What A Difference A Dash Makes!

“Pro-Test” or “Protest”? The dash makes all the difference, making one word into two that, taken together, describe polar opposite worlds. If you are “pro-test,” you favor the Common Core State Standards tests. Remove the dash, and you are aligned with those urging families to opt-out and refuse to take the PAARC and Smarter Balanced Common Core tests, which will be administered in March.

Are you in one of these camps?

Or are there even two camps? It’s hard, maybe impossible, to measure the strength of the “protest” movement, if indeed there really is a ‘movement.’ It could be thousands and thousands of tiny, grass-roots organizations and loose gatherings, or it could be just a few hundred. If it is a national movement, it’s one that lacks a ‘command central,’ although three organizations, Save Our Schools (SOS), United Opt-Out, and Badass Teachers Association, do have modest national profiles. Every week FairTest publishes a report of anti-testing actions, but the list gets repetitive and sometimes includes newspaper stories and blogs that merely ask tough questions–hardly evidence of a full-blown revolt. Is there a genuine bandwagon, or is FairTest trying to create the illusion of a bandwagon where none exists? Hard to say.

In some places, local and state politicians are taking note. Colorado’s legislature is holding hearings, and there’s ferment in Philadelphia, for example. And Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wants to stop the testing.

We know the protesters have different motivations. Some are upset about what they see as excessive testing in schools, while others are vociferously opposed to the Common Core State Standards, which they have labelled “Obamacore,” his plan to take control over public education.

Protest politics makes for strange bedfellows, with lefties and righties coming together to agree on this issue (and probably on just this one issue).

As for the other side, the “Pro-Test” camp has the appearance of substance. With unofficial “headquarters” in Washington, DC, the Common Core test defenders include the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Council, the Education Trust, the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education.

The basic message: “If you don’t take the test, you won’t be counted–and you won’t matter.” The “Pro-Test” group has an impressive roster with money and power, but perhaps it’s mostly Chiefs and very few followers. Impossible to say now, but we will find out before long.

Just last fall, the establishment was agreeing publicly that we might be subjecting our children to too many tests. The President spoke out, and his Secretary of Education noted that testing was sucking the air out of classrooms. Now, they’re saying, “OK, perhaps schools do test too much, but these tests–the Common Core tests–are essential.

I haven’t found overwhelming evidence that hundreds of thousands of students are going to boycott the Common Core tests, but people in Washington appear worried. How else to explain their going on the offensive to trumpet the importance of these tests?

What do they know that we don’t? Or are they seeing dragons under the bed at night?

In other states, educational leaders have been issuing threats: “Boycott these tests and you will suffer the consequences,” is the tone of these messages. “I know some of you have already received questions from parents who would like their children to be able to opt out of taking the test. Opting out of PARCC is not an option,” Illinois State Superintendent Christopher A. Koch recently wrote to district administrators, a message he expected they would share with their principals. Some schools are going to force kids who come to school but opt-out of the tests to ‘sit and stare’ all day long, instead of offering them alternative learning experiences. “Sit and stare”–Now that’s enlightened leadership, teaching kids what it means to live in a free and democratic society!! Teaching kids how power responds to principled action.

So, the establishment is dropping the hammer. Will that backfire?

We will find out in March, when the PAARC and Smarter Balanced tests are administered over a 2-3 week period.

The great Dinah Washington song I am riffing off, “What a Difference a Day Makes,” ends with the line, “And the difference is you.”

Care to make a prediction as to what will happen?

252 Responses to “What A Difference A Dash Makes!”

  1. Steve Peha 06. Feb, 2015 at 2:43 pm #

    John,

    I’d like to float the idea here that we are dealing with a false dichotomy.

    I know people on both sides and I have often approached the issue like this:

    Are you in favor of learning?

    Are you in favor of knowing what kids learn?

    Are you in favor of knowing how changes in education affect systemic progress?

    People on both sides answer “Yes” to each of these questions.

    So my next question is …

    How should we ensure that we always have good ways of answering these questions for individual children, schools, districts, states, and our nation as a whole?

    At this point, the discussion is no longer about testing, it’s about learning and how we propose to be responsible about it—especially with reference to historically under-served children and their families.

    I think that’s the dialog we need to have.

    Steve Peha

    • John Merrow 06. Feb, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

      Well framed, Steve….

      • Maureen Fratantoni 06. Feb, 2015 at 9:30 pm #

        Yes, John. I agree!

      • Keitha Bryson 10. Feb, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

        Steve you have given readers a great analogy to begin the dialogue. I would like to suggest adding two components to the dialogue. 1) Corporate education reform was started with the goal in mind to privatize public education for profit. (Check Professor Morna McDermott’s research and flow chart on the issue.) 2) Check with Pasi Salhberg, the director for public education in Finland. Their ideas represent the best practices for children . . . not coporations.

    • Maureen Fratantoni 06. Feb, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

      Agreed, Steve! I know that standardized tests do not serve our children well. Especially those ELL and those with special needs. My son is on the spectrum and is mainstreamed into a math class and they are wanting him to take the Keystones next year. I am not happy with this. Children should not have to take a test in order to graduate high school. I know that this will make my son anxious. I am looking into my options to opt out. I am not the only parent who feels this way. There are plenty in Philadelphia and across this great nation who do.We need to take a simpler approach and not teach to the test. Throughout my days in school, we learned, were creative and curious.That made me the multi-faceted, talented person I am today. They are taking arts and music out of our schools and replaced that with these good for nothing tests. I am not against all tests. Children should be tested according to what makes them feel more comfortable. For instance, if they are good at taking a multiple choice test, then they should do that. If they are better at taking an oral test as opposed to a written, then they should do that. If they are a great writer than they could pen the ideas down. The only people that stand to benefit from the high stakes testing are those that made the tests for they profit from them.

    • Sue Doherty 08. Feb, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

      I once thought that some standardized testing made sense as a way to ensure that students were being given equal opportunities and support for learning, but I have changed my mind completely after seeing how the idea has played out in the last 20 years of “accountability” through standardized tests.

      I started my teaching career in the late 1980s working with Boston Public School (BPS) dropouts and teen parents in a GED program in Boston. In this program, I worked with students who had progressed all the way to 11th or 12th grade in the BPS but who could not read at a second or third grade level or who didn’t understand basic concepts like cities and states. I also worked with some students who had been in the Metco program that bussed inner city students to the suburbs as part of Massachusetts’ desegregation efforts. I saw a huge discrepancy in what the Metco students knew and could do compared to my BPS dropouts.

      So when the first pushes for standardized testing came along, I supported the idea of using tests to help ensure all students had basic reading, writing, and math skills. The assumption I made at the time was that the tests would be used to diagnose problems and identify students who needed extra support and then support would be provided.

      But in the end, that is not how the tests have been used at all. Instead, the tests have been used to create high stakes consequences for students, teachers, schools, and districts. At the same time, instruction has been reduced to what is tested in many cases, at least in high poverty districts. Today when people talk about “literacy in reading,” it has often come to mean that students can read short passages and answer multiple choice questions about them. “Literacy in writing” means that students can construct essay responses to questions given on exams. “Math skills” include the ability to pass tests with complex mathematics along with more reading and writing exercises that penalize students who may have more strengths in math but find that once again, literacy in reading and writing for tests is brought into play. Science is reduced to concepts that are easy to memorize along with more literacy in reading and writing for tests.

      Students are not spending enough time learning how to research, to experiment, to create, to formulate their own questions and explore them. They are afraid to take intellectual risks and are always looking for the “right answer.” All students are drilled in the same test-taking strategies and skills, whether they need it or not, and many students are gifted but don’t do well on standardized tests, but none of that matters because passing the tests is the main goal for students and bringing up scores is the main goal of schools.

      We have had many faculty meetings where we review test score data and talk about the “bubble kids.” Those are the kids who are a few points from passing the tests, or from moving to the proficient/advanced range. Teachers are told to focus on these bubble kids and on strategies to move them to the next level. Think of all that leaves out!

      We have a new generation of teachers who have learned under high stakes tests and who are now teaching. They don’t know anything else, and this is concerning because if this doesn’t stop now, in the near future who will be left to remember that schools once nurtured many facets of human development? I had a telling conversation along this vein with a colleague a few months back when I was talking with him about the movement to end all this high stakes testing. He’s a career changer who teaches science classes at my school to 10th grade students who are preparing for our high stakes science exams. The students need to to pass these exams to graduate from high school so almost all of our 10th grade science curriculum and classes are devoted to preparing for this exam. When I mentioned that the tests are a huge problem, this teacher looked confused and then asked, “But what would we do if we didn’t have the tests? What would we teach?”

      I had to stop and think, too. We looked at each other for a minute, and then I said, “Well, maybe you could do experiments with them, take them outside, and do science projects. Kids would love doing those things!” He said, “I wouldn’t just have to have them taking notes all the time? That’s what I thought I would be doing when I decided to teach.”

      Here in Massachusetts, we are looking at moving from our current test, MCAS, to the PARCC exams. Our education commissioner Mitchell Chester, who sits on the board of PARCC and in a clear conflict of interest is promoting it, has famously said that the PARCC is a “test worth teaching to.” In that statement, he admitted that everyone has been teaching to these tests. But when we teach to these tests, we leave out so much. It’s time to stop all of it and return to sane educational policies that develop the whole child. Students in high poverty districts need additional resources and support, not high stress and high stakes tests.

    • April LaCombe 08. Feb, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

      Holding school boards, district officials and principals accountable for creating successful learning environments for under-served communities would be a good place to start the conversation about accountability. A lone teacher in a room with 32+ students from poverty, the vast majority of whom speak English as a second language, without adequate teaching supplies or engaging materials is not a successful learning environment. And yet it is the norm in many inner-city classrooms. Add refugee status, neglect, and learning disabilities to the mix and the problem is multiplied. These difficulties cannot be overcome by the most talented of teachers.

  2. Stefanie 06. Feb, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    From the perspective of someone who spends quite a bit of time informing parents around opting their children out of these harmful assessments, I have seen a huge increase in opt out.
    An organization I cofounded hosted a student panel a few weeks ago and the negative impact of this testing was a huge part of the conversation.

    As a teacher, the amount of time spent testing, and labeling children has gotten out of hand. We are organizing and no doubt the money and power that has taken over our democracy will fight back BUT two of my favorite quotes from Jim Wallis. .

    “It takes the power of movements to change politics. Change never starts in Washington or in our legislatures or houses of government; it almost always begins outside of politics. If public momentum can be built among millions of people, change eventually arrives in the nation’s capital.” Jim Wallis

    “It’s time we stated the obvious truth: the last remaining obstacle to democracy is the dominant power of rich people, their money, and their institutions over the political process, a power that absolutely corrupts democracy.” Jim Wallis

  3. Trudy Jermanovich 06. Feb, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    High stakes testing – why should I care? Even though I have no children of my own, I believe the present course of high stakes testing is not just “disruptive” to our public schools, but more on the lines of totally “destructive” to the teaching and learning process. Your article seems to indicate that the backlash against testing is only part of a small group of disgruntled parents and teachers. When adding up all of the groups who are vocal on FaceBook alone, I count well over 100,000 individuals who are expressing their concerns. As these tests continue to proliferate, those numbers will grow exponentially.

    I was a public school teacher for over 35 years. I worked with first grade through graduate level students, mostly in an inner-city, urban environment. My K-12 experience was in lower socioeconomic schools that had many successful students go through their doors. I was selected by my peers for several awards including as Teacher of the Year in Florida. I was allowed to write innovative grants that brought in over a million dollars for my schools. These grants used technology so learning was exciting and relevant to what students would use in their future lives. We were able to give students projects that were applicable to the area in which they lived and were developmentally appropriate as well. That is not what I see teachers doing today. I firmly believe the focus on high stakes standardized tests suck the creativity out of most classrooms, and that is a crime against our entire society.

    We did fine for over a hundred years without high stakes testing in this country. That’s why we had real innovators like Steve Jobs here and they didn’t in countries like South Korea. The RESULTS of the tests that the states developed and now the tests tied to the Common Core will always correlate to the socioeconomic level of the students in the school. How is that a good measure of anything, but especially how is it a measure of student or teacher success or failure? If you look at information from Finland, they don’t give any high stakes tests until the age of 15, and they do NOT use these tests to evaluate teachers.

    The tests are a huge financial drain on school systems both for the required technology to practice and to give these meaningless data gathering ploys. Why not take our money (taxpayer money) which is being wasted on high stakes testing and give that money back to the school sites to do actual authentic assessment with portfolios?
    Take away these ridiculous tests and allow teachers to get back to teaching. I want real teachers who were trained in actual 4-6 year education programs, not the 6 week TFA wonders. I want real educators put back in charge of educating our children.
    And most of all, I want these tests stopped – period.

    • Allison Shipe 06. Feb, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

      I am so grateful to your effort to save public education. I DO have 3 very tiny kids, 1 that is still a baby. I am sick over the standardized testing.

  4. John 06. Feb, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    John,

    I am glad you are shedding some much needed light on the subject of testing. As with any complex issue, there are many variables to consider. Unfortunately, PARCC/Smarte Balance, Common Core are part of something much bigger.The money, profit, and politics pushing the testing agenda have no basis in educational research. The heavy handed response you are seeing from states and the establishment are using is because they have no research to show testing fixes our educational ills.

    Years ago you focused one of your shows on the Teenage brain. Within the framework of this research, and legitimately doing something about the poverty our children live in, schools would be so much better served by the billions being spent on testing attacking poverty and developing brain based schools.

    Any assistance you could in shedding light on politics/profiteering going on in education would be very enlightening for the general public.

  5. cheryl 06. Feb, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

    For the children, it is my hope that everyone will wake up and stop the insidious path to standardized testing that provides little data to help children but much damage to their learning. Soon children will be subjected to unproved, poorly written tests which only benefit large corporations. We know because these “good” people tell us so that the cut scores will have almost 70% of children be unsuccessful. This means that when the tests are completed and the boom hits, those same corporations come in with “new” resources to sell to “fix” the problems with our kids. The thing is our kids are not failing nor are our schools. It’s been an elaborate scheme to help friends of certain politicians to become even richer. Let me close with this that I read somewhere. If there was a medicine that someone wanted to give to children and they told you straight up that it was untested and 70% would get really sick or die, would you give it to the children? I know you would not, so why these standardized tests ?

  6. Rosemarie 06. Feb, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

    As John pointed out so well, on one side we have well heeled and well financed business men and politicians who can’t get enough of testing, destroying the teaching profession (largely a female occupation I might add), and closing our neighborhood public schools. On the other side we have ordinary parents and teachers, you know, the most important stakeholders and educational experts demanding an end to the abuse of our kids. As my dad always says, follow the money. That being said as a parent who has watched the curriculum narrow, the time spent on test prep increase to epic proportions , electives and recess disappear , and the autonomy of teachers taken away, I have had enough of the reform version of education, which is rigid, punitive, and does not take the whole child into account. We have had it for 15 years in Florida because Jeb really hates teachers and public schools and it’s now the status quo. It’s a failure and we don’t like what it’s doing to our kids’ in terms of real learning or what is doing to our teachers, demeaning and demoralizing them. The fact that everything boils down to one single test score for my child is absolutely ridiculous and the fact that he is responsible for anyone’s salary is ludicrous. March to May students are engaged in testing from CCSS to EOCS to PERT to APS. The entire last quarter is lost to testing. Try to find me a tony private school that engages in this madness. If I hear another business man or politician ask how will we know if students are learning, I can tell them easily. I get a report card from the expert in the room. Pearson doesn’t tell me anything as I never see the questions, I don’t know what was missed or why it was missed or if it was even appropriate. The scores never come back before the school year is over so to say this guides instruction is laughable. We may not be well financed or have a shiny office in D.C., but we are connected, we are fiercely invested in kids’ appropriate education and childhood, and we will not be cowed by the naysayers or those who see our kids as data points and nothing more. We believe, unlike the reformers, that all children,regardless of zip code, deserve an equitable, fully funded neighborhood public school with highly degreed teachers, wrap around services, and assessments designed by teachers, the educational experts. We want the curriculum to be developmentally appropriate. We aren’t looking at 5, 8, 12 year olds and thinking about college. They are children.And we aren’t anti-test, we are pro authentic teacher created quizzes, tests, projects, papers, reports, etc., that are graded and handed back with feedback and guidance. And we are so very tired of the condescension that permeates those who don’t have kids experiencing this garbage.

    • Jill Ervin 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:57 pm #

      You hit the nail on the head. You really did.

  7. Alison McDowell 06. Feb, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    If you are looking for evidence of a movement Mr. Merrow, you should be paying closer attention to Philadelphia. Since last fall’s City Council hearings on testing, a movement has started to build, and I expect it will grow mightily over the course of the next few months leading up to the testing season. It will grow even more next year after the new PA Core Aligned PSSA tests stamp failure on the foreheads of children across the state, children at all income levels.

    I spoke this week to a full house of concerned parents at the Philadelphia Home and School Council monthly meeting-maybe 50-60 people. Afterwards I got many invitations to speak at other school-based parent meetings. Last night members of the Alliance of Philadelphia Public Schools and the Caucus of Working Educators hosted an opt out workshop with another 30 participants. Parents of 90 students at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences have already opted their children, many of whom speak Spanish as a first language and many of whom have IEPs, out of PSSA testing. I know of several neighborhood forums on opt out that are scheduled for the coming weeks.

    Most people simply do not know that parents have a legal right to opt out of testing in Pennsylvania on religious grounds. Once they have that information, many are eager to exercise their legal right to do so. Parents are aware of how much instructional time tests are consuming. We recognize that these tests are used to punish schools and teachers, while providing no actionable information to help their children. We see how many millions of dollars are being spent on test prep, testing, test remediation, and technology purchased to teach to the test. All this, while children in many under-resourced districts like ours go without up to date books, copy paper, even toilet paper for goodness sakes.

    Based on your previous program, you seem to be a big fan of Science Leadership Academy. What you may not know is that only 44% of their students passed the Biology Keystone this year-one of the three exams that sophomores and all younger students are required to pass to receive a high school diploma. I’m curious how you square that information with your glowing review of the work they are doing. Perhaps, standardized tests aren’t the accurate measure of “growth” the testing industry makes them out to be?

    We won’t allow Pearson, Gates, Broad, Walton, Dell, Bezos, Anschutz or the others to take public education away from our children and grandchildren. We won’t have people, like many of your funders listed on this page, shove unqualified TFA recruits into our classrooms. We won’t allow you to turn our talented, creative, unique students into standardized widgets to suit the needs of the global corporate machine. We won’t have it. You won’t have our children’s data. We are not ceding our power. We are using it and teaching others to #OptOut in PA.

    • jcgrim 08. Feb, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

      I hear you, Alison. Parents & teachers are not ceding power. The opt-out movement will only grow. We will not accept the 2 sides argument that some say pro and others say con. The preponderance of research does not support the fraudulent use of standardized tests. None. Nada. Zero.

      Tests are tools of the teaching profession. No other profession allows congress & know-nothings to tell it how to use its professional tools. We don’t need any more mansplaining from the 1%ers on how to use the tools of OUR profession.

      There are grassroots protests growing all over the country because those of us on the receiving end of the testing abuse don’t believe the corporate reformers’ lies. And we are not afraid.

