Sunday, March 30, 2014

Refusal Movement Growing in New York

FYI, the correct legal term that districts and states use is "refusal" and not "opt-out."

From the Mrs Mom Blog (in case you didn't know what the Supreme Court has to say on this subject):

Until last year, I, along with most parents, did not realize that parents have the right to refuse state testing on behalf of their children. Parents have the right to refuse. There is no provision that allows for the opting out of state assessments, however according to parents’ federal constitutional rights: 

"The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” The Court also declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own.” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In recognition of both the right and responsibility of parents to control their children’s education, the Court has stated, “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for the obligations the State can neither supply nor hinder.” (Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158)"

In a nutshell, parents have a say in their child’s education, and the right to refuse state assessments falls under that umbrella. Starting next week, thousands of parents in New York State are doing just that. I am one of them. 

The reason my children will never participate in these assessments again is simple: they are not a useful diagnostic tool that benefit the child in any way. The test is given in April and the scores are received in July.  There is no data or explanation of where the child needs additional help; the score is not sent home with identified areas of weaknesses. At that point, my child’s teacher is no longer my child’s teacher anymore. They are not used to determine promotion or retention of grade levels, nor are they factored into the child’s grade at all. The tests are not used as a learning or teaching tool. Instead, they are used to score and label children a 1-4 and then packed away in a ‘secure location’ for the next few years, never to be seen again. Once the scores are released, the children become statistics.

I’m not sure why society has begun to doubt teachers lately and feel that school districts need to prove that their teachers are actually teaching throughout the school year. If you want proof that children are learning, I can assure you, they are. Some more quickly than others, but that’s what education is. It’s an entire set of variables that are factored together to create a clear picture of that individual child and where that child started the year. Giving children in every school across the state the same test and then expecting to see a clear picture of how school districts and the teachers employed by those districts are performing is flawed. A district with high poverty levels and a large ESL population should not be compared to a suburban affluent district and then ranked and published in an annual school rankings publication. It’s comparing two completely different populations. 

From the NY Times:

About 270 children in the city’s public school system did not sit for the tests, their parents believing that the burdens imposed were hardly offset by the tests’ highly debatable value(Editor's note: it is believed - from other news stories - that not all schools want to report the numbers who have opted out so this number is likely to be low.)



This movement of refusal does not evolve out of antipathy toward rigor and seriousness, as critics enjoy suggesting, but rather out of advocacy for more comprehensive forms of assessment and a depth of intellectual experience that test-driven pedagogy rarely allows. In the past year, the movement has grown considerably among parents and educators, across political classifications and demographics.

At the Brooklyn New School, a highly regarded elementary school in Carroll Gardens that prides itself on academic independence, over 210 students in third through fifth grades — two-thirds of the relevant students — will not take the state-mandated tests this year. This figure includes children in fourth grade for whom state test scores are typically used for middle-school admission. When parents called those schools to which B.N.S. graduates typically go, they were told that opting out of the tests would not damage their children’s chances for acceptance.

The most significant aspect of this wave of testing dissent is its expansion beyond the world of affluent white parents and celebrated schools, where children are largely destined to succeed. On Thursday, parents in Harlem gathered to announce their displeasure with a system that has forsaken meaningful education for a culture of obsessive examination. More than 100 families at Hamilton Heights School, an elementary school where 80 percent of students receive free lunch, had sent letters alerting the principal that their children would decline to take the tests.  

As Rosa Perez-Rivera, a mother in the Bronx who is opting out, explained it, her daughter was thrilled by school last year, when work around oceans sparked a love of science. This year, in third grade, as the focus has moved to test preparation (state tests are administered in third through eighth grade), her confidence and enthusiasm have lagged. “Just as she is getting interested in a subject and grasping it, they’re moving on to the next,” Ms. Perez-Rivera said. “She is learning not to trust herself, and it is killing her creativity.”

14 comments:

seattle citizen said...

Just don't boycott that SAT...

How Businesses Use Your SATs

Anonymous said...

See www.bartlebyproject.com

For students who prefer not to take standardized tests

open ears

Sahila said...

Parents and Teacher friends in public education:

If you are going to OptOut (or refuse!) - kids taking the test and/or teachers administering it - and I hope you all do, then please, ALSO, sign this White House petition, which calls for an END to standardised testing put in place by NCLB and RTTT…

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/direct-department-education-congress-remove-annual-standardized-testing-mandates-nclb-and-rttt/1lSSvnYK….

The Petition was started by two respected public education advocates many of us know – Victoria Young and Susan Ohanion, who explain why they created it here: http://itemactions.us/

The Petition needs to go viral, so that it meets its target of 100K signatures by April 16th….Would you please disseminate it out amongst your own groups?

Surely there are 100K of us around the country who want an end to this standardised testing plague? We’re opting out…. we’re calling for congressional hearings…. isn’t it simpler to just get RID of the testing altogether?

(sorry, it's been a long, long time since I posted anywhere where I had to use HTML to post live links, and I've forgotten how!)...

Sahila said...

and it's OK to boycott the SAT - your child WILL still get into a good college...

Fair Test here lists hundreds of reputable colleges (850 of them) around the country that don't rely on the SAT to decide whether an applicant should get into their school....

http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional

Lynn said...

What exactly is the problem with the SAT?

seattle citizen said...

Lynn, before I respond to your question, I'm curious: What are the benefits of the SAT?

Lynn said...

That's a good question. My understanding is that it's one way to measure general intelligence - and thus, a student's ability to succeed in college. Maybe it's not necessary now that most students are taking AP and IB exams. When I was a student (in a small, relatively poor) town, AP and IB classes weren't available. The SAT was the only way to provide evidence of a student's abilities when compared to their peers.

