"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, February 15, 2008

Refusing the Child Abuse of High Stakes Testing

An ER reader asks (thanks Dr. Kovacs):
Is there a specific provision of the law that allows parental/student boycott of the tests? Because schools are penalized if they don't have a 95% participation rate, are there any repercussions on the students or parents who boycott? or is it strictly a "school punishing" issue? What about truancy? [Members of a local civic group have asked these questions. (I suppose, as teachers, we would get in trouble for encouraging such actions.)]
While state statutes require state tests to be administered, there are few specifics related to requirements of children to take them in elementary school. Of course, in the most repressive regimes like Louisiana and New York City that require students to pass exams to be promoted to the next grade or to graduate, opting out may have consequences for which parents and students should be aware. Most state statutes, however, are silent on the issue of opting out. The most reliable way to find out your local policy on parental rights and student testing is to read the local board policy or call the Superintendent's Office and ask.

In terms of teachers getting in trouble for encouraging such action, I think that teachers must be guided by an ethical commitment to do what in the best interest of children, or at least to certainly allow no harm to come to children. If violating this ethical imperative is the only way to stay out of trouble or to keep your job, then I would suggest that the system does, indeed, need replacing--and that acts of protest and civil disobedience are not only justified but called for. "Just following orders" as a reason to act in a morally reprehensible manner has not been a viable excuse ever since Nuremberg. Any person who does not recognize this truth has traded the mantle of educator for the handcuffs of the prison guard, and they are no better than the abusers whose policies are causing damage to children now and in the future.

Here is some good info on resistance offered by Mothers Against WASL.

To find the following document, go this Washington State Public Instruction site and enter "refusing" as a search. This is the text of the Word document you will find:
Refusing Testing

The law states that public schools are required to administer the assessments to students enrolled in the specified grades and subjects, the assumption apparently being that participation on the part of the student or approval on the part of the parent would not be an issue. Because it is not specifically addressed in the legislation, agency policy adopted after the question arose has been that students may refuse to participate or their parents may refuse to have their children tested. The policy further requires the school to request that the refusal on the part of either the student or parent be put into writing by the parent and kept on file at the school or district office. It is also recommended that the parent be requested to include the reason for not wanting the child tested. If any parent is unwilling to put the refusal in writing, the school should document that the request was made but the parent would not put the refusal in writing. This refusal will not avoid any consequence for not testing, such as WASL scores on transcript or failure to graduate.

Because the number of students meeting, exceeding, or failing to meet the standards is based upon enrollment, the percentages for the schools and districts are impacted by refusals. The significance of the impact is proportional to the number of students that should be tested vs. the number of those same students who were not tested for whatever reason. This aligns with the federal “No Child Left Behind” legislation.

The Washington State Legislature has dictated that all schools teach to the Essential Academic Learning Requirements. Schools and teachers are not required to create a distinct curriculum for students whose parents have asked not to be tested on the WASL. Schools are not obligated to provide an alternate curriculum or other lessons to students refusing testing during the time the WASL is being administered.

From Mothers Against WASL: Text of sample permission form to refuse test:

To: ________________________________, principal

__________________________________ School;

My student, ____________________________, will not be participating in WASL testing during the current school year. I understand that it is my legal right as parent/guardian to opt ______________________________ out of state testing.
I also understand that the school will provide appropriate, alternative learning activities during testing times. I do not want any record of WASL testing in my student’s permanent file.

It is unfortunate that the school will receive a zero for my student’s untaken test, but this is the responsibility of the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Please contact OSPI with your concerns regarding this policy.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

Parent signature: ____________________________ Date: ______________

cc district superintendent, classroom teacher

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:27 AM

    Would it work if parents withdrew their kids from school the week before the tests, claiming they wanted to home-school them, then re-enrolled their kids the week after, claiming they didn't think home-schooling was working out for them? Then the kids wouldn't be counted as "zeros." Just a thought. This would obviously be very hard to coordinate in large numbers.