  8. Susan Polos 06. Feb, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

    Actually, I believe that the discussion IS about testing. I am seeing parents in NY freak out because test scores on CC tests are lower than they previously were – and the lie that this is because they are more rigorous will be found out. They are actually deliberately confusing – adults don’t know which answer is correct – and they are scored and cut so that intentionally most fail. Then the message that our schools are failing is spread – again, intentionally. This would be awful enough if it were just about a few weeks of tests (when school is 40 weeks long) but, no, there are endless tests and instruction has been designed to match the tests. Are students 2s or 3s? Nothing else matters anymore. This is not accountability, it is madness. The lie that resistance to Common Core is from the right is proved whenever I speak with intelligent people who know what’s happening. Too many do not know. We must educate our communities and ask parents to insist that they see the tests. Once parents SEE the tests, understand the ramifications to students’ education – so much less learning – and realize who benefits, we can take back our schools from the corrupt system that is benefitting the rich and hurting our children.

  9. Alison McDowell 06. Feb, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

    I find this very curious. Of all the sponsored announcements I hear for private schools on my local NPR affiliate WHYY (and there are many), none of them-zero-ever tout that they give lots of standardized tests. In fact, I find they definitely brand themselves as the opposite of schools that focus on standardized test prep. So are you for creating a two-tier system of education? One for those who can pay $30,000 for a Friends’ School education with a whole-child centered curriculum and lots of arts and music and experiential learning. And other for everyone else that is anchored on rigorous, gritty online test prep? We’re not buying it Mr. Merrow.

    • jcgrim 08. Feb, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

      What we have in the corporate reformer bubble is accountability entitlement. They have the right to be taken seriously. Teachers owe them respect. This sensibility is everywhere and it makes me believe there is a strong gender bias in who is believed. Joel Klein, Kevin Huffman, Rahm Emmanuel, Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John White, Andy Cuomo, Mike Bloomberg etc., lie and obfuscate with impunity.
      Pay no attention to the schools I choose for my kids. Teachers, girls, union thugs, just be quiet and do as you are told.

  10. Roseanne 06. Feb, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    We opt out because the focus on testing has narrowed the curriculum to the point where students no longer have art, music, PE, literature, or history. All day and every day is spent on test prep.

  11. Ismael Jimenez 06. Feb, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    Opt out is viable movement. It demands an end to the standardized education of our children and the end of the assault on teacher autonomy. School is not a factory line that should produce the same results.

  12. Rachael Arkwright 06. Feb, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

    I am part of stop common core and PA opt out. My children will not take the tests and I am actively encouraging other local parents to do the same! If enough refuse the test then the government can’t use test scores against our teachers and schools. I vote we remove the federal government from our local school districts.

  13. Wenda Sheard 06. Feb, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

    My prediction? The protesters (no dash) will win.

    When you called United Opt Out, Badass Teachers Association, and Save our Schools (SOS) modest movements, you failed to account for the passion behind their pleas.

    You also failed to account for the main topic on the tip of every educator’s tied tongue as testing season approaches.

    And you failed to account for why so many dedicated teachers are leaving the profession.

    All those passions, tied tongues, and retirements speak volumes.

  14. Crysti Deusterman 06. Feb, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

    We will refuse the state standardized tests. I will continue to spread the word to everyone who will listen. The movement will grow dramatically this year when other states like AZ start their new common core aligned test, the AzMERIT. We will not tolerate what is happening in education. We will pull out of public school if needed. We will pull out of private school if it too becomes corrupt. We will hire a lawyer if needed. We will not be silenced with the will of a corrupt government that uses my tax dollars to destroy education.

  15. Paul Voas 06. Feb, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    There are actually 3 sides to these issues. Those who are pro-test, those who protest, and those who have no idea what is happening, that their kids are just taking the “normal” yearly test, because states and districts have disseminated almost no information about CC$$ and the new PARCC and SBAC tests. I have asked numerous parents these questions and they state they had no idea these tests would make their kids sit infront of a computer for 9-13 hours (practice included), to take a test that is invalid, developmentally inappropriate, and that only 30% of the students will actually pass; because cut scores are decided after. In NY they stated those numbers and behold it came to fruition. Weird-I know. In NY only 11% of ELL and 4% of SPED met the cut score. School districts in poverty the numbers are from 8%-28%. There is a lot of research out there by those in the education and child psychology field; you need to tap those resources to make an informed decision and its quite obvious. Do not experiment with our children.

  16. Kelley Collings 06. Feb, 2015 at 7:50 pm #

    A movement is one that has massive legs on the ground. The power of any true movement comes from “thousands and thousands of tiny, grass-roots organizations and loose gatherings.”

    What more evidence do you need for the existence of a movement against high stakes testing in this country? Parents, teachers, and students in communities across the country — rural, suburban, and urban — across K-12 and higher education, are reaching across boundaries of race, income, culture, and language to fight back against the the testing beast.

    Movements don’t need to be named or anointed by a “command central.” Leaders don’t make movements; legions of people on the ground do. The uprising against high stakes testing in this country in fact satisfies every bit of the definition of a movement.

    And if you want to witness the exponential growth of a citywide and regional opt out movement, keep a close eye on Philadelphia. It’s gettin’ real!

  17. Amy-Nicole Roat 06. Feb, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

    Mr. Merrow,
    One of your reporters contacted me recently. Fact check with her: I am real. The opt out movement is real, and the ideals behind it are real. What popped in your blog was your dragon analogy. This is mine, too. The body of the dragon is “reform” and the head of the dragon is “standardized testing.” Please don’t dismiss us – these tests are neither reliable and valid. Ask any psychometrician. The WAY the data is used is unhuman – it does not recognize weakness in schools and students and provide supports. It recognizes weakenss and goes in for the kill – closing neighborhood schools and discrediting teachers. Not to mention, standardized tests have reduced many schools to test prep factories and teachers to automatons waiting to be replaced my computer programs. Do the work and you will find that our oppositon is rooted in a desire to maintain high standards in education, the on-going fight for equity for all students, and the notion that at the heart of democacy is free, equal access to information. For more on the very real topic of opt out, search the web for Caucus of Working Educators and read our blog..
    Amy Roat
    Teacher – School District of Philadelphia, PA
    Steering Committee, Caucus of Working Educators, PFT

    • Jenni Desnouee 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:14 am #

      Thank you Amy,

      So succinctly and poetically stated. If only this was the kind of response these tests were encouraging and building towards. Your students are lucky to have you!

      Mr. Merrow, I am also real. I assure you this movement will only grow. This is the second day in a row I am responding to an op-ed on the topic. I am a public school parent and in past years my children have scored proficient and advanced on these tests, However after literally years of research and soul-searching I know this tells me nothing about their college or career readiness. Rather it tells me that my children are white, middle class and both of their parents have college educations. This is the only thing that these tests have been show to reliably predict.

      I believe what you are seeing is a very real “tip of the iceberg” . In New York State and Washington State, teachers and administrators have been speaking out for years. I have wrung my hands for years, and my NOT opting out (until last year) was the result of fears about hurting my children’s school and their teachers. But now I realize that the only thing these tests are good for is hurting public education. I believe my reasons resonate with thousands, possibly millions of parents. Legions of families are wrestling with this issue, trying to find their way out of the hog-tied situation of knowing it is the only moral thing to do, but fearful of the repercussions it will have for their schools and their beloved teachers. But as we become more educated, we are realizing that not to stand in front of this tide of destructive tests will mean the end of American education as we know it. We are rising.

      Like most things worth learning the subject is complicated, which in no small way has contributed to a perception of the movement being small or growing slowly. We may be moving slowly, but our growth is sustainable. In my research I have identified over a dozen compelling reasons to opt-out. When speaking to other parents I sometimes struggle, which is the most important to share? Which will most compel them to dig in and do their own research? Like great teaching this movement is dependent upon building relationships and trust. This takes time. But we are growing group of teachers and parents who are committed to teaching each other and fighting for our children and our communities.

      We aren’t going anywhere but up.

  18. Alison McDowell 06. Feb, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

    If you are on Facebook and haven’t read it yet, please read children’s author and illustrator Patricia Polacco’s status from February 3, 11:16am: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Patricia-Polacco/89811673029?fref=nf So far it has over 1,000 comments, 9,300 likes, and almost 5,300 shares. It’s about standardized testing. Read the comments.

    “I think what needs to be remembered by the politicians who still back Common Core and NCLB, (introduced by the now, speaker of the house, John Boehner) is that children are not quantitative and accumulations of test scores. They have hearts, souls, dreams, and aspirations that can not be measured by a number on a paper.

    I call this, “The Numbers Game”. All schools and educators within the system must answer to these scores. It seems it is not taken into consideration that there are multiple intelligences that can not be measured. I believe, with all my heart, that all children are GIFTED. The problem is we don’t open our gifts at the same time. I took forever to open mine and mistook my inability to pass test as stupidity, and being dumb! Of course now I know better but the harm this caused to my basic sense of well being has been with me for a lifetime.” Patricia Polacco

    Today’s Mr. Falkers are folks like Peggy and Kelley and Amy and Becca and Susan and Nikki and Ceresta and Beth and others whose names I don’t yet know. You are the movement, we are the movement. The movement is moving. Thank you to all the parents working so hard and to all those educators, and administrators, and superintendents channeling their own internal Mr. Falker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abN2aP_Dzd0

  19. Carey 06. Feb, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

    My opinion on teaching to test and common core can go on forever regarding Florida. I have 12 year old twins that have meltdowns, rages, physical sickness, anxiety, depression and are exhausted by these rigorous tests that teach NOTHING. They are scared to death that 1 big test after taking 100′s of other tests will hold them back a grade if they don’t pass it. They both spend hours on homework that has to be Googled because NO ONE UNDERSTANDS the questions or how to get a 2 part answer made into 20 parts. My kids can’t sign their damn names because they don’t teach cursive (ok, 1 week in 3rd grade). The pressure on kids, parents and teachers is INSANE and the education budget keeps getting cut…

  20. Michelle 06. Feb, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

    So much focus on learning for the perceived test, instead of just learning. They teach to the standards not to the test. Yes, but if its not tested, they don’t teach it any more. My son has ADHD and suffers from test anxiety.Hours being sick before and after a test to barely pass or fail by one question. Does it measure his intelligence or his ability to do well in the real world? Not at all. He supposed to be allowed to take the test on paper and pen instead of computer, but they won’t allow him. He is very proficient on the computer, but testing on the computer makes him more anxious and prone to more mistakes. What happened to schools being there to teach the students? All this pressure on kids in elementary and middle school is too much.

  21. Peggy Robertson 06. Feb, 2015 at 9:00 pm #

    Well John, As you know, the numbers are much greater than a few hundred. New York had easily 60,000 refuse the test last year and this fall in Colorado we had 5,000 refuse the senior CMAS test. On our general FB group page for United Opt Out we have been adding hundreds a week. On the Indiana page they added 1,000 this past week.

    I appreciate your comment about a democratic society – because that is what we, the opt out movement, are attempting to preserve. There will not be a free and democratic society if the privatization of public schools continues, using high stakes tests, which promote fear-based school environments – an environment which teaches solely to the test and is completely void of practices which create a democratic school or classroom.

    At my school, we have testing all year (DRA2, MAPS, CMAS, PARCC, BAS, ACCESS, PALS. TSGOLD). I believe I’ve had perhaps two weeks this year in which I wasn’t somehow involved in administering a high stakes test and/or had my schedule interrupted due to a high stakes test. I have refused to administer the PARCC, but of course there will be someone to take my place. In addition we’ve been instructed to have daily PARCC practice. And we are desperately trying to stay true to the goals of a democratic , inquiry-based public school – can you imagine how exhausting it becomes to try to do the right thing, when everyone is asking you to implement curriculum and tests that truly amount to educational malpractice?

    We know how to assess. We’re teachers . We have portfolios, report cards and we actually talk to parents. And if everyone is so terribly concerned about how we are doing we also have the NAEP. All of this testing is a distraction from the true issues that plague our public schools – poverty. And of course the learning is most narrow in our high poverty schools where these mandates are used to shut down our schools. I work in a so-called “failing” school (we prefer the term abandoned school). Our children are smart and creative and there are over 40 languages represented in our school . But our children are also hungry. We attempt to fill 180 food bags weekly in the midst of all this madness of teaching to the test and testing which takes us away from the inquiry-based learning that creates engaged, problem-solving students .

    So – how big is the movement? It’s big and it’s picking up speed fast. The only way I can quantify it for you is to state that I help parents opt out before work, on my way home from work, and each evening. United Opt out has approximately 70 opt out leaders who support parents in their respective states. In addition, if you ever visit our FB group page you will see immense numbers of comments, questions, and support offered as parents find out how to refuse the tests. Another facet of opt out that is most frightening to the reformers who wish to privatize our public schools is this – when a parent becomes educated around the issues of high stakes testing they find their voice and they become an advocate for public schools and for their children. It’s empowering, and it is grassroots organizing at its best. We build relationships while the reformers continue to tear them down as they destroy public school communities and create policies which fail children and fire teachers. We’ll keep fighting back and we’ll keep growing in numbers – there is something to be said for speaking with truth and heart, John. I watch those who make policy and those who pontificate about public education speak with such arrogance – arrogance backed up by money – and the truth is they know nothing about education. And in a mainly female profession, it does not go unnoticed that many of those who pontificate and create policy are males. It’s time that public school teachers are respected for what we know, based on our education and our experience in the public schools. We will continue to fight back. And those of us who opt out – well, we have a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws. And this spring, you can watch it firsthand.

    Peggy Robertson, United Opt Out National

    • John Merrow 06. Feb, 2015 at 9:41 pm #

      Peggy, I referenced the number of GROUPS, not the number of students who may opt out. I appreciate your passion, intelligence and courage.

      • Jocelyn 06. Feb, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

        John, what you fail to see is although there may be only 3 National groups, this is a grassroots movement that is fueled by the state affiliates of each of these groups as well as other groups not affiliated with these national groups. So in my state, there are groups that are coming together within regions, cities, and school districts. It happens over coffee with a neighbor or at a child’s soccer game. It is happening one parent and student at a time! It will snowball as parents learn that it is their right to guide their child’s education.

      • Peggy Robertson 07. Feb, 2015 at 12:34 am #

        Thank you John – just seeing that now. And just got back from a night of canvassing to share opt out info at a high school. Lots of appreciative parents! Glad to see so many amazing comments on your blog post.

        • Melissa Tomlinson 07. Feb, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

          I also believe the reason that there is only three groups getting noticed, UOO, BATs and SOSMarch is due in part to the fact that these groups have become leaders in the organizing process. The fact that all three are on the same page and working together as well, makes this one immense movement in my eyes.

  22. Chrisssy 06. Feb, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

    Take a closer look at the billion dollar testing and curriculum industry. See who the people are behind those companies and you will find an incestuous relationship with the politicians who are pro-test. Funny thing, the test creators are also the ones who release reports about how the students are failing the tests, and therefore need new curriculum created by the same people that make the tests. There is only a facade of people who are pro-test, they are only pro-test because they are pro-greed.

  23. Ellie Calo-Motondo 06. Feb, 2015 at 9:13 pm #

    WHY SHOULD I REFUSE???
    (THE STATE EXAMS FOR MY 3RD-8TH GRADER)

    It is the only way to tell the “powers that be” that high-stress, high-stakes, high-profit testing is unacceptable.
    It is the best way to tell the bureaucrats in charge of education policy that we want year-long “teaching to the tests” to end.
    It sends a strong message that we, the parents, DEMAND that meaningful and well-rounded learning be returned to our Public Schools.
    The scores don’t come back in time for teachers to use them for ANY educational purposes.
    The tests have been shown to be extremely flawed year after year.
    The tests are riddled with brand names, and our kids are not to be used for profit.
    High stakes tests serve NO purpose in the classroom other than to take time away from real learning by forcing teachers to teach to the test and do test prep ALL YEAR LONG.
    It is your legal right to refuse these exams for your child.

    REFUSE THE STATE TESTS.

  24. Ellie Calo-Motondo 06. Feb, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

    Myth vs. Fact:

    MYTH: My child is required to take the state ELA & Math tests for grades 3-8.

    FACT: Under most state laws, any minor child can REFUSE to take these exams.
    
MYTH: My child might be left back if he/she doesn’t take the tests.

    FACT: The only way the test can be held against your child is if he/she fails it.
    
MYTH: If my child refuses, he/she will be forced to take the harder city/district tests instead.

    FACT: If your child refuses, the only legal and common alternative assessment will be a portfolio of his/her classwork & class exams from the year.
    MYTH: If my child refuses, he/she will be given a zero grade.

    FACT: If a child refuses the tests, it is marked as a “refusal,” and given no grade at all.
    
MYTH: My child’s teacher will face negative consequences if he/she refuses the tests.

    FACT: Legally, test refusals do not impact teachers at all. If your administration uses refusals against teachers, they are choosing to do so and are very wrong to do so.
    
MYTH: The state exams are required for entry into middle and high school.

    FACT: The portfolio assessment is completely acceptable by virtually all public schools.
    
MYTH: The state exams show how my child is doing in school.

    FACT: The state exams are often so convoluted they aren’t accurate indicators of any genuine academic progress.
    
MYTH: Teachers need the state exam scores to see where my child is and to help him/her with any deficiencies.

    FACT: Nobody sees the state tests’ scores until MONTHS later, so teachers cannot use the scores for any instructional purposes.
    
MYTH: It is very difficult to refuse to allow my child to take the state exams.

    FACT: In 2014, over 77,000 students refused to take the New York State ELA & Math Exams for grades 3-8.

    (In NYS, all you have to do is fill out this letter, print it, and send or bring it in:
    
http://www.united2counter.com/refusal-form)

    REFUSE THE STATE TESTS. TELL THE EDUCRATS THAT HIGH-STRESS, HIGH-STAKES, HIGH-PROFIT TESTING IS UNACCEPTABLE FOR OUR CHILDREN. TELL YOUR STATE THAT WE WANT YEAR-LONG “TEACHING TO THE TESTS” TO END. SEND A MESSAGE THAT WE DEMAND MEANINGFUL AND WELL-ROUNDED LEARNING BE RETURNED TO OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

  25. Michelle Meeks 06. Feb, 2015 at 9:38 pm #

    These tests are not based on academic excellence. This is the most enraging aspect of the standardized tests. It’s a shame nobody notices this fact.

    There are major differences between training and teaching!

    We used to have the best education system in the world.

  26. Omar 06. Feb, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    Out of all your comments how many are pro-test?…. We are not under any allusions that this will be fixed tomorrow. We are in this for the long haul. We will win. Every parent I speak to wants a full education for their kids not test prep.

  27. Michelle Meeks 06. Feb, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    It may be too much information for some people to digest and accept, but if you want to learn about what happened to America’s public school system please read these links:

    Thank goodness for whistleblowers!

    http://abcsofdumbdown.blogspot.com/
    http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/MomsPDFs/DDDoA.sml.pdf
    http://cherilyneagar.com/2014/09/meet-grand-dame-common-core-revolt/

  28. Clyde Gaw 06. Feb, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    There seems to be much ignorance within the body politic responsible for US education policy regarding learning experience and matters of the mind. Then again, perhaps it’s not ignorance at all. Perhaps there is a reason why our schools look like factories, learning is fragmented outside children’s interests and intellectual development is measured like meat on a butcher’s scale.

    I just finished a brief discussion with an eleventh grade foreign exchange student from Finland attending a popular suburban high school in the Midwest. During our discussion the Finnish visitor revealed American high schools “treat their students like 10-year olds.” “It’s like being in juvenile detention.” In Finland we emphasize creativity and thinking outside the box.”

