Daily Archives: February 8, 2015

My Son is More Than a Score…My Reasons for Opting Out of Testing

Information of how to go about opting your child out of the testing can be found (here).

I emailed the following rational for opting out of testing to my son’s principal.  The next day I sent a paper copy of a shortened version of what is contained herein:

I would like to begin by commending my son’s elementary school for the education he has been offered to this date. He has had a wonderful experience with both of his teachers. Their ability to communicate with me about my son’s progress has been consistent, clear, and based on classroom evidence. This classroom based evidence is the most critical component in showing me the strengths of my child as well as the areas to focus upon for future improvement.

As a parent, I have had growing concerns with the K-3 Common Core Standards as well as the emphasis on high stakes tests. I believe the standards are flawed, and therefore the test (SBAC) to measure them invalid and unreliable.   I have spent just over a year researching and reviewing the standards as well as the history behind them.  My mindset has shifted.

The most concerning aspect of the writing of the CCSS is that no early childhood educators or early childhood specialists were a part of writing or reviewing the CCSS Standards. The following link shows the joint statement signed by 500 Early Childhood Specialists and Educators expressing their concerns with the K-3 Standards: Click (Here).  Diffferent Butterflies!

I concur with these early childhood specialists and would add my name to this document if I could. I have also listened to many of these early childhood specialist speak as they point to the specific areas in which the standards are inappropriate. Often times, if children are given the appropriate amount of time, they will naturally learn ELA and Math content.   Forcing it too soon does more harm than good. Dr. Megan Koschnick, a child psychologist, addresses the specific reasons the Early CCSS are not age appropriate in the following 24 minute video: Click (Here). 

I am finding the Kindergarten – 3rd Grade CCSS to be developmentally inappropriate, and are not based on well-researched child development knowledge about how young children learn.   Many of the skills mandated by the CCSS erroneously assume that all children develop and learn skills at the same rate and in the same way.  I also think it is erroneous to assume that if children learn something earlier, it will then lead them to greater success later.  There is very little to support this premise.  The “pushing down” of ELA and Math Content to lower grades will not work to a child’s advantage in preparing them for their future… rather… this “pushing down” will more likely frustrate many and erode their confidence as learners.

I remember when my son was two and we were at a neighborhood swim party.  One of the parents was going on and on and on about how her child already knew all of his letters of the alphabet.  I asked her how this came to be.  She said, “Oh, every time he takes a bath we make him put all the sticky bath letters up on the tile in order and then he has to say each letter in order.”

Okay.

I smiled, but inside I silently rolled my eyes.   I could care less if my son knew all his letters at two.   He is now living proof it did not matter.  He is reading well above grade level today.

I think it would be advantageous to read the following short article because it captures the 6 reasons the CCSS K-3 standards are inappropriate, as well as some guiding principles for the future.   I believe children grow dendrites in their brains by moving, playing, examining, experiencing, asking questions, curiosity, and using their imaginations.  Of all the reading I have been doing to evaluate the standards, this one stands out as one of the most concise and clear pieces exposing the flaws of the standards as well as many references: 6 Reasons To Reject Common Core K-3 Standards and 6 Rules to Guide Policy.

With all this being shared, the questions I pose are: The Borg

  • How then can a high stakes test be useful in any way to measure what my son knows?
  • How does a one day test show me he loves reading?
  • How does a one day test measure those things I find the most important for my son at 8 years old? 9 years old? 10 years old?
  • How will this test measure his ability to be creative or his level of curiosity?
  • What are we sacrificing in the classroom in regards to instruction in order to “get” kids to pass? Considering the article above, are important experiences being squeezed out for the sake of pushing all children to show mastery at the same exact time?
  • How do we put children in front of computer screens to type their explanations when they are just learning the keyboard and how to type?
  • Why are we forcing them to try to conquer items that expect them to be able to explain their reasoning and do comparison analysis tasks when the neuroscience clearly shows the frontal cortex of the brain is developing these abilities?
  • And finally, how can I, in all good conscience, allow my son to take a test that is neither valid nor reliable? Why waste his time?   And may I ask, why waste any child’s time taking an invalid test based on flawed standards?