Sahila said...

The SAT and other standardised tests were conceived and introduced by eugenicists... Most "experts" will tell you the SAT is seriously flawed, biased and doesnt produce an accurate predictor of who will do well in college...

There's a lot of information available on the web - I'm not going to reproduce it here, or add links because I dont want to get involved in a discussion...

Here's a balanced view: from Fair Test, in 2002...

The Truth Behind the Hype: A Closer Look at the SAT
http://www.fairtest.org/truth-behind-hype-closer-look-sat ....

Anonymous said...

Shalia, there is nothing "balanced" about Fair Test. They are openly biased against standardized testing. I'm not arguing against their point of view but let's not call anything they release balanced.

Finally, I would agree that the SAT is not as strong a predictor of college success as high school courses and high school GPA; however, high school GPA (and the quality of high school courses) plus SAT/ACT scores provide a stronger predictor of college success than grades alone --- and that is why a number of reputable universities (like the University of Washington, Stanford, UC Berkeley, et al) still require college admissions exams.

There are also many "experts" --- you know, professional psychometricians --- who have found the SAT to be a valid and reliable measure of verbal and mathematics aptitude. I would also argue with your conclusion that "most experts" have concluded that the SAT is seriously flawed and biased.

--- swk

seattle citizen said...

Lynn, I am no pyschometrician, but my concerns ar:
1) as noted in article I linked, even businesses are using SAT scores to do intitial culling of candidates
2) colleges (obviously) use them to do initial culling

This culling, in my mind, presents problems because the SAT only assesses a very limited slice of who a person actually is - in using these (or ACT) to make the first cull, many students with many diverse qualities are necessarily bumped from entry to college (and jobs! who knew?) Seems dismissive of range of intelligences and skills.

As Sahila stated, the SAT has morphed from one thing to another over its 80 year history. What DOES it measure? We know that the current president of College Board comes to that positiondirectly from helping design Common Core, which concerns me greatly - what is HIS rationale for making SAT more CCSS-like, as is his stated desire? Again, does this take the tenets of a rich and broad education and squeeze them into a little box, turn them into mere parameters for production?

I shudder to envision a world where all education is designed merely to feed the economy, and by using this one metric (as is common) we feed the machine.

Anonymous said...

seattle citizen, I know of no reputable university that uses the SAT as a "first cull" and definitely know of none that use it as a sole criterion ("single metric") in admissions decisions.

--- swk

Sahila said...

SWK.... guess you dont care much that most standardised testing has been invalidated by research...

http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED508483

http://her.hepg.org/content/j94675w001329270/

http://www.bc.edu/research/nbetpp/statements/M1N4.pdf

High Stakes: Testing for Tracking, Promotion, and Graduation
By Committee on Appropriate Test Use, Board on Testing and Assessment, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council... http://tinyurl.com/pe86g5z

Construct-Irrelevant Variance in High-Stakes Testing http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-3992.2004.tb00149.x/abstract....

I could spend all day finding and then pasting links to the research that says standardised testing is fraught with problems.... but I doubt I would convince you that your belief in the validity of the SAT is misplaced...

Anonymous said...

Sahila, there is nothing in your links that indicate that "most standardized testing has been invalidated by research..." It's my suspicion that (1) you are broadly generalizing results from these studies to draw your own general conclusions and (2) you don't truly understand what validity means in regard to testing.

Yes, even tests that have been found to be valid and reliable for narrow purposes can be used for invalid purposes; for example, large-scale summative tests like the WA state tests are not designed to be used for individual teacher evaluation --- to use these tests for such a purpose is invalid. But to use these tests to measure the effectiveness of an overall school's performance as it pertains to curriculum and instruction of the state's content standards has been found to be psychometrically valid and reliable.

I too could spend all day cutting and pasting links to research (including annual validity and reliability studies of each state's summative tests required under NCLB) but I doubt I could convince you that your belief that most standardized testing has been invalidated by research is misplaced...

But, frankly, I care very little in convincing you of anything. My goal is to provide parents, et al who read this blog a counterpoint to your own biases and beliefs and let them decide for themselves.

--- swk

seattle citizen said...

swk - maybe I mis-spoke on SAT being the sole culling tool at colleges, but it IS a very important factor - my understanding is that it is one of the primary factors used at first cut, along with GPAs. Of course, with some colleges these days only accepting 1/10 of the applicants, and the number of applicants being in the ten thousands in some cases, it is easy to see why admissions would rely on some simplistic tools to make first cuts.
I don't have the answers - I understand that colleges 9and businesses?) need to sort through these mounds of applications. I just have concerns about the process - SAT MIGHT be a predictor of future success....in some cases...but aren't there are other factors? And SAT can be "gamed" by those with the means to do so. Tutors, test-prep...
When I was in college I studied assessment methodologies (beyond standardized tests) and convinced myself that before entering graduate school I would take the GRE three times: Once cold; once after preparing myselt; once after paying for a prep course. My interest was (and is) in social justice - prep courses are expensive and not all can afford them. I ended up taking GRE twice: Once after about two weeks of self-prep, once after paying for a prep course. My scores went up over 20%. This speaks to that inequity of those who can afford it finding an easier pathway into higher education.
It woud be enormously time-consumptive for admissions to go through the entire "package" of a student's application before making first cuts, this I know. But when students are denied opportunity because they didn't test well, or struggled in HS, or couldn't afford tutoring etc, then they suffer.