    Of course the American “bewildered herd” doesn’t know anything else except test scores and testing. Who is responsible for that drum beat? Who owns the mass media? Who is selling this message? No mention that over 20% of children over the age of 18 suffer from mental illness. No mention that testing drives curriculum into a year-long radical behaviorist drill and preparation for standardized high stakes tests with little time for creative or personalized learning experience.

    Look at US juvenile incarceration rates ( http://www.aecf.org/resources/youth-incarceration-in-the-united-states/ ), crime rates, poverty rates, drop out rates…highest in the industrialized world.

    Our children suffer under structural violence.

    Who is responsible for this structure?

  29. Alison McDowell 06. Feb, 2015 at 10:30 pm #

    So it looks like my comment is still awaiting moderation, though not sure why. Maybe I’ll try again without the links. If you haven’t read it, please see children’s book author and illustrator Patricia Polacco’s Facebook status regarding the harm done by standardized testing from February 3 at 11:19am. It has been shared nearly 5,300 times and there are over 1,000 comments.

    My favorite book of hers is “Thank you Mr. Falker” based on her own experience as an undiagnosed dyslexic child who was taken under wing by a teacher who saw her pain and treated her as an individual with kindness and humanity, and in doing helped bring forth an amazing, creative talent into our midst.

    Today’s Mr. Falkers are folks like Peggy and Kelley and Amy and Becca and Susan and Nikki and Ceresta and Beth and others whose names I don’t yet know. You are the movement, we are the movement. The movement is moving. Thank you to all the parents working so hard and to all those educators, and administrators, and superintendents channeling their own internal Mr. Falker. If you haven’t read the book, there is a youtube reading of it by the Screen Actors Guild. Check it out.

  30. Cherie 06. Feb, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    First–there is not one single state in the United States of America that requested Common Core nor the associated high stakes tests. A group of education reformers created a need by spreading propaganda that our education system was “broken” and it was producing students that were “behind the international standards.” –This is a situation that was started decades ago and to be honest, as a teacher when we were first told that there were to be national learning standards for the entire United States we were happy. Teachers were never and are still not against standards. We would love to have standards–it helps us tremendously to teach our students to the absolutely best our ability and our students’ abilities. HOWEVER, those standards must be developmentally appropriate and must have vertical progression of knowledge built in–which requires them to be developed by educational specialists. Common Core was not and is not any of these things. It has so many flaws that there is really no way to “fix” the standards–they simply must be tossed out and re-written correctly by early childhood specialists, educational specialists and then closely examined for vertical progression and to ensure that they are not too narrow in focus. IF this is done correctly–there is no need ever for high stakes testing of any kind except for entrance exams into post secondary school programs. WHY? Because teachers go to school for 6+ years and are highly trained professionals who KNOW how to test their students through many different avenues in order to check for not only rote memorization but also for the ability to use the knowledge to solve problems, apply the information and transform it with changing parameters so that innovative solutions can be found and explained to others. That is the test of true learning–the ability to teach others how to use the knowledge. As it stands–true teaching and education no longer exists in our schools. There is only rote memorization and drill practices which we call “teaching to the test.” Our students learn to bubble in the test sheet. What is worse is that even though students memorize information, the test and answers are written in such a way that 70% of the testing population will fail the test. The test questions are filled with detracting information so the student first much figure out what the question actually is and what the parameters are that actually go with the question. There are generally 4 answers for each question: 1 wrong answer, 1 answer that might be right and 2 answers that are right but 1 of those is more correct than the other -however, no one can tell you why that one is more correct–the computer just picks it. The student nor the teacher ever gets back a graded test–you only get a score. Therefore, no learning ever comes from the test as you don’t know what areas you are strong or weak in and so you cannot go back and “re-teach” the weak areas. In addition to the questions being written in an invalid format (in college teachers are taught that good test questions test the subject matter not how well as student can wade through mud to reach the test question–the high stakes tests are all mud–tar pits actually) many are outright incorrect. There is no truly correct answer to the question and yet, it remains in the test. You would think that these questions and answers were written by education professionals –no they were not. Ads were placed in freelance forums like Elance, Odesk and Guru looking for people to write 100 math questions for $25, 100 middle grade science questions for $25 and so forth. Each question had to have up to 8 “detractors” (sic) in it and the answers had to follow the format written above. WHY would the education reformers set our students up to fail and to purposely have tests written like this? Because the education reform was never ever about “making our children college and career ready” or any other form of that propaganda slang you see or hear–it is because far more money is to be made from remediation than there ever will be made from the base of the common core curriculum, texts, workbooks, test prep materials and the tests themselves. The more kids fail–the more kids must take remedial courses =the more money the foundations, etc make off of our students. It is all about the money–follow that money trail and it leads you right back to those who have worked so hard to destroy pubic education: Koch Bros, Walton Foundation, Gates Foundation (yes, Bill and Melinda Gate who profess to want to education really just want to make $$ sorry don’t believe them–Gates even produced a lovely bracelet to put on every child to monitor is they are “engaged”–creepy –and it gets worse), Bush Foundation, Jeb Bush,et al…the Ed. Reform Group. The same group that has reduced the middle class of America to the unclass with no full time jobs with benefits –the same group that has worked so hard to destroy all unions–teachers, police, firefighters, EMTs and more. The haves are trying to destroy the pubic education that gives the step up to the have nots -the 1% is trying to roll back time. I am a protestor–I believe in a free quality education for all–not just those who can afford a private school. EVERY child has a right to a quality education in math, science, social studies, art, music, PE, sports, Ag, Dance, Chorus, Band, Drama, Foreign Languages (please note the “S” there) and more. Test prep, common core and high stakes testing does NOT education any child. I am a teacher and I am a parent of 4 children. I will not stop fighting until we bring back education to the educators. I promised my students that and I don’t break promises to my students–ever. They are counting on it for their children. OPT OUT and stop the money flow. Protest and stop the rest. Period. There is nothing else.

  31. Laurie Murphy 06. Feb, 2015 at 10:55 pm #

    If you are asking which movement has true depth, try asking yourself what the average parent feels.

    Have you ever met a parent who said, “I am so grateful for all of this testing and the heavy weight that is placed on a single test. I feel that using 1/4th of my child’s educational hours to prepare for and conduct these tests are a good use of time and have advanced my child’s learning. I gladly will have my children and their schools do without basic supplies and maintenance in order to purchase test-related supplies and resources. Placing my child in a test-centric environment for months on end has enhanced the overall well-being and development of my child. Thank you for all of these tests!”

    Or, instead, are you hearing parents everywhere questioning the cost, time, and impact of this test-centric educational system on their child and on education, in general?

    Are parents from around the country questioning why so many of the things that they treasure from their own educational experience have disappeared? Are they questioning what is behind this change and who is profiting from this change?

    It is, unfortunately, all too easy to control perceptions as to what is happening in our country. Typically, those with the greatest power and financial resources also control the messages that are shared and the interpretation of news.

    If you want to know what is truly happening in schools, ask parents, “What has changed since you were in school and how do you feel about the changes?”

    Their answer, and the truth it represents, is chilling.

  32. Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of BATs 06. Feb, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

    John, I am the proud general manager of the Badass Teachers and I will have to respectfully disagree that 3 groups define this movement. You left out the powerful Journey for Justice, the Badass Moms of Chicago, Long Island Opt Out, New York State Allies for Public Education, Network for Public Education, Newark Student Union, Philly Student Union, Providence Student Union, and many many more. PROTEST is not defined by 3 groups it is defined by parents, students, and teachers around the nation who refuse to sell their children’s education to testing companies. I would like to invite you to a conference call with all of the stakeholders involved in this fight. We would love to chat with you about the PROTEST that is happening nationally to end this! Email me and let me know if you are interested! I think it would be important for you to hear the voices of a strong national movement to end the testing craze and to begin talking about funding equity, equality, and poverty.

  33. Mary Brown Boren 06. Feb, 2015 at 11:27 pm #

    John, high stakes testing offends the parent-teacher-child relationship. High stakes testing is a market based measurement that slaps a bar-code onto teachers and schools using the number of correct bubbles a child fills in on one day. This type of measurement doesn’t sit well with fair minded people. The fear needed to implement these measurements should on its face lead people of good will to question the motives and goals of advocating for high stakes accountability. I resigned mid-year as a school counselor because I would have to administer the high stakes tests to children and their scores would account for 50% of their teachers evaluation. I watched children in high poverty endure the pain of chronic stress that highjacks their thinking and face the high stakes tests. I’ve witnesses profound growth in students with disabilities, poverty, language barriers and yet they were labeled as failures by those who compare them to their wealthy and white and typically developing peers. The bottom line is that high stakes testing is unfair, is mean, and it wastes money.

  34. Kathy 06. Feb, 2015 at 11:48 pm #

    reaching success as s student is best assured when they are taught in a safe and wholesome enviornment,one that is creatively charged by a dynamic, well trained, dedicated , high caliber, caring teacher who engages an holistic approach . A teacher who knows how and when to use assessments and evaluations to diagnose and structure individual approaches based on a cooperative learning program to meet the varied needs of the student and the teams and the class as a whole. Government and big business have done more harm to assuring great teachers remain in our neediest schools. High stakes testing and the rigors of the testing climate often causes our students and teachers, the TWO MOST CRITICAL ELEMENTS IN THE EDUCATION DEBATES, to endure undue stresses and feelings of extreme anxiety and fear. This leads to fatigue and burn out. I fear that is the true mussion of high stake testing advocates, to destroy morale and beat down the motivation of students to maintain a DESIRE TO SUCCEED in many schools today. Once that is accomplished, the take over of the state and federal financial educational allotments for a Free Public Education is obtained easily by those lobbyists and big business carpetbaggers awaiting in the private sector to move right in.

  35. morna mcdermott 07. Feb, 2015 at 12:11 am #

    Thank you John for your coverage of this movement. Your coverage is indeed a vital starting point for a necessary conversation. I’d like to expand upon the report if I might. You write, “As for the other side, the ‘Pro-Test’ camp has the appearance of substance.” Well if by “substance” you mean MONEY, yes they do. Reform policy-makers have money to buy a multimedia campaign advertising their agenda…advertising. Selling. Fruit Loops might say “Part of a nutritious breakfast” on the front of the box but we all know to read the ingredients, and when we are being marketed claims rather than facts.

    To that point, the media, placating their corporate sponsors offer little more than “repetitive and stories and blogs that merely ask lame questions”–“hardly evidence of a full-blown” legitimate reform policy. Uttering the phrase “career and college ready” thousands of time in every media outlet money can buy does not make the claim any more true. Especially when there is no research or evidence to show that more or “better” tests can deliver on such an ambiguous promise. But never mind the facts. There’s volumes of research that demonstrates how these policies are failing. But keep calm and ignore the research seems to be their mantra I suppose. Any deep examination of policy “reform” in the name of research journalism cannot evade the profit motive of corporate “sponsorship” and lobbying efforts of testing and curriculum delivery systems that spent millions lobbying for the reforms from which they are profiting handsomely. It’s a shame that information was excluded from the report. That’s kind of ignoring the giant elephant in the room isn’t it? Gates, Pearson and the “billionaire’s boys club” cannot be excluded from this conversation. I appreciate the nod you give the notion of money and power. But this warrants a more detailed examination to fully appreciate why our outrage exists.

    Who is pro-test? Let’s take a look. It’s the politicians, non-profits and corporations who have political and monetary motives. Where are the pro-test teachers and parents? Crickets….
    Well, except for the mention of Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, and the statement, “If you don’t take the test, you won’t be counted–and you won’t matter” which compels some such advocates representing marginalized groups, ie. special needs children, or children of color in underserved communities to buy the testing- our- way- into- mattering or proving ourselves narrative. What does it say about our democratic society and the promise of equitable education that we are basically telling these same groups and these same children (and their communities) that in order to “matter” or to receive programs and services on par with their White middle class peers they must subject themselves to costly and time-consuming tests (tests born of a testing history designed with the intention to sort and track people by their social class and race or ethnicity-yet we ask them to play the testing to prove yourself game when the rules of the game are rigged against them). We rob their schools of monies for greatly needed resources and meaningful curriculum in the name of “accountability” and avoid confronting the sad reality that without standardized tests these children will go underserved. Nice way to avoid dealing with the undercurrent of racism, classism, and bias all of which are reinforced by the same system which claims to be serving them: test driven policies.

    Who are the protestors? The people (from across all political, geographical socioeconomic and racial spectrums) who live this stuff every day and see the implications of its effects of corporate driven test- based reforms. They don’t make a dime for their efforts either. No one gets paid. No one is making millions of dollars by refusing. I think that says a lot about the validity of the movement. There is no power or profit motive. A deeper investigation would reveal copious studies spanning decades that show how high stakes testing, and standardized testing in general has been harmful to children, teachers, and schools. You write “I haven’t found overwhelming evidence that hundreds of thousands of students are going to boycott the Common Core tests.” We don’t receive millions of dollars to create a centralized data bank of opt outers across fifty states. You won’t find “evidence” by looking in any one place or event. Scores of parents refusing the tests and teachers supporting this movement go unknown (sometimes by choice to protect their jobs or their kids). Or, thanks to our corporate sponsored media, when protesters DO come out in large numbers, the public does not hear about it because well, then people might really know that push back and that real solutions/alternatives do exist. Are we as protestors marginalized because really we are so small in numbers? Or is it because the media manufactures the movement as such?

    One thing is for sure about test driven reform: It certainly does an excellent job of blending and bending the lines between fact and fiction.

  36. Stephen Eric Bryden 07. Feb, 2015 at 12:39 am #

    Which side is astro-turfed and which side is grassroots?

    How many hours of standardized testing will a third grader in Indiana take this coming year?

    I can’t help but recall the words of a retiring principal, who stated “I’m sure there’s a place for data in education, but I have yet to find it.”

  37. Ruth Rodriguez 07. Feb, 2015 at 1:52 am #

    John, Wall Street investors and Billionaires were caught on video strategizing on their next profit making venture and they concluded that public education dollars was a well of profit waiting to be tapped. They wasted little time to concoct the most clever scheme to hijack public schools. With the help of some unscroupokous politicians they have been able to take over the curriculum, design lesson plans and deny students promtion and high school diplomas, and how teachers and schools are measured all based on a single test. They used their money and influence to invest in the testing industry and the lesson plans accompanying the test, (both highly profitable), along with the for-profit charter schools, and the non-union TFA interns. But, before they could carry out this scam, they had to convince the public that our public schools were broken, and teachers were the cause of the problem. With the help of Oprah and other celebreties and the propaganda film, “Waiting for Superman” and “The Parent Trigger”, they were able to convince many that indeed are schools were broken and thus positioned themselves as the saviors of our broken schools. Pivotal to their profit-making scheme is the “Test”, which without they cannot satisfy their greed. The testing industry has become a multi billion enterprise thanks to the corporate education reform. It appears that many, prrhaps you included have been sold into the idea that our schools are failing, and only the test driven measures, with its call for rigor is what is needed to save the schools of the poor and the politically disinfranchised. But just like the mama bear who will protect her cubs, families across the country have cone to realize the abuse that is taken place, and have said enough and will do whatever it takes to protrct their children; and while these abusive measures have hit harder the poorest coomunities, families in suburbia America have joined in protest, and what you are seeing is an uprising that will galvanize into one of the biggest resistance movement in defense of all our children.

  38. Joe Nathan 07. Feb, 2015 at 1:59 am #

    There are more that 2 or 3 sides. Among the viewpoints are:

    1. End standardized tests. They are worthless and narrow the curriculum (Opt Out and BA teachers.(
    2. End use of standardized tests to judge teacher’s effectiveness, but retain use of some of them.
    3. Retain use of standardized tests but cut back on the number that students are given
    4. Retain use of standardized tests; they are vital to help assess what’s happening with students. However, other things need to be done to help improve education (this is essentially the view of a number of civil rights

    As a long time educator and parent of 3 graduates of urban public schools, I do not agree with the statement above that ‘I’m sure there’s a place for data in education, but I have yet to find it.”
    We ought to be examining things like graduation rates, students’ views on whether they are being treated fairly, faculty views on whether they are being encouraged or discouraged by leaders (or whether they would like to work in a teacher led school, some standardized measures that help assess student work, some portfolio approaches such as developed by Central Park East and Open School.

    To reject data entirely seems unwise. To suggest that there are only 2 viewpoints seems overly simplistic.

    I do appreciate your efforts to sort through what does and does not make sense, John.

    • John Merrow 07. Feb, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

      Joe, I agree that it’s complicated. Is the issue assessing the progress of students so we can address their weaknesses and strengthen their strengths? If so, then we might not using the approach now used by school systems. I am in favor of healthy debate, but I fear that’s naive of me.

      • Darciann Samples 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

        John, I have worked with special needs students since President G.W. Bush started experimenting with testing strategies in the 80s. These students have been the most harmed by testing regimes. Now, with the expectation that every child will perform at the same level at the same time, second language learners, students with special needs, students who are chronically absent or transient, and even students with serious illnesses who miss months of school while in treatment are burdened with hours of preparation and testing for which they are unprepared.

        Educators of these students are passionate about helping them reach their full potential. We have students who grow one to three grade levels in a single year but who are still performing significantly below grade level. They are beginning to feel good about themselves and their potential again until they are forced to perform on high-stakes, high-stress tests.

        Every year, students cry, become physically ill, and demonstrate every possible sign of stress during and after these assessments.

        Teachers are NOT asking to avoid accountability. What we would like are fair measures of student growth based on the student, not the curriculum.

  39. Stacy Elizabeth Holcombe 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:57 am #

    The opt out movement isn’t a “whim.” It’s an outcry from parents who are tired of their children being excessively tested with standardized testing beginning in kindergarten. Five year olds shouldn’t be given the message they are failures. Children all develop at different rates, and the expectations are developmentally inappropriate.

    Schools are cutting arts programs and essential school positions, such as school librarians and nurses, in order to fund these tests.

    The company who produces the majority of these tests, Pearson, refuses to sign the honor pledge in President Obama’s Student Digital Privacy Rights Act. By signing the pledge, companies who collect personal information about our students, such as grades and test scores, pledge to not misuse student data by selling the information to third parties and allowing parental access to their child’s information. The fact that the largest company who creates standardized tests refuses to not misuse our students’ personal information and the data they collect should concern us all.

    The pressure these high stakes tests place on children and teachers are substantial. My second grade daughter, who is a high achiever, could not sleep the night before one of these standardized tests. She was so anxious about not knowing the answers and the possibility there would be questions on material she hadn’t been taught yet.
    An eight year old child should not be experiencing level of pressure and anxiety.

    This madness MUST stop. The joy of learning has been taken away. The only way we can reclaim our schools, allow time for authentic teaching and learning, is by REFUSING the tests.

    My daughter and I are refusing and opting out! We will no longer participate in a system that isn’t about learning or improving student achievement.

  40. Susan Smith 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:09 am #

    Parents are finally saying no to a reform agenda that benefits testing companies at the expense of children. And it’s about time! If the tests are rejected, the whole phony accountability system will fall apart, and then maybe teachers can get back to doing their job: developing and nurturing creativity and a love of learning in our children.

