? No! Let's make PE, art, and music teachers teach Math and English (so why do we have Math and English teachers, again?)

    Meanwhile, China reduced the amount of standardized 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.

    And that's why the school administrators had a come-apart. I'm guessing these kids were some of the better students; if the school can't show improvement through standardized testing, they're going to have a bad time.

  3. Hang on a sec....you need competitive test scores to get in to Middle School!! What ever happened to just finishing primary school?

  4. While I can appreciate the pushback against the unwarranted import being placed on such testing, I find myself a little conflicted, as I friggin' LOVED standardized tests.

    You get out of real classes for a day, they're easy as shit, and you can cross your eyes to make the Scantron bubbles overlap and create 3D depth effects.

  5. I recall feeling differently about it in high school, but I definitely remember LOVING the Iowa Test of Basic Skills when I was in grade school. Partly it was the novelty (something different than regular class for a whole week!), partly it was the fact that I was a good test taker and, thus, test week usually meant extra time for me to sit around reading, and partly (perversely) I remember thinking of some of the stuff on the test as actually being a lot of fun. Primarily the word and puzzle problems and the reading comprehension stuff. All of this probably goes a long way towards explaining why I didn't have many friends in junior high.

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

133 more replies

Participants