The cost of this assessment is exponential and I believe the state of Washington needs to do away with it. Iowa has. Other states will follow, I am sure.   Of those in the PARCC system, of the original 24 states, only 9 remain. There is more and more evidence showing this test is not reliable or valid. See: SBAC Tests Show No Validity or Reliability

Another interesting article reveals: What new Common Core Tests Really Show

Look to New York’s testing trends within the article… they have been in this situation for about three years longer than our state.   Will Washington state repeat what they have experienced or learn from it?

Carol Burris, New York State Principal of the Year 2013, is quoted in the article as saying:

Principal “However, all of the above could not compensate for tests that were inappropriate measures of the performance of all of New York’s children. Nor could the above compensate for flawed Common Core standards based on assumptions not based on research and sound educational practice.

It is time for Ms. Tisch and the Board of Regents to alter the course, re-examine the Common Core standards and its tests, and courageously stand for the children of New York. The original embrace of the Race to the Top reforms was understandable and forgivable. The continuation of the reforms — despite the mounting evidence of failure — is not. This is not a game of baseball.”

I courageously stand for my own child, the children of Washington State, and all children in the U.S.A.

I cannot, with all good conscience, allow my son to participate in tests that attempt to measure flawed standards. Just like I didn’t care if he knew his letters at two… I don’t care anything about how he would potentially perform on the SBAC test.   It does not measure those things I find most important for elementary aged children. The SBAC test will not be a true measure of what children know and are able to do. Many of the questions they encounter will be developmentally inappropriate. I personally took the SBAC practice test and encourage others to do the same.  It is eye opening.  (Practice Test)

“If you want to be intelligent, read fairytales.  If you want to be more intelligent, read more fairytales.” -Albert Einstein

Test before the testI am opting my son out of the tests because they do not emphasize what is important in the elementary years.  We have way too many assessments and tests at this time, and most are not informing or shifting instruction.  Rather, they are taking away from instruction time, and it is instruction time our children most need.  I am a proponent of classroom based assessments and classroom based evidence of my child’s learning.  Computerized assessments at young ages do not typically show what a child truly understands.  I trust his teacher completely to share his academic growth.

The specific tests I opted my son out of can be found in my shortened letter to the principal (here).

The Data Addiction

I am all for the use of appropriate data to inform instruction… data that comes from the classroom and can be used immediately by the teacher to enhance learning.  However, this wave of data addiction has children taking so many tests… “desktops” are piled high with spreadsheets collecting “dust”.  We have begun to collect data just for the sake of collecting data.

  • How much is this data informing the instruction of teachers and improving student learning?
  • Who is examining this data and for what purpose?
  • Is the data: Reliable? Valid? Accurate? A true, authentic measure of what our children know and understand?

I have become more and more concerned with the amount of data being uploaded to Data Collection Systems on many aspects of our children’s lives.  Their responses to test questions and surveys are being logged into computers and followed… tracked… over time… uploaded to state databases… and then transferred to federal databases.  FERPA laws continue to be loosened, giving third party vendors access to our children’s information.

My apprehensions about how our children’s data is being used can be found (here).

The Heart Prick of Conscience Reigns

I can no longer, in good conscience, support the current direction the reform efforts are taking our public schools .  I do not believe they are what is best for our children, including my own.   The following links expose the flaws in the standards, the lack of transparency involved in the writing of the CSSS, and the validation process:

  1. Common Core Standards: Ten Colossal Errors, by Anthony Cody, National Board Certified Teacher.
  2. Dr. Stotsky, the only ELA Specialist on the CCSS Validation Committee, refused to sign approval of the CCSS standards. She speaks clearly here: Invalid Process of Common Core Development
  3. Interestingly, the only Math Specialist on the CCSS Validation Committee, Dr. James Milgram, also refused to sign his approval of the CCSS Standards. View his reasons here: (here)

My son is a bright, intelligent, curious boy.   What I value most in education for his age group happens within the walls of his classroom.   His teacher is the expert and knows him extremely well.  I honor her expertise above any mandate, policy, flawed curricular materials, and especially a standardized test…. A standardized test with cut scores set to fail nearly 70% of our children.

How could any parent, educator, or school lead children to troughs of failure in computer labs?  Over 250,000 parents are expected to opt their children out of the testing this spring in New York alone.  The wave is just now hitting Washington State.  Many superintendents, principals, and teachers are starting to speak out and write letters of conscience regarding the ethics surrounding the practice of administering these high stakes tests to our youngest children.

 My Son is worth more.

I am more than a ScoreI am more than standardized

He is more than a score.

Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

 

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How do I Opt My Child Out of Testing?

It was interesting for me to learn the process for opting a child out of testing is quite simple in Washington State.   I believe many other states are the same, however, a few are becoming stricter.  For Washingtonians, all it entails is writing a letter to your school’s principal.   It can be a short one paragraph letter or a lengthier letter explaining your reasons. This is up to you.  I suggest sending it as an attachment through email because it becomes a public record.  Include your child’s teacher too.

The following link contains answers to most questions parents have about opting a child out of testing, as well as a sample opt out letter:  Click (here).

My letter opting my son out of the SBAC, Amplify Testing, and Student Surveys can be found by clicking (here).

StandardizedI opted to send a lengthier letter because it is important for me to spread information to everyone I can regarding the flaws in the Common Core State Standards, the history of the writing of the standards, the process the standards went through to be validated, as well as the invalidity and lack of reliability of the SBAC test itself.  Many educators are just beginning to become aware of these things.

It is surprising to learn how few really know the truth behind the Common Core Machine. If you need a little more history this 40 minute video may be helpful:  Building The Machine.

“Many parents have little or no awareness that they have the right to opt their student(s) out of taking standardized tests. At this time, no child may legally be forced to take a state standardized test if his or her parent writes a letter saying that they refuse to have their child take the test and why. Students who are 18 or older may write the letter themselves. There is no penalty to the child if they do not take assessments in grades 3-8. In high school, students will be required to take the Smarter Balanced Tests (once implemented) in 11th grade in order to graduate. If the student attempts to take the test and fails, there are alternate options available to them.” – WEA

The Washington Education Association voted to support the rights of parents/guardians to choose to opt their children out of standardized tests.   WEA members are being encouraged to collaborate with parents/guardians to assist parents with assessment options.  I personally just became a rep for the Spokane Education Association because of my deep convictions in regards to what is happening to our children as a result of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the SBAC Test, and other assessments seeping in to prepare the students for the BIG Test.  Test before the test

In fact, the push to “get kids to pass” the SBAC test often has districts scrambling, and many are purchasing Interim Assessments with Checkpoint Assessments that go in between the Interim Assessments to prepare them for the SBAC.

No Kidding.

Our schools are becoming Test Prep Factories… unless of course, more of us speak up and opt out.  I opted my son out of the Amplify Interim and Checkpoint Assessments too.  This is a vicious cycle.

I also have grave concerns for the teachers navigating through a tremendous workload because of the CCSS and the impacts the high stakes tests are having upon their classrooms.  Quality instruction time is being robbed in order to prepare for the High Stakes Test (SBAC).  Many teachers are expressing their concerns.  I speak for them.

Justification of Failure in the Name of Rigor

Understanding the kind of questions our children are facing in the name of rigor is another reason to opt out.  To me, rigor is not 5 feet over their heads.  Rigor stretches children from their personal developmental level, considers normal ranges, and challenges them to take next steps.

Try this problem.  Guess the grade level and the Common Core Standard it is meant to mirror.

Good Luck:

5th Grade Amplify 4 pt

A text box was underneath this problem where students needed to type the answers to this layered question.  No drawing tools were available.  The rubric associated with this problem was on a 4 point scale.  If, and only if, the child answered every question correctly with an explanation for each question were they scored a 4.  For this entire problem, students were given 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 points.  They faced this problem after answering 25 other questions, and anywhere from an hour to an hour and 30 minutes into the test.

What age?

Guess.

The rubric associated with this problem was vague and hard to follow.  Of the 75 student responses I scored, not one… not one… scored proficient or higher. (Level 3 or 4).  The majority scored 0s.  There were a small number of 1s and 2s.

Encouraging Awareness

WEA is encouraging their locals to connect with and work alongside student and parent leadership groups to raise awareness about opting out of standardized tests including the Smarter Balanced Assessments whenever possible.

I’m a local, mommy, and educator raising awareness in every way I can.

Our children are more than scores.

The following link will take you to the WEA Page.   They have several resources to help raise awareness about the issue and to help families navigate the complexities associated with opting students out.

WEA Opt Out Awareness Page… Click (Here).

Do not feel fear in doing this.  It is your legal right to do what is best for your child.  If you feel threatened in any way, contact WEA.  Your child should experience no repercussions as a result of this decision.

Respectfully Written for Parents and Teachers,

RAZ ON FIRE

No Fear