  41. Deb Escobar 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:31 am #

    I respectfully submit that this issue is not about the strength of the movement on either side, but what is right for children and who/what is behind the anti-public ed, anti-teacher, pro-testing, pro-common core, pro-charter “movement.” From what I’ve observed in New York State, these tests are designed for one purpose – to make students fail and to give a reason for attacking public ed and teachers. Evidence for my opinion? The cut-scores are set by some mysterious method that guarantees 70% of the students in NY fail the test. 70%! Before the common core test, 80% of NY students passed our own state-standard tests. How all of a sudden did so many successful students become failures? Cuomo himself admitted the test was bad when he agreed student test scores could not be used for judging – the children. But now, he wants to judge 50% of teacher evaluations by the same criteria! In the meantime, it is the students who are suffering with loss of creative and critical thinking experiences, loss of learning time in the classroom due to test prep and test time, and loss of self-confidence due to being forced to sit for many, many hours (more than a law student) to take tests that are geared at a grade level years beyond their ability…that loss of self-confidence is going to affect their learning for years to come. I’ve seen students put their head down and cry during a test, students having to run to the bathroom because they are nauseous with a full-blown panic attack, etc. Talk about that.

  42. Cindy Hamilton 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:53 am #

    We now have a network of 25 opt out groups across the State of Florida. This awareness and growth comes from teachers, students and parents having reached the end of all traditional efforts for change.

    We have appealed to our local school boards, our department of education and our legislators. Everyone of them pointing fingers at the other. Until we have valid assessment without punitive consequences we will opt out. We will not be sidetracked by threats from our local districts or by our Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart.

    With the damage being done on a daily basis to our students and teachers, we have nothing to lose.

  43. CarynJ 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:55 am #

    I find it interesting that you pointed out the poignant difference in “substance” of the 2 “camps.” I would like to highlight the difference in the location, financial, and power of the 2 camps. Location comparison: “Pro-test” is based in the homes of children and “Protest” is based in Washington. Financial comparison: “Pro-test” ranges from lower to upper class finances whereas “Protest” ranges from federal finances to gargantuan finances like Bill Gates. Power comparison: “Pro-test” has only the power of 1 at most 2 votes, yet “Protest” has the ability to not follow any Constitutional guidelines OR laws.

    So I will be happy to point out that it is time for the revolt to begin and encourage every parent out there to SCREAM at the top of our lungs because that is the ONLY way we can kill this Goliath called “Protest.” We have this one stone to throw so let’s throw it together! OPT OUT!!!!

  44. Michelle Z 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:08 am #

    We have opted out of PARCC – or whatever it’s going to be in Louisiana..

  45. Stephanie Adams 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:11 am #

    These are my children. It is my responsibility to protect them. The state doesn’t know them, nor do they care how detrimental their mandates are. I am to care for my WHOLE child. Not simply the academic or profitable parts. In the end, I have to answer for the decisions that I made and the parent that I was. I need to teach my children to not simply comply, but to make a stand for what is right. I do not believe that our government is for the people and by the people. It is for the corporation and by the corporation. Education should not be run on a business model where children are acquisitions and the bottom line is profit. There is no shame.

    Allow me to share with you my stance on testing.

    I used to only think in terms of my daughter. She was my oldest, and the only one of my children old enough to be subject to testing. She always tested well, or well enough for a child who was always told to just get in there and do it, and then it’s done, and it doesn’t at all reflect where you’re at or who you are. It only determines how well you test under duress. That had always been my feeling regarding testing.

    I then had 3 more beautiful children, and they were all growing into unique and incredible individuals. As they grew, I began to see beauty in their strengths and weakness. My world was no longer one-child dimensional, and my eyes began to open. Then Ohio passed the 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee, common core hit, and testing increased 2 and 3 fold. Data became a priority, and big corporate money began to funnel into public education. That sent up too many red flags to even list. Recess was being taken away for test prep, because there aren’t enough days in a school year to prep for tests and have recess. I began to hear more and more about numbers, scores, data, and less and less about humanity in schools. The test scores are being used to determine a teacher’s value, which is ridiculous and crazy. It no longer matters that he/she gives hugs willingly, will buy a cold child a coat, sees that a child is never without lunch or snack, holds their hand, sings with them, calls them her “darlings”, keeps every single special note they are given, proclaims them all artist extraordinaires, or gives them each a little piece of himself every single day. If your child doesn’t test well, their teacher’s value declines.

    If your child doesn’t test well, their value declines. It no longer matters that they stand up to bullies, take care of their younger sisters after school, offer a friend their gloves, tell them they look pretty, hold their hand, or color special pictures for them.

    The 3rd Grade Guarantee…It no longer matters that you started out the year struggling, but have made such unbelievable progress. It doesn’t matter that your teacher has built up your confidence, and that you once again have dreams-she tells you that you can be anything that you want to. It doesn’t matter that you can read at a 4th grade level, but don’t test well. Your grades, your teacher’s thoughts and opinions, your effort, your progress, your hopes, dreams, and aspirations…none of it matters. The test is all that matters, and children with special needs are no exception. Children from affluent zip codes score better than those from poverty stricken zip codes.

    We have gone truly insane if we think it is ok to put the same pressure on an 8 or 9 year old, as we put on a 16 or 17 year old. These are babies, and when they are no longer babies, I want them to remember that they were children once. I want them to recall fondly a childhood of laughter and abandon, and devoid of labels, high stakes testing, and scores that define them.

    While my oldest son and my oldest daughter, will likely always test proficient, I no longer fight for just them. I fight for every child. Every child is mine, is ours, and it is no longer alright for me to see the world as one-child dimensional.

    While it may not seem like we are immediately gaining back the instructional time that would have been lost to testing, we are not feeding the machine. As long as I choose to let one of my children test, based on them testing well, I am doing a disservice to all children who cannot. When enough of us put our pencils (or mice) down, we can stop this for ALL children. I don’t just fight for my child; I fight for yours, as well.

    When we win this fight, when we speak loud enough for them to hear, when we stand together, when we are the voice of the voiceless, when we accept nothing less…things will change. Then we will gain our instructional time back. We will regain the value of humanity, and our children will be able to remember fondly that they once had a childhood.

  46. Gayle Mullins 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:22 am #

    A standardized test, by any name given, is deemed high stakes when a great deal of money is riding on the results. Let’s step back for a moment, and let’s follow the money. You are moving to a new town. You ask your real estate agent about local schools. The savvy agent whips out a list of schools along with the grade they received based on one standardized test. You choose your home near an A rated school.
    Within the schools rated B, teachers worked just as hard, and are now looking to abandon ship because they did not get the same monetary reward as the teachers at the A rated school, AND the principal is beginning to get nervous about losing a job if his/her grade slips one more level. What happens is everybody gets tense, there may be some micro management, some negativity, and what good can come from that?
    There will be those teachers; those long timers who keep their eye on the goal of skill mastery, but there are those who probationary teachers who know they are could be gone without explanation, and they have to be looking around for another position,too. THAT is what folks do not understand about high stakes testing.

  47. Nancy Bailey 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:23 am #

    Testing should be developmentally appropriate and used to provide teachers and schools with information that will help them lift students to a better place.

    Tests today are used to destroy student morale, fire teachers, and shutdown schools.

    Tests are being used, Mr. Merrow, to privatize our public schools.

    Thank you for featuring testing. I’d like to suggest your next program address why wealthy philanthropists are given so much power to influence public schools.

  48. Annette 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:35 am #

    We are growing in numbers everyday. Most of us spend every waking moment fighting, educating and spreading the truth about testing. Students are leaving schools. Teachers are leaving schools. We are leaving the PARCC like test Louisiana children are being forced to take. #OptOutLouisiana!

  49. Jamie 07. Feb, 2015 at 10:03 am #

    It’s time to get this right and stop over testing our children. Our children are not points on a data line. What happened to grades being a good indicator of a students success. I’ve opted my children out and I’m encouraging EVERY parent to do the same! #OptOutLouisiana

  50. allison 07. Feb, 2015 at 10:15 am #

    In some states, most parents are just beginning to really learn about Common Core and the high stakes test that go with it. Many teachers themselves have not researched the politics and background of the present situation. Even with that, there is nationwide resistance to the new reforms that were basically forced onto states and which NO ONE voted on. Resistance runs the gamut from the most liberal of educators to ultra-conservative groups. Politics sometimes makes strange bedfellows. Another way of stating this is that the testing resistance is broad-based. The federal Dept. of Education and ed policy has been commandeered by 1% and corporate money for privatization and profit-motive interests, like Wall Street and like Bill Gates, who basically funded Common Core and whose former employees are now numerous in the Arne Duncan federal DOE.
    Why is that, by the way? Another way of characterizing the present situation is as a 1% take-over of public policy. Entire states themselves are fighting back and opting out of Common Core, PARCC, and S-BACC. The testing resistance is the 99%’s fight to deny the data that the whole shebang erroneously runs on. The testing data is being misused, with NO scientific basis, to grade and close schools, evaluate teachers, mine and store data on students and their families, and drive a greatly-narrowed curriculum in schools. The resistance to both Common Core and the testing will continue to grow, for many reasons, as more parents and teachers gain increased levels of awareness. Anyone who truly believes that a child is more than a single test score will probably not support the new tests and the changes they will engender in their local public schools, especially loss of local control.

  51. Stefan Anders 07. Feb, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    Since many have already posted more eloquently what I believe, I am posting simply to add to the numbers. One additional piece of info–PAARC has lost half of the states that originally signed up to use it. Common Core has lost several states, so that now only 40 states are signed on. Along with everything else, that is a sign that the movement to eliminate high-stakes testing is not just a fad or something championed by a few.

  52. Neal Madnick 07. Feb, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    We might be able to have a reasonable conversation about standardized testing and tying those tests to teacher evaluations IF the tests themselves were not so incredibly flawed AND the IF the evaluation systems were not completely fraudulent AND IF poverty was not the primary reason for “failing” schools. As has been repeated quite often, Finland has as extraordinarily successful public school system and they do not do ANY of the things that our current crop or “reformers” are mandating. They also have a 3% child poverty rate while ours is approximately 25%. So the corporate “reformers” can come up with all of the silver bullet approaches they want, but tragically none of those will fix the problem, and it will likely make it worse. The entire project is a farce and none of it is based upon sound research, even though this gang likes to pretend they are all about the data.

  53. Jennifer conner 07. Feb, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    I have opted out my children.

  54. Madeleine Maxwell 07. Feb, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    Common Core and over testing subscribes to a very good old boy mentality that everything needs to be run like a Corporation. Schools are not corporations. You cannot measure, predict and evaluate them based on needless data, one size fits all curriculum (Common Core) and hours of needless testing (I beg all of America to please look at the actual PAARC tests – mindless!). Schools cannot be fixed or elevated by the Corporate model. Schools are diverse communities of a wide range of learners, socio-economic backgrounds, vastly different home lives and beautiful individual minds. All of the very people at the top pushing this bland, grey corporate agenda on our schools did not achieve their success using the models they are forcing on us. America has more awards, patents, inventions, nobel prize winners and globally historic life game changers than any other country on the planet. The schools need support and always adjusting, but taking the student out of a solid, creative and basic curriculum is taking the spark out of our future. Kids need to play, need to memorize (despite the internet), need to build, create, solve problems, work alone, work in groups and deal with failure (their are winners and losers in all walks of life). Where you can address the number one issue wrong with our schools is providing simple healthy food – from 7-4pm. For all students (regardless of class). That is the best way of leveling the playing field for the children of the United States of America. After that, each child will become exactly who they are to become with a K-12 education filled with ups and downs, wins and losses. Some kids will drive a recycle truck, others find success as a plumber, some will become teachers, others will build new super computers and create software that blows you mind – but hopefully those who go into politics will appreciate the educators and education they have (without Common Core and data mining computerized bubble tests) – and they will allow educators to love their job, be honored for the heroes they are (I know EVERY professions has a few bad eggs – too bad they get all the press) and note that teachers educate because they are drawn to creating a brighter future for our nation. Keep big business profiteers out of public education. Quit giving our tax dollars to corporate money minded individuals looking to make a buck. Return public tax dollars to our schools, the educators and the voice of their communities…. and give some extra funding to the inner city and low income schools. Wake up America! We are being turned into a China model of education – JUST SAY NO! OPT OUT!

  55. Karen Adlum 07. Feb, 2015 at 11:46 am #

    The numbers you list are not accurate and thankfully they grow everyday. As more and more teachers get brave enough to speak out, more and more parents realize the abuse that’s occurring to their child, more and more administrators get tipped over the top with the ridiculous requirements and enormous expensive of testing, and more and more legislators “see the light”, the numbers will continue to grow as they are doing now daily.

  56. Darren 07. Feb, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    Mr. Merrier,

    I’m a big fan of your work and am very excited to hear that you will be covering the opt-out movement. My son is only two years old, but I plan to opt him out of high stakes testing when he enters the NYC Public School System. I do not want him fed a steady diet of tests or taught by test obsessed teachers in a test obsessed school. I see the opt-out movement as a way to put a stop to the testing insanity. I know what the culture of testing is like in our schools because I’ve worked as a social worker in the NYC public school system for over 15 years now. I’ve witnessed the abusive effect they have, especially upon the most vulnerable and special needs children. I am a huge supporter of public education, but am frightened by how high stakes testing has warped our perspective on children and diverted our focus from their humanity. The over dependence of educational leaders/reformers upon test score data is hurting the process of education while sucking the joy out of learning for so many children. Look no further than the thousands of children who are being drugged in order for them to tolerate this unhealthy process. It is only going to get worse if we parents and teachers don’t put a stop to it.

    Thank you again for covering this very important movement!

    Darren Marelli

  57. Darren 07. Feb, 2015 at 11:50 am #

    Sorry about misspelling your name Mr. Merrow..

    • John Merrow 07. Feb, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

      I’ve had worse, believe me. My all time favorite misspelling was “John Moron.” But that one may not have been a typo, because the letter began, “You are an asshole” and went downhill from there. That was pre-internet, in my NPR days.

  58. Jenn Ashby 07. Feb, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    John,
    Here is a dash that doesn’t make a difference. The current standardized tests are a booby trap set by our government to falsely catch failure rates that are built into the test. So,to booby-trap our children by giving them flawed tests is educational abuse. My children will be opting out.

  59. Cindy Hamilton 07. Feb, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    Please look at #WhyIRefuse on Twitter.

  60. Laura Steen 07. Feb, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    i came here to say something that would make a difference. Something that would boost this movement. But I am in tears from reading these comments. You all have said it all and eloquently. I just need a print out of these comments to explain to people who don’t yet know what is happening in education. I feel so sure we are at the tipping point!

  61. Ann Burruss 07. Feb, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    Yes, John, there is a real opt out movement.

    Check out the facebook page of the Louisiana movement – Opt Out Louisiana. We focus on local information, seek answers to local questions and promote the news stories, letters, and blog posts about parents who are opting out – and by parents who are opting out.

    Parents come to the conclusion that opt out is right for their child for many reasons.

    For many it concerns not only the impact of the high-stakes unaccountable accountability tests have on their children at test time, but also the loss of a rich curriculum with art, music, PE, science and social studies for test prep instead.

    For many it is also the state accountability system that ties school letter grades and teacher evaluations to these unaccountable accountability tests. Tests that teachers and parents never get to see. We will never know if the PARCC test questions are just as awful and age inappropriate as the PARCC practice test questions we can take on line.

    For many it further ties into the waste of money that goes into tests, test prep, data-storage programs, test remediation packages – all material sold by test prep, test-making, and test grading corporations. We parents would like that money pipeline stopped and the money used to actually help children learn in the classroom! Especially children who struggle in school.

    For many it also ties into the use of aggregate scores to label schools as failing and prime them for a takeover, often by for-profit charter schools, or in some states such as Louisiana, by providing a means to siphon tax dollars into private schools.

    For many parents they do not like Common Core State Standards or Eureka math curriculum.

    It’s many things for many people. The one common denominator is that parents are awake and are determining that state annual testing does nothing to benefit their children in the classroom.

  62. Nadine Kirby 07. Feb, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    DearJohn ,
    The difference between pro-test and Protest is simple, those that are pro -testing are all the people that seek to destroy public education, people with no educational back ground whatsoever like politicians, hedge fund people and charter schools who seek money to line their greedy pockets , while pretending to give children an “education”. Testing conglomerates like Pearson who make billions creating ridiculous tests (without actual teacher input) that intentionally fail children and our education system. The powers that be label our school’s as failing when in fact they wouldn’t be if they were properly funded.Money has been siphoned from our public schools and given to charter schools (like charter school usa). Public schools take every kid, smart, disabled, poor, rich,regular, non English speaking etc, public schools are subjected to all the ridiculous testing when private school’s are not, charter schools are not either. Charter and private schools measured by a different standard why ? Thats what protesters ask? Why can’t teachers in public school’s teach their students in an enriched environment and not be forced to teach to an impossible ridiculous test of which their are many ? Why can’t children be tested on what they have learned in the classroom on a test that there teachers have created? Why can’t the powers that be and you understand that poverty, non English speaking and disability factor into the equation of how a child learns ? We simply need to properly fund our public schools, teach the way each child learns.Education is not a once size fits all and nobody will hire a professional test taker. Our children all children need to be educated and well rounded so that they may lead the way to the future. You may think that our protest numbers are minut when in fact you couldn’t be more wrong.
    I am Badass Parent who supports Badass Teachers because I can .

  63. Tracey Douglas 07. Feb, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

    Dear Mr. Merrow,
    I believe you know EXACTLY what is going on; you are simply to smart and we’ll-informed not to. Serving corporate masters is problematic. The last time you spoke truth to power regarding Michelle Rhee, it appeared you got a spanking from those powers. In my heart, I believe you are a closet opt outer.

    The problem, in terms of academic achievement as measured by invalid tests, is poverty. Period. Why that elephant continues to be ignored is obvious. If not ignored, then that would mean politicians would have to do something about it. They would finally have to be serving the people rather than corporations and billionaires.

    I think you have been very successful in your life, Mr. Merrow. You did this without being subjected to high-stakes testing. You did this without being subjected to a rigorous (as in death-like) set of standards. You were allowed to be a kid. You were allowed to play. I think you are doing well in the 21st century. Though younger than you, I, too, am a highly successful person not raised in the restrictive environment that children have been subjected to since the standards movement, NCLB, and now CC$$. I actually liked school. Sadly, I cannot say the same for children today.

    It is well documented at this point that the CC$$ were not created by classroom teachers or early childhood professionals. David Coleman has stated that he and the others were unqualified to create the Language Arts and Math standards. His hubris allowed him to freely admit that in a presentation that was being filmed. Coleman admits, on film, that he had to go around the country to sell the standards to states. State adopted the standards before they were written. It was all part of the Raise to the Top bribery scheme. This is all very we’ll documented, so all the spin to the contrary is complete and utter bullshit.

    The idea that the CC$$ are fewer seems like another load to me. I live in California. Additional loads from the CC$$ propaganda machine would include: teacher freedom, and less focus on testing. Yeah, right. Whoever came up with those claims surely must’ve been smoking something powerful. So that kids will be well-prepared to eventually take the SBAC, in kindergarten I am expected to give 18 district mandated ELA and 14 district mandated Math tests. Since kindergarten testing is 1:1, that means I am no longer a teacher but a tester, testing kids on things I’ve been unable to teach because all I’m doing is testing. The rigor the district has insisted on for these kindergarten assessments has resulted in bad tests. Still we are expected to analyze the bad data produced by these bad tests. And so it goes. Teacher voice? Teacher freedom? Maybe in someone’s mirage but not in my reality.

    Comedy is, however, alive and well in Arne’s Circus. Like he actually believes that at-risk kids will remain in school despite the effects of theses standards and high-stakes testing? Feeling like failures as early as age 5 will not incentivize (Arne loves this word!) kids to stay on school. I predict that they will simply drop out sooner in greater droves.

    So here we are, forcing the CC$$ on our nation’s children without even piloting them to find out if they will work. Even billionaire puppet master, Bill Gates, freely admits on film that it will take ten years before we know if the standards have been successful. But he doesn’t care if another generation of our kids fall prey to the reformers. His children will never have to experience this bullshit. What does he have to lose? Nothing. Now what he has to gain is a different $tory. The only winners in this story are the money makers.

    Mr. Merrow, the pressure being felt due to the real grassroots movements aligned with United Opt Out has intensified. In California, the State Superintendent od Education, Tom Torlakson, is no longer referring to the CC$$ by that name. He now simply refers to them as ‘the standards’. He and others are finding that the term CC$$ has become toxic. The California Teachers Association is following his lead. But the stink is still there. We will not be fooled.

    Poverty matters. Tests don’t. If poverty’s not going to be addressed in any meaningful way, and sadly I’m not hopeful, then can we just let our kids have happy lives in school? Our kids deserve to experience an engaging, we’ll rounded curricula that addresses the whole child. Can we honor children where they are and celebrate where they move from there? Can we teach our children to be good people – to be kind? Can we show them how to get along with each other and work together? Can we teach them how to positively resolve conflicts? Can we teach them to care for others as well as themselves? Can we allow them to be creative and follow their own passions? Can we allow them to question and to listen? Can we encourage them to take risks and value failures? Can we honor the unique gifts that each child possesses? If we can, then were are truly teaching them 21st century skills. It’s ironic that those skills, the most important ones, cannot be assessed.

    Resist the tests. Opt out!

    • Merry Juerling 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:15 pm #

      Closet opt outer? sorry, had to chuckle. Life is NOT about College and Career readiness. This philosophy ignores our country’s great history of entrepreneurship. Life IS about the pursuit of happiness. People (a.k.a. the humans that are missed as the actual point in data point driven education reforms) strive to do work that makes them happy. I don’t agree with Coleman that “No one gives a sh*t” about kids. I choose to believe that Americans do care about kids (our future citizens) and the end of the oligarchical for-profit reforms on public education that have clearly been duplicated through same/similar (a.k.a. ALEC) lobbied laws in all states will come to a crumbling end once the people have gained the knowledge of what has and is really happening…a war for public education tax dollars. The people are many. I think the question to the post above is best represented as “Who do you represent: corporations or true journalism representing both sides?” I am wondering if you wrote this article to see if there actually is another side and protect your job? Hum, kinda sounds like what my kid’s and our nation’s teachers are going through to keep a roof over their heads….asking the obvious questions.

  64. Ames 07. Feb, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    If the powers that be tell you that you can’t “opt-out” rephrase the argument and let them know that you are “refusing” to let your child participate in the testing.

    This isn’t about education because these tests don’t really measure that. These tests are about Pearson gaining more and more of the education marketplace while siphoning much needed dollars away from schools. It’s about closing public schools which are accountable and opening charter schools that don’t have to follow the same rules or service the same students that public schools do. It’s about destroying the credibility of teaching as a profession and removing the unions so that all that are left are under-trained McTeachers who are reading from a script and don’t understand what pedagogical best-practices really are or how to actually teach.

    Refusing the tests is the first step to taking back our schools and opposing the corporitization of education.

  65. lynne rerucha 07. Feb, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

    The simple yet glaring way to view the disingenuousness of the fake reformers is with basic math/logic. If you want to close a gap (real or imagined) stealing 10-12 weeks per year from learning to test, prep, & pre-test will result in a very obvious and much bigger gap as kids will have lost MORE THAN ONE WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR by the time they graduate. This, of course, only works well for those who wish to more easily control the masses. The standards/testing/privitizing crowd are all lying as this has nothing to do with children.

  66. Abigail F 07. Feb, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

    Testing is about control and compliance, not about actual learning and wisdom, something the chiefs and CEOs would know if a) they were teachers; b) their own children were subjected to the same battery of tests. I’m beyond fed up with the classist nonsense they parade about as “opportunity.”

  67. Melody Geroux 07. Feb, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    No country tests itself to excellence. Continual measurement does nothing to improve instruction. Test and punish is about politics not students. Education should be run by educators.

  68. Jane Seidenberg 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    Our testing regime is created by paper pushers in cubicles with no clue about real schools or the culture of schools. I have been a special educator for 21 years. I am NOT anti testing-just anti federally controlled, Federally developed and federally mandated high stakes testing. This current testing regimen is punitive, expensive and incredibly disruptive to students. There is a better way. Talk to teachers on the ground, not bureaucrats with their heads in the clouds and the last time they graced a public school hall -way was when they were tiny tots. Not to mention that the current testing regime provides no actionable, helpful information to teachers. The scores are only used to divide, shame and punish.

  69. Rebecca 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    My reasons for disliking standardized testing are simple. High test scores, not active learning, have become the goal of education. Schools have been punished and teachers have lost autonomy. But the biggest sin is that they truly hurt the neediest children.

  70. Peter Greene 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

    The reason the pro-test folks are making so much noise is because ESEA is finally in danger of being rewritten, and a removal of the federal mandates for large scale standardized testing would mean a huge loss of revenue for the testing companies. That’s why we are currently being treated to so many pieces in praise of the Big Standardized Test. The groups you listed are not so much pro-test as they are pro-money.

    Meanwhile, we’ve seen not a shred of evidence that the big standardized tests measure anything except a student’s ability to take the big standardized test. They are wasting prcious time and money and giving nothing useful in return.

  71. Laura Oosse 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    My son will not be taking the standardized end of the year exam in Florida. It is designed to fail, and the corporations distributing these tests are making money off our children. This test is not valid, and is still an experiment on our children. If 3rd graders don’t pass it here, they might not move on to 4th grade. So even if they got A’s all year, it doesn’t matter. High stakes tests are wrong, and unethical. I will not subject my son to an experiment for the benefit of corporate agendas.

  72. John 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    I know also the focus of any good test should be data to help students. Yet, results are delayed nearly 6 months, and educators never get access to the test, or student answers to the test. Based on limited transparency of the data alone these tests should not be used.

    Then there is the use of these very tests to evaluate teachers, and to decide if students should be held back a grade. Both uses go far beyond the scope of using the tests to “help” teachers reach, and help students.

    The only purpose PARCC/Common Core serves is to weaken public education, and profit textbook/testing companies…

  73. Merry Juerling 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    I can’t say that I have seen any pro-test organization increase in size like the protest (Opt Out) movement has. New York had over 20,000 opt outs last year. Colorado students hit the movement hard this year and Opt Out of the State Test: Indiana’s facebook page has increased by over 1,000 new likes to the page and over 32,000 post reach in the last week alone. Yes, I have seen many corporate bought cheer-fests for charter schools and vouchers, but never for standardized tests. So absolutely, it is the “you”s, a.k.a. me and thousands of other parents [some with money, some not], across America that are seeing our children, their teachers and local communities being harmed by the high stakes of standardized assessments and taking a stand against the unethical assessments and corruptness of the high stakes attached. As a mother of 3, one with Asberger’s (high ability Autism), I have had to learn to advocate for my son and went through the I.E.P. processes to Opt him out of these unethical one test assessments. I welcome all other parents with special needs children, and teachers and school administrators willing to take a stand even though their teaching licenses may be threatened, to use the guide I wrote for Case Conference Committees to legally opt out a special needs child from these unethical assessments. It is the Case Conference Committee’s right and responsibility to determine the free and appropriate assessments for special needs children, not our federal government, state governments, or school districts. Even the testing profession’s own ethical standards state you do not use one test to assess learning, but this is what is unethically happening across America…unethical and corrupt conduct that is harming our children, our future citizens. Also, as a Human Resources professional, I do not want to hire a good test taker. I want to hire humans with compassion, passion for what work they want to do, good judgement and critical thinking skills…things not measured on standardized tests. http://unitedoptout.com/essential-guides/opt-out-for-special-needsexceptional-students/

    • Jill 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

      Merry, I am unable to print a copy of your guide for parents of special needs children without sharing friend lists, etc. Can you please tell me how I might get either a digital or hard copy? Thank you so much for your help and work towards ending this nightmare.

      And John…I retired this year after 34 years of teaching, 30 in public education. While I am still committed to helping to stop this testing madness, I no longer felt good about what I was doing. Until a few years ago I used to think almost daily about how blessed I was to love my chosen career so much…teaching children with special needs was all I ever wanted to do and I felt lucky to be paid for doing something I enjoyed so very much. But then I watched the students I had delicately nurtured for months dissolve into tears because the tests were so developmentally inappropriate. I watched as the students colored in those little bubbles before I had completed reading the question to them and I saw their self confidence decrease day after day every time they faced another test. I saw teachable moments fall by the wayside because preparing for the test was more relevant. Recess was abolished, important classes in music and art were as well, classes that were the only way for some students to excel. My abounding appreciation goes out to everyone who is working to stop this abuse of our children. And John, I would love to hear your thoughts about the issue after hearing from so many of us.

  74. Darcey Addo 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

    In general, I reject an oversimplification of any issue that ends with bifurcation. The question is not “protest” or “pro-test” (although it is a clever headline). Rather, the question is: test reasonably and responsibly, or test excessively and irresponsibly. As a career educator, a parent, and an educational researcher, I am not in protest of assessment, but I am in protest of the bastardization of education in the name of data collection. I protest the loss of teacher authority in the classroom in favor of district and corporate created tests. I protest the use of summative assessments that do not drive instruction over formative assessments that provide valuable feedback to teachers, students, and parents. I protest the pedagogically inappropriate use of classroom time: the demands of six year olds to silently sit for 60-90 minutes taking a district literacy test.
    I also reject the statement made in this blog: “The basic message: “If you don’t take the test, you won’t be counted–and you won’t matter.” My children will not take the test and they matter. In fact, they matter very much. Here is our story:
    http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/education/2015/01/23/brevard-students-caught-middle-test-refusals/22223977/

  75. Lyn 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    A,student of mine, before the CCSS, put it most clearly: Teach don’t test. His name was Carlos, and he learned by doing. He needed to be active and have i mediated feedback. He loved projects.

  76. Tricia Snyder 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    Testing is being challenged in Oregon as well. Local town halls are alive and well with the message from the people that we are not only doing too much testing, but that tests are wrongly high-stakes and don’t serve students and teachers. Legislative bills in our state to curb and refute these tests, protests kids with data privacy, and to stop CCSS are here in Oregon. The people are rising up—legislators are listening, this house of cards is ready to fall. Opt out is growing by the day, teachers are willing to publicly challenge the SBAC and high-stakes of everything. We are at a tipping point: corporate or public control of our schools–that is the question.

  77. Kenny Minchew 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    All parents should refuse state mandated testing that have punitive consequences that are detrimental to public schools, categorize and jeopardize students and holds a teachers salary as well as their job hostage based on the results of these tests. Cut scores are made then later manipulated. What information can really be gleaned from that. NOTHING. High stakes testing and the VALUE ADDED MODEL are all a joke. Teachers and Parents are uniting.

  78. Eva 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    Hello John,

    I’ll be brief because all of the commenters that commented before me stole all of the points I wanted to make…

    The federal government ordering states to force children, as young as five, to take tests in exchange for school funding, is wrong. Really wrong.

    It’s important to know the reasons why this is being done and there are only two: data and profit. Nothing more.

    Parents and teachers of conscience who are active in the opt-out movement will not allow their children and students to be used as a tool to make others profit.

    Today’s standardized assessments and state tests make these people billions of dollars. They profit off of children… all children, of every socioeconomic background… especially those kids living in poverty that come to school with no socks on in the middle of winter.

    Parents are angry. Teachers are angry. That’s why we opt out. That’s why we refuse the out-of-control tests that teach kids nothing.

    Thanks for your time, John.

    • Merry Juerling 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

      Right to the point. We are talking about our federal government holding funding of our children’s (future citizens) education hostage.

  79. Voice of Reason 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

    The only forces in favor of this mess, and I mean the whole mess of so called “reform” are those self interested and well funded. They have money, access to power and front organizations that are not stocked with ardent supporters. Just ask to look behind the curtain and you will not find educators, researchers, parents, but rather a cynical batch of opportunists and exploiters…….

  80. Eve Shippens 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

    I don’t why the issue of the “protest” movement is any more valid if it’s an organized movement. I think the real strength comes from people learning about the damaging effects of this high stakes testing that does drive instruction, and making that personal choice to opt-out/fight it. The public education deform movement is dependent on a public that listens to the hype and are good followers. We need to stop just following and become informed!

  81. Peter Ellertsen 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

    I’m greatly encouraged to see the opposition building to the misuse of standardized testing for “accountability.” I first researched psychometrics as a college assessment committee chair 10-15 years ago, and it’s only gotten worse since that time. Fill-in-the-bubble tests do *not* measure college readiness — in spite of whatever claims the test vendors may try to make about designing metrics for critical thinking, etc. At best, K-12 test scores correlate with parents’ education level and family income by ZIP code. The “pro-test” people (with the hyphen) are well funded and have much to gain financially from test-driven corporate school reform, but in the end it is founded on junk science, and PARCC. Common Core, NCLB and the whole apparatus will collapse of its own weight. The only question in my mind is whether it will destroy our system of public education before that happens.

  82. Eileen Doherty 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    This testing is so incredibly out of control. I am a parent of a third grader in Indiana who will have to deal with 18+ hrs. of ISTEP testing plus an additional reading test called IREAD-3 which students must pass in order to be promoted to fourth grade. It’s such a waste of time when her school and teachers already know exactly how well she performs in all subjects. My daughter also has to take the NWEA tests 3 times a year. I really want to opt out of the testing, but as a teacher myself, I can’t put her teacher in jeopardy of a poor evaluation or the school in jeopardy of a lower letter grade. I’m very torn.

    As a fifth grade teacher, these tests are completely altering education. The high-stakes attached to them make schools and teachers spend way too much time on test prep. And no teacher can ignore the tests. The pressure and consequences from these tests force teachers into poor educational decisions. I’ve never use the test results for much of anything.

  83. Susan Bowles 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

    You are right about one thing, John. The pro-test people have money and power. What they are scared of is that the protest camp has numbers. Whether they have enough voices this year, or if it will take another year, I think you can rest assured, the protest people will be heard.
    Who is doing the protesting? People who have deep convictions about children and childhood. People who are passionate about removing the immense amount of stress off of the often very small shoulders of our elementary students. Parents, teachers, grandparents, social workers, pediatricians, mental health workers and others are all beginning to speak out.
    The power hungry money grabbing pro-test people should run scared. They’ve been seen. There is no validity or rationality to their claims – many of which are outright lies. We have seen them for who they are. The Emperor wears no clothes. And the truth is beginning to spread.

  84. Tara Aycock 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:48 pm #

    As a parent of a child who has to take this test I would like to say that it needs to be ended. I watch my child struggle to learn things that she probably isn’t ready for maturity wise and then feels like a failure when she doesn’t understand. My child is not the failure. The system is failing her. Our children are not cattle being raised to meet a productivity standard. The very system entrusted with growth and learning should not be a system that mass produces children with low self esteem because they can’t pass a test written to line someone else’s pockets.

  85. Tina Andres 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

    Standardized testing is akin to measuring yourself repeatedly and thinking it will help you grow. We could save billions of dollars by simply asking the teachers about their students. I can tell you with almost exact precision how every one of my nearly 200 students will do on a standardized test. For that matter, you could simply predict the scores based on zip codes or parent income levels. We all know what the scores will tell you, they always have told the same story. Since this is the case, wouldn’t it be better to spend this money improving the conditions of the classrooms and the lives of the students we are testing rather than continuing to think that a test is going to be some great equalizer for students who live in poverty? If you want to grow, you do not keep measuring yourself, you eat. Yet we just keep measuring and never feeding.

  86. Diane Sekula 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:52 pm #

    It is with some professional risk, but no reservation that I speak publicly against the Common Core and its associated tests.

    From 1999-2001 I was a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching in the former Soviet Union, where I was told that it was part of my job to help teachers incorporate creativity and critical thinking skills into their lessons as this was not done under Soviet rule. Essentially, students were given information to memorize for tests, but were given few opportunities to think, question, reflect or create. A fact that was all to apparent both in the schools and elsewhere.

    After returning from the Peace Corps, I jumped at the opportunity to teach here. You can imagine my dismay when now confronted with the fact that standardized testing and teaching to the test have increased exponentially with NCLB and Race to The Top. Imagine my dismay with scripted lessons and teaching to the test. I would be unsettled even if the standards students were being tested on were proven standards that teachers had been given the opportunity to work on and approved by states. Sadly, this is not the case. The standards, while having there good points in some areas, are vague or developmentally inappropriate in others. Two of the original CC committee members refused to sign off on them, and now speak against these standards. The associated tests are written by profit-driven companies. States were forced to accept the standards or lose precious funds.

    Our schools are not perfect, but they are not failing the way that some would like you to believe. Having lived abroad, I do question the validity of statistics comparing the United States to other countries. Not all countries educate everyone or test everyone the way we do. With this, come challenges that I gladly accept as a teacher.

    Teachers need time to collaborate, not just with other teachers, but with parents, nurses, doctors and social service agencies . They need money for good supplies, hands on experiments and field trips that bring learning to life. Teachers need respect and support for what they do. What they do not need is to be punished and vilified while watching their students suffer through standardized tests designed by a profit-driven company.

    Passionate teachers that inspire learning, questioning and creativity are what make this country great. This is what has helped to create a nation of scientists, engineers, doctors, business owners, political leaders and future teachers.

  87. Kim McCollum-Clark 07. Feb, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    Mr. Merrow, I have long hoped–sadly, in vain–that you might weigh in on this issue in a truly open way. You have spent more time in schools than most education reporters, and in years past, you seemed to “get it.” I no longer hold out such hope.

    I have been following the educational “standards and testing movement” (and you cannot, in good faith, separate them) for over twenty years. What we have now is the apotheosis of the dreams of the coalition of quasi-governmental groups (CCSSO, NGA), business-oriented think tanks, and philanthropic groups, and neoliberal politicians of both stripes that jumped started this whole boondoggle after the A Nation at Risk report. The history–political and intellectual– is there for you to read. I said to my thesis advisor, when I started researching this (about 1992), that this path could easily lead to the end of public schools as we know them. He was startled, and said that surely parents would mobilize if it came to that.

    It has, and they have done so.

    Many of the criticisms of the CCSS and their attendant examinations are indeed strident. These parents–the oddest of bedfellows–are not mistaken about what is at stake. I implore you to take a step back from the Gates et al. party line and explore this history and this present day for yourself.

    Interesting, too, in this comments thread, to whom you decide to respond and to whom you do not. Do you have a thought about that? Mis-spell your name? A response! Take the ground out from under your assumptions? Silence.

    • John Merrow 08. Feb, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

      Kim
      I am not assuming anything. I’m asking questions and am grateful for the answers being provided.

  88. Melanie 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:03 pm #

    These high stake test are nothing other than child abuse!!

  89. Heather Poland 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    More and more parents are opting out/refusing the test! This movement has a come a long way in the past year. Testing is hurting our children. Teachers are being attacked and cannot truly teach in many cases. Opting out/refusing is the ONLY way to destroy the testing machine!

  90. Danielle 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

    Suburban Philadelphia is waking up from our slumber. If the cities were the appetizers, the suburbs are the main course of hedge fund dreams. Parents are opting out and fed up with federal over-reach. We like our schools, trust our teachers, and love our kids. We aren’t playing their game anymore. Our kids are so much more than test scores.

  91. Rebecca Hall 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

    I’m a public school teacher. I teach music to children in grades kindergarten through five. This is my 23rd year teaching. When I began, we had band and strings in grades 4-12 in my district, as well as chorus in grades 4-12, as well as an Orff instrument (classroom xylophones and other percussion instruments) ensemble in grades 4-12. As the years have gone on and the stakes of standardized testing have gone up and up, all of those things have disappeared. There are no string instruments in our district at all. The band students begin in grade 6 in much larger groups. The choral program begins in grade 6 and is shrinking at an alarming rate in grades 9-12. Visual arts programs have disappeared at a similar rate.
    My students are far less creative and interested in learning than the ones I taught 20 years ago, and I don’t chalk it up to “this generation” of kids. I truly believe that they have been drilled and skilled so much that their abilities to think for themselves and create new ideas have dried up due to lack of nurturing.
    Classroom teachers in elementary grades do not have the time or the academic freedom to assign projects, to integrate art and music into their subjects, to take students on field trips, and many other things. They are forced to spend inordinate amounts of time on testing, test preparation, and incredibly time consuming but mind numbing curricula, in some cases literally scripted. They are told to make their students parrot back their objectives in the form of “I Can” statements, as in, “Boys and girls, after today’s lesson, you will be able to add three digit numbers. Repeat after me: I Can add three digit numbers.” And heaven help the teacher if during a “walk-through” or a formal observation an administrator asks a child what the objective is in this lesson and the child does not parrot the exact words, “I Can add three digit numbers.” The evaluation gets a ding, and the teacher, no matter how well that student actually understands math, is rated “developing” or even “ineffective.”
    The over reliance on standardized tests in the United States is not making our students any more “college and career ready.” It is making our students less excited about learning, less creative, less able to solve problems, less proficient in world languages, less knowledgeable about ancient and current global civilizations, less knowledgeable about art, music, literature, science, and anything that isn’t on THE TEST. Parents and teachers know this to be true. When will legislators listen?

  92. Daniel 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:22 pm #

    Consider what happens almost every time the “impressive” side of this tries to use social media to amplify their messaging. In short order the fake grassroots organizations they are funding get overwhelmed by actual parent and teacher activists who do not have money but have passion on their side.

    Real grassroots activism has a natural energy that cannot be faked. I think your hypothesis that there are big names but not a lot of people behind them on the pro-testing side is very, very likely.

  93. David Cunningham 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    Nobody defends the current regime of tests because they are too long, too inappropriate, designed to confuse and frustrate, and most of all, they’re written to ensure failure. They don’t inform instruction, and they’re a waste of precious time for educators, and most importantly for the children who must suffer through their imposition.

  94. Donna 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    The corporation-based “de” form movement of Common Core and standardized testing is the holocaust of education in our country! Parents and teachers must stand together to triumph against the rich “few”.

  95. Catherine Takayoshi 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:29 pm #

    I am a Kindergarten teacher and, while my 5 year olds aren’t yet taking standardized tests, many thousands across the country are. It is ludicrous and it is detrimental. The standards and testing are particularly discouraging, inappropriate and harmful to our youngest learners. All across the nation, Kindergarten students are losing recess, play opportunities, PE, music and the arts because of the over emphasis on reading and math due to the standardized testing craze. This is a common sense issue. Teacher morale has never been lower. Enrollment in colleges of education is down, veteran teachers are leaving, and new teachers aren’t staying. We have politicians and corporate leaders who have never taught a day in their life dictating these punitive and un researched policies. Early Childhood experts in American are decrying what is happening and asking for policies that show efficacy based on research and appropriate policies based on what we know about childhood development. It is wrong for corporate dollars to mean more than the welfare of little children.

  96. Stephanie 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:29 pm #

    We are “PROTEST”!!!! I will NOT subject my son to this test, or allow him to be intimidated by anyone who might think to threaten him with consequences over refusing.

  97. Janet 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

    Here in Florida, testing season in full swing. As an employee of the school system the past 13 years, I have seen what high stakes testing has done to countless children, teachers and schools. It is time to take back our schools, and let the teachers teach. So sick and tired of everything, and I mean everything, focused around a test that does nothing for students. It is all about data, and the money these testing companies make. I am so happy that the Opt Out Movement has made its way to Florida and hope that parents and students will do their research on how its done. Opting out/Refusing the tests is the ONLY way this will ever stop. My 11th grader will NOT be taking the new FSA this year, and I am telling everyone that I know to stand up to this madness. Enough!

  98. Darciann Samples 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

    These tests are ridiculously inappropriate for special needs students, language learners, and slow developing students. Testing has not improved scores over time and have definitely harmed education.

    I challenge you to spend a week actually teaching in a variety of public schools, particularly those who work with children living in poverty and daily trauma. I am certain you would change your view on testing as a true measure of social and academic growth.

  99. Nancy Creech 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    Catherine, as a kindergarten teacher, although I was not required to give a standardized test, there were so many “formative” assessments required by our district, I had NO time to teach!

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/kindergarten-teacher-details-lunacy-of-standardized-tests-for-kids/2011/07/24/gIQApZjNXI_blog.html

  100. Jon Lubar 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

    Today, testing is about a parasite, the Testing Industrial Complex, trying to gain access to all of the places where it can gorge itself on tax dollars meant for public education. Like many parasites, it also seeks to change the behavior of it’s host, in this case our schools, to better serve it’s needs. It’s small consolation that this parasite needs it’s host to remain alive in some fashion, though it cares not for it’s health, ultimately for the quality of education our children receive. Be aware that there is a variety of the parasite that does in fact kill it’s host, the one that is opposed altogether to the very idea of public education. Both types are especially devious as both have infiltrated and co-opted what passes for government, welcomed by venal politicians hungry for campaign contributions. This is the beast we must slay.

  101. morna mcdermott 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

    the fact that no one has logged on to defend the tests should be revealing and indicative of what the original report itself perhaps should recognize…we are not on the margins, we are large in number, and there is is not “pro testing” voice other than the corporate one. The “substanative” (in your words) pro testers are only “big” in name and money…If this is one sided thus far perhaps there’s a reason why that is…the “other side” exists on paper, shallow talking points, and CEO bank accounts only

    • Anne Tenaglia 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

      As a retired teacher who spent 37 years in the Philadelphia School District, I can say all the high-stakes testing has done is make it harder for the kids to learn and the teachers to teach. I left right before the Common Core Standards went into effect. When I began teaching in 1975, or children took one standardized test that took up about four hours of my time to give.

      When I left teaching, in fifth grade we were giving standardized benchmarks every 6 weeks to see if the kids were getting ready for the test. We spent one day of each week giving short multiple choice and open-ended tests in every subject. I calculated that we missed more than 20 instructional days of reading (a whole month of school) doing these extra tests and the real tests. That 11% of school time taking standardized tests. But there’s more – The kids that didn’t do well were expected to attend after-school reading and math sessions 4 days a week and not allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities on those days. Three times a year, they took a standardized test in the after-school program to see if they were ready for the big test. By the time they took the REAL test in March/April, they were tested out. In 2012, the kids were enduring 44 hours of testing, not counting the day-to-day tests given by the teacher. 4 hours in 1975 versus 11 times that in 2012. As someone above mentioned, testing kids more often does not make them test better, just like measuring a child daily doesn’t make them grow faster.

      The tests are but one problem. Because they are so important to the school/district/state. we have had to change the way we teach. For instance, I discovered a great way to teach Social Studies and make it stick was to use historical fiction. We’d read and discuss and argue and get some understanding of how it was back in the day. The understood the reasons for the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, what it was like in the Great Depression, why child work laws were established, how hard women and people of color fought for the right to vote. No more novels. Now we must only read a chapter in the book and go on to the next standard no matter what. Teaching with novels allowed me to hit two subjects at once and not short shrift either one. Otherwise, there was no time for social studies.

      These tests have only exacerbated the problems in the high poverty schools by not addressing the real problem – poverty. Our school had a 90% poverty rate. We needed help with social services, mental health and behavior, clothing and medical care. All that had to be taken care of before the kids could concentrate on the tasks at hand rather than worry about how cold the house was going to be, or if there’d be a hot meal at home or a warm place to sleep.

      Tests can be useful, high-stakes tests are useful for nothing. Not for kids, not teachers, not parents, schools, or communities. they have only served to make children stressed and weary, kill any drive in the teacher, close schools that the community needs, and take funds away because charter schools supposedly do it better. (Not really)

      Read my blog for more – We Didn’t Start the Fire, But We Will Fan the Flames.

      http://teacherslessonslearned.blogspot.com/2015/01/we-didnt-start-fire-but-we-will-fan.html

  102. Deb McClellan 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

    I am most definitely on the protest side. As a parent, I saw the horrible consequences of mandatory standardized testing on my child’s psyche, his self esteem and his love of school. Our state’s testing, the Michigan Education Achievement Proficiency or MEAP test was not designed with children with learning disabilities in mind. He was reading at grade level, but not comprehending at grade level. Of course this meant his reading proficiency scores were low. It affected his ability to write and to understand math story problems so those scores suffered as well. After the first time I saw his reaction to having scored so low on his test, I never let him see his scores again. In the weeks before testing, he became moody, morose and depressed. Afterword he would worry, worry and worry some more about his scores. The problem became really bad when they would test in the fall and not release scores until spring! Or test in the spring and not release the scores until well into the following school year! They also had to take an Iowa standardized test and one other. These tests affected funding for schools, they affected standing with the state which meant 3 years of not showing Adequate Yearly Progress could land the school on the state’s list of Improvement schools. This means restructuring the school starting with the teaching staff, and working up to administration. This meant teachers were stuck teaching to tests every school year instead of teaching genuine curriculum. Issues like a high number of special ed students who did not have access to alternative tests, a large population of migrant students, 91-99% of students living in poverty and coming to school hungry and unable to concentrate, and other very real factors were not given consideration on the school’s overall achievement scores. Today, we have up to 8 different standardized tests students must take every year. The stakes tied to these tests are so stressful that teachers, who are great teachers, are leaving their profession in droves. Teachers who’s evaluations are tied to test scores are losing their jobs because their poverty stricken students are so stressed by their living conditions they can’t accurately test. Students are fearing school. The stress students feel is heartbreaking and the tension from principals to teachers to classroom aides is so thick in the air that students can feel that as well and are reacting to it. Had I known I could have opted my son out, I would have in a heartbeat, especially following his head injury which caused cognitive impairments. Even with that, he was not allowed to take an alternative test. Now that I’m a teacher and I see the harm caused to students, teachers, schools and districts by standardized testing and the ridiculous number of tests administered each year, I think it’s time to stop, use our heads and look at why countries like Finland, who refuse to subject their students to any type of standardized testing, are number 1 in the world for academic achievement. Lets revise our education system to mirror theirs and get politicians and profiteers out of education. They have no clue how children learn, they’re just in it for the big bucks. There is no such thing as a standard child, why on earth do we insist on administering standardized tests?

  103. Lisa Harris 07. Feb, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    Because student test scores are tied to school grades and teacher evaluations, our high school has become a test factory. The first two weeks of this semester I didn’t teach one lesson. Instead my highly educated colleagues and I (I have a Ph.D) have become highly-paid test proctors of tests that are law, but do not inform our instruction. This will be repeated 3 more times this semester in NM. In order for this multi-billion dollar industry to continue making obscene profits, our children have become unpaid child labor in order to feed the voracious data dinosaurs. Standardized tests are an antiquated practice that never measure true learning. Uneducated policy-makers have been sold snake oil, and the damage to a generation of young people will be greater than ever imagined. Educators have been trying to tell you this for a decade. Now parents are listening and are doing the moral thing…pulling their children out of this debilitating practice and saving us from the complete destruction of public education.

  104. Rachael 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

    Dear Mr. Merrow:

    It’s simply unfair to make a casual comparison between the power and influence of a billion dollar testing industry versus the grassroots groups who are fighting against it. We parents are fierce advocates for our children but there is also tremendous social pressure for us to comply. Parents in Denver Public Schools are told that if too many students in a class opt-out of the PARCC tests, their teacher will lose upwards of $5,000 in pay.

    What would you do, Mr. Merrow? If you believed the tests were harmful, would you maintain your true north and opt-out your child knowing her teacher may lose his house because of your decision?

    That’s just it. If the tests truly benefitted students, the “education establishment” wouldn’t need to threaten, bribe, coerce and force compliance. What has come of our society if we blithely accept that the establishment is “dropping the hammer” on our children?

    Report on the pushback and the courage it takes for students, parents and teachers to stand tall against the power of the testing regime. That’s where you’ll find the real story.

  105. Robert 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

    It sickens me that the people who make these “reforms” have no “skin in the game”. Their children never have to deal with the consequences of their policies because they send their children to schools that are exempt from the Common Core Curriculum and the incessant testing that goes along with it.

  106. Gail Richmond 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

    I do hope, Mr. Merrow, that you will read each of these comments and do more research. Much more. What unites those of us (many thousands of us) across the U.S. When it comes to Ths monster we call testing? We’re Democrats and Republicans. Tea Party and Progressive. The children. The children unite us. Are we opposed to high standards? No. Are we opposed to teacher evaluations? No. Are we opposed to assessment? No. Not if it used to truly assess. But when you really dog in; when you really do your homework, as WE have, you will find out that the tests have been designed with failure in mind. You see, without failure, privatization can not occur. The public HAS to be sold a bill of goods that public schools are failing children. I like to say, “Failure must be manipulated fin order for Pearson to sell the cure”. If you want the truth you will dig deep. If you are content to be part of the elite, the corporate group behind the testing machine, then you will play a role in the cover up, much the same as the rest of the media is. If you decide to dig deeper, look at how many refusals happened in NYS alone last year. Find out how many multi thousands of dollars districts are pouring into tests, test prep, and the “cure”. Find out how much PEARSON has donated to Andrew Cuomo’s war chest. Look at agendas. Note that those involved in fighting this test prep education are parents and teachers. Our common unifier is children.

  107. Victoria M Young 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

    Standing firmly in the PROTEST camp since 1999! My children were among the first group of experimental units for the high-stakes standards and testing movement…..the pro-test groups you speak of.

    Those are the same groups that supported No Child Left Behind – the law cementing the outcome-based theory into the minds of Americans. Well,….?????….the proof of failure is our reality.

    Insanity would be to repeat the same mistake again with “higher” standards and “better” tests still believing in the faulty assumptions “their” movement was based on….and trusting the judgement of the SAME people.

    Use the scientific method to Evaluate the Theory Behind No Child Left Behind. http://thecrucialvoice.com/Evaluating%20The%20Theory%20Behind%20No%20Child%20Left%20Behind.pdf

  108. Karen Pastoor 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:17 pm #

    I’m a retired teacher with 34 years experience. I can tell you that these tests and all evil that accompany them are the worst disaster to hit public schools ever. They are totally developmentally inappropriate, harmful, and meaningless. Big business rules in education now and I fear it’s the end of our public education system unless the parents demand their rights to have a say in their children’s education. Teachers are not only ignored but gagged and threatened, too. Enough already. Get rid of the testing, No a Child Left Behind, and a Race to the Top.

  109. Amy mcD 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

    It is exciting to see the opt out and anti-reform movement growing by leaps and bounds every day. More and more parents are waking up to the destruction of our public schools, and stepping up to fight for the future of our children and country. I am a proud opt-out parent and proud to be fighting for what is just.

  110. Eric Mihelbergel 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    Just wanted to make sure you were aware that last year parents of 60,000 students refused the tests in NYS. Our current goal is 250,000.

  111. Erin Warner 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

    I have seen serious problems with the high-stakes test obsession even in Virginia–a non-Common Core State. English language learners, anxious test-takers, students with learning challenges, and impoverished children often do not test well, and they are punished for it. Their schools are intimidated with the threat of losing accreditation, so they are incentivized to “teach to the test,” and Johnny loses. Johnny loses time to learn to love learning and time to run at recess. The first things that underfunded schools cut are art, music, languages, and the humanities. States and localities are mandated to purchase the tests and therefore become slaves to keeping the necessary computers going. Not all third graders are ready to manipulate between long reading passages, so all those technology skills must be drilled in as well. School districts feel pressed to purchase expensive test preparation programs of all sorts. That’s the problem with federally-mandated, punitive “high-stakes” tests. What schools actually need are quick-turnaround diagnostic assessments crafted by professional educators who understand their student’s needs. If the question really is “accountability” and the federal government wants to assess education, why can’t they fund it and use random sampling and shorter grade-span “no-stakes” testing as is done with the NAEP? Many people believe the “High-Stakes” testing game is a sham to create failure. This failure can only lead to more profit-based ideas like Pear$on $remediation and $charter$. I’m morally outraged by the punitive nature of these tests as they are being used in public education. Public education is a non-profit Democratic institution that is meant to instill a love of learning and serve EvErYoNe.

  112. Susan Hahn 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:31 pm #

    I am a teacher of over twenty years. This will almost certainly be my last year. Why? Testing, the pressure to teach to the impossible standards tested, the removal of any real freedom to instill a love of learning in my students have sucked the joy from teaching. I don’t want to leave. I love teaching and everything about it, including the long hours of preparation that go into creating meaningful and relevant lessons. But I no longer like the teacher I am. In spite of my efforts to stay clear of the testing madness and to protect my students, it gets to me. And it gets to them.
    I know that the standards my students are expected to meet are developmentally inappropriate. Too many concepts are being forced onto children whose brains are simply not yet ready to understand them. Yet I am under constant pressure to do more – push harder, move faster, keep the kids longer – to force those children to achieve those impossible goals. Oh, and the ones who we know have no chance of meeting those goals? Forget them. Just push those who have a chance harder. This is coming from people who should know better. Yet they are under pressure, too. And for some reason, when I point out the insanity and the unfairness of all of this, I am looked at by colleagues and superiors alike with a mix of pity and horror. Don’t speak up. Don’t make waves. We know it’s wrong, but we have to make it happen regardless of the damage to the students. I am just one person. I do my best to fight this in my way. But I fear that I am not making a difference. And my disillusionment is making me a less effective teacher.
    I have had children cry about the tests they must take, become so distressed on testing day that they had to leave the classroom and visit the nurse’s office, shut down and do nothing but randomly fill in bubbles on the answer sheet, and vomit on test-prep materials. All of this in spite of my attempts to be low-key about testing, to teach them breathing and stretching exercises to make their four-hour ordeal easier, to tell them it’s just one test that is set up to trick them. In spite of my efforts to encourage them and tell them that I believe in them. They know. No matter what

  113. jan 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

    Please stop the testing and common core. One child gets sick to her stomach with tests and my other child will not graduate because he can not pass Eng 1 starr test. Every child is different they do not need all the test and common core is worthless.

  114. Texas Teacher 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

    I teach 8th grade English. Testing calendar in hand, I calculated at the beginning of this school year that my students would be spending a full 10% of all instructional days taking standardized tests this year. That’s not counting test prep, tutorials, test-taking strategies, or anything peripheral. Just the time spent filling in bubbles. Instruction isn’t just affected by the shortened amount of days, but I’m strongly feeling the impact of all the interruptions. We can’t seem to get through anything without some kind of testing-related interruption. It’s miserable.

  115. Richard Reuther 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

    The telling point here is that most states and districts are not providing information to parents and students for the “opt-out” choice. They are, in fact, going out of their way- threatening and lying- to keep the information from them. If you are afraid to share information, to be transparent, the question needs to be asked: “Why?” The answer may revolve around money; millions of dollars- taxpayer dollars- are spent on these tests. Or it may involve political power and finance. Or any one of several other issues. The bottom line is testing is not good ed policy; nor is it good ed pedagogy; nor is it a valid measure of teacher effectiveness. It’s out of control and needs to stop.

  116. Ani McHuhh 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:38 pm #

    Hi, John,

    The Delran (NJ) Education Association published this position statement on high-stakes tests in November. The response from the parents, community members, administrators, and our Board of Education has been overwhelmingly positive, and our Superintendent and BOE drafted and passed a resolution that ensures PARCC refusals will be respected and appropriate accommodations will be made for non-testers. In the last couple of months, more than 85 NJ districts have either passed similar resolutions or have vowed to respond humanely to refusals.

    Delran EA Position statement:

    https://teacherbiz.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/the-delran-education-associations-position-on-high-stakes-standardized-testing/

    Delran resolution:

    http://delranea.org/files/2015/01/Refusal-Resolution.pdf

    List of NJ districts accommodating refusals (from Save Our Schools NJ):

    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=904838869549274&id=174128812620287&soft=requests

  117. Ani McHugh 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    And In typing that comment on my iPhone, I spelled my own name wrong. Is there a way I can edit it? :)

  118. G. Peterson 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

    I’m a 23-year teacher in a school district whose students have historically scored very high on standardized tests. After hundreds of our students opted out of state tests last fall, the opt out forms are flooding our office for the spring PARCC tests. In my state, children entering school in 3rd grade this year can expect to spend the equivalent of a full school year testing by the time they graduate high school. Kids and parents have had enough.

  119. Pamela Lusher 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    I am a teacher with 36 years experience. I have watched public education and teachers be attacked for years. A war has been declared against us by politicians, testing corporations, and misinformed and malicious reformers with their own agendas. American public schools are actually doing a great deal for our children who are at risk, not from their schools, but from their home environments, drug-addicted parents, and constant political attacks on them and the very educators who try to enrich their lives with cultural exposure, music, art, and a love of reading. We try to build their esteem and confidence while every reformer screams rigor, accountability, and more tests. Children do NOT need more rigor. They need Vigor. They need politicians and reformers to be held accountable for trying destroy all that is good in our public schools.

  120. David Cunningham 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    Follow the money, always!

  121. RSM 07. Feb, 2015 at 7:57 pm #

    I am firmly in the “too much testing” and “kids are not standardized” camp. My analogy of the Common Core (both the curriculum and tests:
    when a child starts first grade he/she is usually about 6-years old. And it is at about this age when a child starts losing his/her baby teeth, right? What do we do with the children whose baby teeth are not falling out – do we punish them? Do we rate their teacher on this? Do we hold them back a year? Do we dig in their mouths with pliers and yank them out to keep them “on track” with their classmates?
    If you would not hurt a child in these ways, do not hurt him/her psychologically. Psychological wounds sometimes heal more slowly than physical ones. The Common Core makes children anxious, makes them cry, and takes the joy out of learning. If another person did that to your child you would be angry. Do we accept the fact that children’s brain develop at different rates and work from there..? Because we should, as Piaget proved so very long ago. The finding of Maslow, Erickson, and Piaget have been discarded for the best money-making opportunity on the backs of our children.

  122. Amy Ackermann 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:00 pm #

    Good evening,

    I write this as a parent and protester! I opened Opt Out Palm Beach County on Facebook in September. As of today we have 232 members and counting. Each day more and more flock to the group for answers for how to opt out of standardized, high stakes tests in this particular county. The movement is strong, we had a very successful conference just last month in Ft Lauderdale with United Opt Out. Parents are seeking answers, and the stories are nation wide. #WhyIrefuse was supposed to be a one day campaign to collectively share stories from across the nation. That night we trended #1 and reached 13 million people world wide by the end of the weekend. It still continues to grow and is shared across many many groups, ages, states, and countries. You can see there that we are not small in numbers. We are parents and educators that will stand up, speak out! We will fight to regain public education and put it back into the hands of qualified educators. We will fight to have the joy of learning and discovery put back into our community schools. We will be heard no matter what!

  123. Susan Hahn 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    No matter what I do or say, they know how important these tests have become. It’s been drilled into them and into their parents. I have had children walk into my classroom, before the first day of school in 3rd grade, worried about a test!
    I had the valuable experience of working for one for the big testing companies that is now in the center of the testing controversy. I went there thinking that, because I had teaching experience and because I had experience giving these tests, my insights could be useful. Oh, was I wrong! On my first day, I was disqualified from scoring 4th grade essays (although I have over ten years experience teaching 4th grade and teaching my students who to write essays for state tests) because I was “unable to internalize the rubric” the testing company and State Education Agency had designed for scoring the essays. What? I had taught students how to work to meet the requirements of that essay! When I questioned practices during scoring training, I was attacked by the representative of the State Education Agency. It seems they didn’t want to hear my questions or any views that differed from the company line. Not to worry, though. Along with me in disqualification from scoring that day were an English professor from a local community college and a recent graduate with a degree in English and Journalism. Hmmm. We were hired to score something else.
    I worked at the testing company for three years. I worked on projects from several states, including some Common Core projects. I came to realize, during that time, that it really is all about the money. It’s not really about giving the student an “accurate” score, i.e. the score that is deserved. It more about scorers agreeing with one another, and their supervisors, about the score a student receives. If a scorer can’t keep their “agreement rate” high enough, they will ultimately be dismissed. Supervisors, who have so much power over student scores, are almost universally not people with education backgrounds. You see, it is the supervisor who has final say over what is considered acceptable for each student score on a given project. And if someone like me, with a background in education, questions a decision or points out that a question is faulty, woe be it to that lowly scorer. Teachers who score these tests and who argue too much get fired. I remember one day when I was desperately trying to explain to my supervisor and fellow scorers that a math question was developmentally inappropriate for the 3rd graders who had been given the test. That supervisor had no idea what I was talking about and another supervisor who was working as a scorer simply said, “I can do this easily. Why can’t these kids?”
    There are multiple retests for the students who fail these tests. So the testing companies get to print out more prep materials, more tests, and do more scoring. And by the way, there are millions of dollars in bonuses on the line for getting the scoring done on schedule or ahead of time. What do you think that does to quality of scoring? I could go on and on, but I believe I have made my point.
    People who know nothing about education are making policy that states we must test our students excessively. Our students are not learning because they are constantly being prepped with material that is neither appropriate nor interesting. Those in positions of authority are bowing to pressure from above. Dedicated, caring teachers who just want to teach children are leaving in droves because we honestly can’t see a way out of this anymore.

  124. Michelle Murphy Ramey 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    Standardized testing the way it is today is flawed. My students and who they are and what they know academically wise can be shared in many ways and high stakes testing is not one of those ways.

    As a child I was lucky as the testing mania had not started yet, I grew up in the 1980s and recall taking the scantron ITBS or CTBS test a few times. I remember it being just another test we took and it has zero consequences. I was able to move onto the next grade level, my high school diploma was not tied to passing these tests, and my teachers’ did not have their evaluations tied to the outcomes.

    Now fast forward to the late 90s when at least in WA they started pushing more standardized testing, from 3rd-12th grade. No longer was it just 4th graders and 8th graders. Shortly after these standardized tests became a graduation requirement in my state.

    As we get into the 2000′s these assessments started to come with things tied to them. Money, funding, shutting down of schools, giving students and schools failing grades, as well as saying teachers are not teaching students anything if they are not passing these assessments.

    As of now in 2015 we have many states where teachers who do teach a graded subject or who don’t are having their careers ended if their students (or not as if you do not teach a math or ELA subject your name is tied to some random group of students) do not pass these assessments.

    If you take the time to actually look at these assessments, who creates them (Pearson), how developmentally inappropriate the Common Core State Standards are, as well as who will profit off of all of these students who do not pass, it is Pearson.

    I have spent many years speaking out against standardized testing, even before CCSS, and VAM. These assessments do not give you a realistic picture of what my students know or do not know. It is one snap shot in time of how they did on that day, in that hour (or hours) on that specific assessment. An assessment I do not get to see prior, on an assessment they are not allowed to share what was on it, on an assessment that is set up to fail a certain percentage of students.

    Once you add up all of the politics behind it you also have to see it for what it is worth- nothing. How my students do on this test is meaningless to me, that data is not helpful. Sadly, in my sate every third grader who does not pass the ELA assessment will need to have their parents meet with their teacher and principal. Who won’t pass it will be our non readers/struggling readers, ELL students, and students with disabilities. Thankfully, our students with a 504 or IEP will not have to have that meeting.

    As an educator I know what is best for my students, I know where they are at academically based on their classwork, assessments I create or give them, and their projects. That is the data I use to base my students’ grades on.

    Parents of my students and parents of every student need to know their rights. My hands are tied when it comes to alerting the parents of my students, but not parents of other kids out there. I work alongside SOS and UOO as a leader of BATs, as a team we work together to help end these assessments. In my state we also have other groups that are working with us to help end these assessments.

    I am a proud teacher, a proud BAT, and a proud protester!

  125. Walter Baskin 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

    The American Statistical Assocition has already stated that test scores and VAM are not a fair or reliable method of evaluating teachers! That is the only reason we would need annual testing. Why do politicians think they know more about mathematics than mathematicians?

  126. Christine Davis 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

    I just finished giving a standardized test to a group of 3rd graders. The test is supposed to mirror PARCC, our new high stakes standardized test. I guess I wouldn’t feel so strongly about testing if it were not for 2 things. 1 – we test way too much. Ask to look at any school system’s testing calendar. It is filled to the brim. 2 – If the testing were developmentally appropriate. The test I just finished giving asked them to read 2 non-fiction passages , answer questions about each one, then, the next day, they were asked to write a newspaper article fusing information from both articles on how ethnic groups have influenced American culture. So, you are asking an 8 year old to write a multi-paragraph piece on a subject that is over their heads and do the entire thing in 1 sitting. That’s read, draft, edit and polish the finished product all in one 60 minute session. Now, factor in that most of the children have never seen or read a newspaper and you have a recipe for disaster.

  127. Larry Lawrence 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:28 pm #

    John,

    In describing the “strange bedfellows” coming together on this issue you stated:

    “We know that protesters have different motivations. Some are upset about what they see as excessive testing in schools, while others are vociferously opposed to the Common Core Standards, which they have labeled “Obamacore,” his plan to take control over public education.”

    I would like to see a more comprehensive explanation of the “sides” in this discussion. To paint the “protest” side as simply being against excessive testing or against the common core because of a “states rights” issue is too simple.

    Almost every educator with whom I come in contact objects to the testing. They certainly feel there are too many standardized tests, but their main concerns are more substantive. Some of their concerns are: 1) the tests do not reflect the range of children’s learning for which we strive; 2) the results of tests are misused to evaluate teachers, principals, and schools; 3) the concentration on math and language arts reduces or eliminates other areas of the curriculum; and 4) the results of these standardized tests are presented as hard core objective data when, in reality, they are quite subjective (who is to say what is an appropriate level for a ten year old?).

    When describing the concerns of the “protest” side of the issue, it is too simple to say that it is only a mater of too many tests. The main objections are rooted in sophisticated knowledge of how children learn.

    In the matter of the objection to the Common Core it is extremely limited to describe this as simply an objection to federal government overreach (“Obamacore”). At the March, 2014 Network for Public Education Conference in Austin there was a panel of five sophisticated teachers/educators representing different areas of the country who discussed the Common Core. One person, Randi Weingarten, defended the Common Core on the basis that it was important to establish common standards across the nation. The other four panelists were against these age-level proficiencies for a variety of reasons, none of which included the notion of a federal overreach.

    My own objections to this push for specific math/language arts age-level requirements have evolved out of my teaching experiences at both the high school and elementary levels.

    Myth:

    The information to be learned should be specifically proscribed for each grade level as documented in a national core curriculum.

    Research/Experience:

    The curriculum should emphasize the development of the broad structural concepts of various content areas.

    On April 22nd a few years ago, five of our upper elementary level (9-12 year olds) students came into the room where our team of teachers were eating lunch. They were excited about our discussion of Earth Day. These five were returning to our team for the coming school year and requested that we include a unit of study focused on the environment for the next year. Over the summer, our team of teachers developed a unit that combined science with social studies for one of the most vivid units of curriculum I have ever experienced. We ended the next school year taking our 120 upper elementary students for a weeklong “save the environment” game in the mountains of Southern California. The excitement of students and the products they produced created a moment not to be missed!

    As the incident with the five girls demonstrates, schooling must be flexible enough to offer a curriculum that relates to the interests and needs of students. We could develop this unit of interest because we had the flexibility in our curriculum to adjust our program. A prescribed program would have precluded us from even considering this valuable diversion from our previously planned programs.

    By the same token, it I have faced a required a national math curriculum when I began as a high school math teacher, it would have been difficult to implement a new, more sophisticated approach to my high school math program (a project out of the University of Illinois) that I taught in my classroom. When I was developing the math program at my elementary school, it was valuable to have guidelines such as those from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and other professional organizations. The continuums developed by the various textbook publishers helped me develop classroom diagnostic tools. The requirement that I teach specific concepts at specified times would have made it difficult to deal with a wide variety of backgrounds and math sophistication that the 120 nine through twelve-year-olds brought to our classrooms. In order to have the flexibility to deal with the variety of student skills and backgrounds, the classroom teacher must have the freedom to adapt the material to the needs and interests of students.

    Myth:

    All students must be required to attain (at least) a prescribed proficiency at each level of their schooling.

    Research/Experience:

    Children are different and these differences need to be part of planning and teaching.
    This concept is the crux of what should occur in any classroom. Too often we teach to a group of students as if they are a uniform group of learners who, if they fail to learn the content, we believe lack desire and refuse to work hard, or it is because of an incompetent instructor. This ‘you are a widget and I will apply content you will learn’ factory approach to learning is ineffective, yet we return to it time and again because it seems the easiest to implement (efficiency).

    Any reform of schooling must include the concept that children bring their individual differences to school, and for them and us to succeed we must design a system that recognizes these differences and provides instruction appropriate to these differences. Learners can only progress at their own rate and not at a rate that requires them to achieve a specific skill level at a given age.

    Well, John, that is a long response to a couple of sentences. However, I hope it serves to indicate that we may be doing a disservice to oversimplify why we are “protesting” the imposition of high stakes standardized testing and national (or any level for that matter) requirements that students of a given age correctly answer certain questions to be considered proficient (or to pass).

    Thank you for addressing this topic.

    • John Merrow 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

      Your story of the ‘save the environment’ field trip reminds me of a sequence in “Testing Our Schools,” a film we did for Frontline quite a few years ago. A wonderful math teacher in Richmond told me how he used to take his class to the James River and ask them to figure out, working together, how they could determine the distance to the opposite shore. He didn’t give them formulas, but he did answer questions. Eventually, they deduced the formula, and he believed that it was something they never forgot. Alas, he told me, he couldn’t do that any longer because the state tests ruled, and he had to ‘cover’ material so the kids might have a chance at passing the test. And that was about 10 years ago.

      Over the years we have reported on the extent to which NCLB ‘narrowed’ the curriculum, but that didn’t slow down the machine that values what it can measure…and cannot be bothered with measuring what it values, if indeed those folks have thought that through.

  128. Charlotte Ballard 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

    As teacher-librarian with 25 years of experience and a reputation for high standards in my b, I cannot abide these tests. I cannot find any reputable empirical data that supports what we are doing to our nation’s school children. When you say that there are people of substance behind the tests and you name business groups and Arne Duncan, you are insulting the nation’s teachers who are the educated professionals. We are the ones who have been working with the children for years. Those of us who have managed to maintain our careers beyond the five years of the average new teacher these days can speak about the issues in relevant ways that a business group cannot. Arne Duncan never taught school. He should never have been placed in his position as a leader of educators. Why not listen to Diane Ravitch instead? She was once in favor of testing and has done a complete 180 degree turn on the subject and she is an educator of great experience and knowledge. If you think that parents are not interested in opting out, you are not listening well. Many parents I hear despise the tests but do not know what to do about it. Students are stressed beyond belief. Teachers are dropping out of the profession regularly. The link between learning and poverty is being ignored by our leaders. Look at some solid research and stop listening to the politicians. Get ye to a library.

  129. Mickie Dumont 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

    I am most definitely in the protest (no dash) camp. The high stakes testing and teacher-bashing mania in this country are totally out of control and all of it needs to be stopped. Parents are not given any relevant/honest information regarding their children’s education. It’s time, past time, to give the schools back to the teachers, students, and parents. Let our practitioners do their job. The worst things to ever happen to public education are NCLB a and RTTT. Tragic!

  130. Haley Crittenden Gordon 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

    How is it, that a teacher in a wealthy school district can have ratings of “effective” for years and then switch jobs to a poorer school district and get an “ineffective” rating? What does the rating mean when it is largely based on the standardized test scores of the students? Why is funding for the arts, music and world languages being cut and yet, class sizes are increasing, test prep classes are increasing? Why are politicians and the DOE telling the public that public education is failing? Who benefits from the message of “failing public schools”? Newspapers? Media? Pearson Corporation? Politicians? Education reformers selling educational packages? Teach for America? Charter School corporations? Computer companies? Software companies?
    Who loses? Students and America’s public education system.

  131. Tracey OKane 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

    I have three kids who have missed the common core/high stakes testing movement. My fourth and last child is coming into this government controlled education and mass testing as he is finishing middle school. I have opted him out of testing this year. I believe that PARCC testing is way over the top and ruining his education. My husband and I have put education as high priority. We are both college educated, and I chose to stay home with my children. We sacrificed a lot to do so, but it allowed me to be involved in their upbringing more than if I had a career. We have taught our kids to strive for the best they can do. They have received a well rounded education and two are continuing on to college with success. Our third is looking at colleges and has many options to choose from. Our fourth is thinking of going to culinary school. We have tried to raise our kids to be responsible productive citizens and be happy with what they choose to do with their life. It is because of the pre-high stakes testing type of education they received that allowed my kids to have success and prosper, and to have failures and learn from it. With this high stakes testing, kids are being forced to have every aspect of their learning being taught as it relates to testing. It is like we are manufacturing their education for every student and not taking in their differences. It is almost like we are creating a mold for everyone to think the same. No creativity allowed, no free thinking allowed.
    Was I concerned with how I would look by opting out? Yes, but the more I research, and the more I want to stand up for myself and my kids. I consider it a lesson to all four of them: a lesson in passion, civil disobedience, and standing up for what you believe in!

  132. Terry Kalb 07. Feb, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    I am a retired special education teacher, now working as a parent advocate. The high stakes testing that is driving the curricula is doing irreparable damage to students with disabilities and their teachers. The expectation that every child, no matter what their physical, emotional, cognitive, neurological and sensory challenges must achieve at the same pace and test in the same way is ludicrous. The idea that their teachers will be rated on the testing results of students who are functioning years behind their peers will insure that soon we will have no veteran teachers for these students, and that no one will want to risk teaching students who are diverse learners. Race to the Top is trumping the IDEA rights of children to have a free, appropriate public education- it must be abandoned before we lose a generation of children and destroy public education and the teaching profession- that is what is at stake here.

  133. John Merrow 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

    Like many of you, I wear more than one hat. This blog does not speak for the NewsHour or PBS, and I sometimes venture an opinion, as readers know. As to my own views, below is my ‘rewrite’ of Robert Frost, which I call:
    MENDING SCHOOL
    Something there is that doesn’t love more bubble tests
    And students bubbling and learning how to bubble
    When they might be making robots or reading Frost.
    They take test upon test in arid classrooms,
    Mixing memory and guesswork, stirring
    Dull anger and gnawing fear of failure.
    The work of test-makers is another thing:
    Teachers come after them and make repair
    Where they have ground down creativity.
    I let my neighbor know beyond the hill,
    And on a day we meet to walk and talk
    Of learning, testing and hopes for children
    But we keep a wall between us as we go.
    To him, this is just another kind of mental game,
    One on a side. It comes to little more:
    Now is when we do not need more tests, I tell him.
    He only says, ‘More testing makes good education.’
    Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
    If I could put a notion in his head:
    ‘Why do they make good education? Isn’t it
    Where they are timely and used to help?
    But here the tests punish takers and givers alike.
    Before I gave more bubble tests, I’d ask to know
    What I was I testing for, and why,
    And to whom I was like to do harm.
    Something there is that doesn’t love bubble tests,
    That wants them stopped.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
    But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
    He said it for himself. I see him there
    Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
    In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
    He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
    Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
    He will not go behind his father’s saying,
    And he likes having thought of it so well
    He says again, ‘More testing makes good education.’

    If you would like the full-size (4′x3′, I think) poster, send a donation to Learning Matters, 127 W 26th Street #1200 NY NY 10001

    • John Merrow 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

      Poster is 24″ x 36″ not 36″ x 48″ My bad

    • Robin Brooks 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

      Mr. Merrow, I began my teaching career in the late 1970′s and have seen the rights and autonomy of teachers stripped away, replaced by highly scripted lessons, curricula, and standardized test that have been sold as the quick fix. Regardless of how we try to “teach like champions” teachers can’t solve systemic problems like child poverty by testing our children to death. I don’t think you can find a teacher anywhere who would prefer things to be as they are in education today. Parents are gradually waking up to the insanity of test prep as a stand-in for education. We are hearing from teachers across the country who are refusing to give the tests. Parents in my state of Maine are organizing to opt their children out of the Smarter Balanced Common Core-aligned tests that will be administered this spring. Like Clyde Gaw said, one need only look at the suffering of our young people to realize that we, as a society, can’t test our way to a solution.

    • Anne Tenaglia 08. Feb, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

      Multi-talented!

  134. allison 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

    These tests are HUGELY expensive for states, due in part to the devices and broadband necessary to administer them. The tests are another federal mandate with no real funding attached. The necessary millions are just another cause of MORE state tax dollars for education not really reaching the classroom. The feds mandate; the state’s taxpayers have to pony up the cash.

    Superintendents these days are banding together in groups large and small and telling their state legislatures that these expensive tests are neither appropriate or necessary. The most recent example I saw today was 18 superintendents telling the Ohio legislature the facts.

  135. Julie 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

    You must investigate Pearson and its connections. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/jul/16/pearson-multinational-influence-education-poliy

    and march 2011………

    Pearson has frozen the stake held by the Libyan Investment Authority, one of the five biggest shareholders in the Financial Times owner, after taking legal advice that it is subject to a government order.

    On Monday Pearson began a legal investigation to determine who the beneficial owner of the stake is in order to ascertain if the investment needed to be frozen in line with a UK government order to block the assets of Muammar Gaddafi and five members of his family.

    “Having taken legal advice regarding its obligations under the order, Pearson considers that the ordinary shares in the company which are held by or on behalf of the LIA are subject to the order and are therefore effectively frozen,” the company said in a statement. “As a result, Pearson has today informed the LIA and its nominees that Pearson will not register any transfer or pay any dividend in respect of the shares until further notice.”

    Pearson also clarified that LIA, Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, actually controlled a larger stake in the company than the 3.01% it initially acquired in June last year.

    The company said that on “further investigation” it had “cause to believe” that LIA may have acquired a further stake taking its holding to 3.27%. This means LIA’s stake is worth about £280m based on Pearson’s current share price and market capitalisation.

    On Monday Pearson said it was raising its dividend for 2010 by 9% to 38.7p, Pearson’s 19th consecutive dividend increase and the largest in the past decade.

    On Monday Majorie Scardino, the chief executive of Pearson, said she was “uncomfortable” with the LIA holding a stake and that the situation in Libya was “abhorrent”.

    The company said on Tuesday it hoped that the £280m investment may be able to be used in a more beneficial way in the future.

    “The LIA is a Libyan state asset, and it is to be hoped that in due course these assets can be redeployed to the benefit of Libya and its people,” said a spokesman for Pearson.

  136. Jane Seidenberg 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

    Hi there: I challenge you to really visit schools across the country and see what the effect of these mandated tests really are. I am a special needs teacher. I work with kids who read and do math a year or more below grade level. I have high expectations and work to bridge the gap. But my students are forced to take the end of the year tests on their current grade level that covers material they have not yet been taught. Watch them. I have year after year and I see their souls crushed. These students and their families do not need more failure messages. They need instruction and assessments that inform, build on strengths and shed some information on challenges that is helpful and useful. These kids stare at the material they are not ready for. They watch their peers click away as they take the test. One more piece of evidence that they are somehow defective. This is cruel and serves no purpose. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

  137. Mary Jo 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

    I have never heard a parent saying, “wow, standardized fill-in-the-bubble tests are great for my child’s education! He’s getting such a well-rounded education from preparing for that test all day every day! It makes him really enjoy all the time he spends at school!” Have you? The only people in favor of them are the ones who stand to make money from them directly or indirectly through using the data they generate to close schools and reopen charters. The things that matter in education can’t be tested: joy, wisdom, compassion.
    Here’s a great argument for getting rid of all tests: https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/why-we-should-have-zero-standardized-tests-in-public-schools%E2%80%A8%E2%80%A8/

  138. Ken Previti 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

    Your attempt to diminish how many we are and your attempt to put us on the fringe have no basis in the reality of children, parents, teachers, classrooms, schools, etc. You have lost what little belief I had in your integrity. #defendchildren

    • John Merrow 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:19 pm #

      Ken, why do you interpret asking questions as diminishing the effort?

  139. John Merrow 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

    I have been reminded by Anthony Cody, whom I first met when he was still teaching in Oakland many many years ago, of an omission in my report above. He wrote, in part:

    “What about the Network for Public Education?

    We were founded just two years ago, and have about 5000 members nationwide.

    We just turned in more than 2000 letters to the Senate, calling for fewer mandated tests.

    Our president, Diane Ravitch, has one of the most widely read blogs on the internet — she just passed the 17 million mark for page views.

    We have endorsed dozens of candidates willing to support, many of whom were successful.

    Our first annual conference in Austin last year drew more than 400 teacher, student and parent activists together, and we are planning an even bigger gathering in Chicago at the end of April. (details here: http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/)

    I am happy to correct my error here, with my apology

  140. Kelly 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

    You’re right, the dash makes all the difference, but my question is, what has this testing movement done to help students? Since this has begun, the curricula for many children has been stripped, their self esteems eroded and many of their teachers driven out. Let me be clear, I’m open to conversation about how to improve and measure learning in our schools, but we are terribly off course. We need a dialogue with those who are truly experts, teachers, researchers, not politicians coming in to play “hero” role.

    The problem we face today is that in education, there is no dialogue with teachers. People, with little experience or none at all declare war on failing schools blaming their teachers, neglecting to look at the realities of the impact of poverty on our students. We do nothing to address the issues at the core of the problem. When we, as educators bring it up, they tell us to stop whining and work harder or leave. Let me tell you, many of us are leaving the districts that need highly qualified teachers the most, we’re leaving in droves. It’s not because we don’t want to be there, we do, but the pressures of testing being coupled with our evaluation, make the risk of staying in any high needs district very high for the educator. It’s simply not sustainable work. The whole high stakes standardized testing system sets our children up for failure and widens the achievement gap. Everything we learn in education is about mulitiple assessment types, different ways of demonstrating knowledge. This practice of using high stakes testing is against every thing we know as educators about the best ways to assess learning.

    As a 9 yr veteran teacher, I have seen children reduced to tears mulitple times over the stress they feel because of these tests. I have seen districts devote untold amounts of money to private testing improvement services, curriclula stripped to rote memorization and countless hours devoted to practice test taking, so children could practice getting ready for the “real tests”. In my own career, I’ve found myself doing the unthinkable, directly preparing my students for such testing because my evaluation depended on it. I watched as the enthusiasm drained from my student’s eyes when they saw the practice test questions.

    Not only do these tests hurt the very children the claim to serve by eroding their self esteem and stripping their curricula, they send away the teachers these children need the most. In all my years of teaching, I’ve never had a student thank me for preparing them well to take a test. My students thank me for teaching them how to think critically, creating engaging lessons, helping think about how to use their knowledge to approach real life problems and become confident in their ablities to succeed and learn independently. Our current testing system could never measure those gains, and in my humble opinion, the gains that really matter.

  141. Susan Murphy 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:23 pm #

    Yes, it is a powerful movement. Know that the numbers would be even higher if opting out of the high school exams was a possibility. This issue has done the improbable: united parents, teachers, students, administrators, and school board members … as well as Democrats and Republicans.

  142. Elizabeth Lynch 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:26 pm #

    Others have done an eloquent job of explaining the agenda behind what is happening in education in comments before mine. I have to wonder whether anything we are sharing will be taken to heart and will make a difference when the media is so totally working on the side of the ed reformers. The “protesters” are not some fringe group engaging in small acts of resistance. Our numbers are extremely large and growing as the ed reformers double down on policies that are harming children. We are teachers, parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens who understand that a free, equitable public education for all children is a right, and cannot be sold off to the highest bidder because it can generate profits and campaign donations. our children are not for sale and are not just data points or numbers for discussion around a corporate table. Children matter, not because they take tests and provide data – they matter because they are children, because they our only hope for a better future.

    We “protesters” outnumber the reformers, but we also know that they can outspend us. They own the media. Reports about education are biased against teachers, against public education, and are based on half-truths and blatant lies. Journalists KNOW how to dig for the truth, so when the truth is distorted, it can be nothing less than a deliberate act. Our children deserve to have their stories shared. Those in the media owe it to children to put a human face on what reform policies are doing to our children, to speak to educators, and to hear our stories. When will this side of the story be told and who will tell it? Will you be that person who steps up and lets the truth be heard?

    Here are a few examples for you to consider. I have seen nine and ten year old children vomit, urinate in class, break down and sob and shake uncontrollably, and have nosebleeds during these tests. I have heard children call themselves stupid, give up and hang their heads in shame because they can’t make sense of questions which in some cases, don’t make sense. None of these were students who had any previous history of these behaviors outside of the testing situation. I have seen teachers break down and cry at the end of testing because they are heartbroken watching their students, the children they love, devastated because it is impossible to finish tests that include inappropriate embedded field test questions that are included so Pearson can see where they should place them on future tests. THIS is what happens to children when they are forced to sit for hours taking developmentally inappropriate, poorly written, high-stakes tests. Pro-test? I defy ANYONE who is pro-testing to come witness what these children go through and say this child abuse is justified. This is why we protest!

    A couple of years ago a young boy in my school became so stressed during a state test that he experienced a nosebleed during the test, which splattered his test booklet. He had no prior history of nosebleeds in school, and was an excellent student. The directive from the state was to have the boy return to class when he could, give him the amount of time he had already used to copy his test into a new booklet, and then proceed with the remaining time he would have had to complete the test. Pictures had to be taken of the blood splattered test and sent to the state education department to justify the “missing” test booklet. The blood stained booklet was to be “medically disposed of.” This is the “procedure” when children compromise a test booklet due to illness.

    Are you aware that in the interest of protecting Pearson’s ability to reuse test questions in other states, these books are kept so secure that they must be counted and sent back to the state for destruction? Are you aware that teachers are told, under threat of disciplinary action which includes dismissal, that we cannot discuss the contents of the tests with each other, with our students, or with anyone else? Think about that. WE CANNOT DISCUSS THE TESTS WITH OUR STUDENTS. How is there ANY value in a test that cannot be discussed with the very population it was supposedly written to assess? How are these tests of any value when we can’t see them after they are administered? In fact, we are cautioned not to look at them while the children are testing. If this does not make the agenda clear, what will? This is supposed to improve education? This is supposed to help students or make teachers more effective? Obviously not.

    Millions of children are being harmed. We speak out for them every day when we protest. We will continue to protest because we are NOT “Pro-test”. We are pro children. We are pro public education. We are pro teacher. This huge corporate funded “gotcha game” needs to be reported for what it is. Someone has to start telling the truth about this story. So I will repeat my question.

    When will this side of the story be told and who will tell it? Will you be that person who steps up and lets the truth be heard?

  143. Meghan Vaziri 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

    As a former kindergarten and first grade teacher, I can tell you that standardized testing is destroying education. The only answer is for parents to opt out of these tests.

    • Robin Brooks 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

      I agree, Meghan Vaziri. I am a current K-6 art teacher. My students are suffering. Our profession is being destroyed. Parents must take action and opt out their children.

  144. Beth Forrester 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

    John,

    I want to write about a time when teaching with “no child left behind” meant teaching every child at his or her own level. It was the exact opposite of teaching to the Common Core, or teaching to pass high stakes state tests. Here’s what dawned on me today: the toughest assignment of my career was at a time when I was meeting diverse children’s needs in a manner totally antithetical to the way teachers are required to teach today. It was also one of my most successful assignments. I have no tests to prove my success, just my own memory, and the words of the following years’ teachers.

    During most of the 70s, I taught in inner-city London, in a mixed first and second grade class, in a “progressive” school. I team taught in an open classroom building, and integrated most subjects with each other, teaching to children’s interests and strengths, while addressing their “skills” in small groups. Most years, we had about 25 first and second grade students assigned to each teacher, with about 100 children in the first and second grade team altogether. We taught in two sets of “twins,” each twin containing about 50 first and second grade children and taught by two teachers. Every afternoon, we four teachers would meet, to plan and share. Every morning, each twin would begin by gathering for attendance and explanation of the day’s activities, after which time the children would chose where they’d work that day, and the teachers and students would split up. Mostly, one of the teachers in each twin would offer a more mature version of the theme, the other a younger one. The groups didn’t exactly split by age – more by interest and maturity.

    That year, when we four teachers got together after the first day of school, we expressed combined educational shock. That year, the presence of a great many children “not ready” for first grade seemed daunting. Many appeared unusually immature, slow, unable to follow a story, or were extremely limited in experience or language. This was an impoverished area of London, and we were well – accustomed to a wide ability and maturity range, but this situation was quite extreme. In England at that time, there was no special education. We’d always been told to “teach what you get.” With the head mistress’ support, we decided to try something “new.” We chose one of us (four) teachers to teach the group that didn’t seem ready – about 17 children in all. The other three teachers would share the remaining 83 children between them. The principal arranged for a few doors to be installed, so the single classroom could be isolated, for privacy and concentration.

    I became the teacher of that group. I ran it like a kindergarten at first, with a house corner, blocks, paints, games, stories, poems, and music. I taught reading with experience charts based on the kids’ own words. We used flash cards, and sounding out. I taught number concepts with toys, shapes, and grids. The themes we studied were varied, but mostly designed for younger children. Some of the children in the group – the ones who just hadn’t been “ready” the year before – whizzed ahead with their learning. Others took more time, but each proceeded forward at his or her own pace. I ran multiple topics, multiple study groups, aimed at multiple levels and interests. As was usual for my school: there was no set “curriculum,” but teaching with creativity, exploration, and responsibility was the norm, for both children and teachers.

    We worried about how these babies would fare the following year, rejoining their peers – some moving into second grade (their age determining that they’d remain in the team), some into third grade. I took them as far as was comfortable for them to move along confidently. I never pushed them to learn material they weren’t ready for, more concerned with giving them a solid grounding in literacy, numeracy, and thinking. I tried to discover what they were understanding, and did my best to move them to the next step. I was lucky: I’d been trained (in London) to understand the sequence of skills that needed to be learned, and how to match students with teaching.

    It is with great pride that I tell you that these children were reported by the following years’ teachers to be the best REMEDIAL group they’d ever taught. Best attitudes, best confidence, best grounding in math and reading, best ability to explore and learn from their own investigations.

    You can’t change who’s in your class. You can only do the best you can within their abilities and experiences, and your own willingness to be responsive and creative. In England, I was trained to match students’ needs with my own teaching, and was trusted to connect the two. TRUSTING THAT TEACHERS COULD ASSESS and TREAT their own students was a necessary assumption. How else could children learn without punishing them for not meeting a pre-determined standard? Similarly, how else could the gifted learn without dooming them to “only” achieve at a scripted level?

    To imagine not trusting teachers, and to pre-determine what you expect ALL children to learn in each grade, is either foolish or ill considered or mean spirited. It’s certainly not in the best interests of the child, and represents a terrible waste of a hugely valuable resource – the American Teacher.

    As a country, if we want to do what’s best for our children – all children – we should continue to recruit bright and creative teachers, and train them to understand how children learn, and what to do about it. We should arm them with books and poetry and art and music, and teach them to help children develop exponentially, not limit them to the understanding of one small group of Standard Writers (who may never have taught). We should spend our money NOT on programs or equipment, but on people.

  145. K Mallory 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

    By the time the state test comes I know all there is to know about my students academically. I administer a state test in April that I can be fired for looking at it and I will never see my students corrected tests nor how they answer. I only see scores. Who benefits from this test? Not me or the students. The test is for grading districts, administrators and teachers. Oh, yes, earning someone a lot of money. I despise the test because it has narrow what I teach down to just a fraction of any one concept. Teach this word but not that one because it isn’t tested. Our future leaders will only know what was tested.

  146. Jane Seidenberg 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

    ELizabeth don’t hold your breath. I have yet to see a mainstream media fair report on what is happening to education with interviews with teachers and kids. Also, doesn’t the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation underwrite his network? No sympathy in this quarter.

  147. Vicki Wilson 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

    The testing of our public school students are wrong on so many levels, I have no idea where to even begin.

  148. Karen Jones 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

    Most teachers are not against the Common Core Standards….aside from the early childhood standards, which had no input from early childhood researchers or educators, and are grossly developmentally inappropriate. What we teachers challenge is the obsession with testing. Testing mandated by the government and politicians. Pockets of those politicians being stuffed by Pearson, the billion dollar company making the PARCC tests. Tests our kids used to pass, but in the past 4 years are suddenly failing at disproportional rates…So we need more tests and more test prep and more standardized curriculum. We know that differentiating is what is right and best for our kids, but are the tests we will be judged on be differentiated? No. So our districts hammer down on us and strangle our kids with standardized curriculum. Developmentally inappropriate and rote in nature, we are being forced to teach in ways that go against everything we are and everything we know is right when it comes to reaching and teaching our kids. As a teacher, I cannot speak my mind, and when parents ask, I must give a canned response myself, or face disciplinary action. “I cannot tell you if I think you should opt your child out. BUT, ask me what I am doing with my own children, and that I can tell you.” They always ask. My own children will be opted out. Every time.

  149. Karen 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

    As a public school social studies teacher at a low income, D graded school and parent of a child who attends a 100% free and reduced lunch (Title I)public school that is graded a D I can honestly say:
    – the LOSS of instruction time to testing
    – the DIVERSION of money, SOOO much money, to testing
    – and the erosion of self-esteem and belief in their own value and abilities that I have seen in my
    students over the past 14 years as we shift from teaching to testing is truly criminal.
    The OUTSOURCING OF OUR PUBLIC ED SYSTEMS is leading us down a path that will erode our democracy and strengthen the stratification that is already present.

  150. Daun Kauffman 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT? TEST DATA OR LIFE DATA ? http://lucidwitness.com/

  151. Emily 07. Feb, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    The excessive testing of our children and treating them as data points are the educational crises of our time. Teachers, administrators, and students are forced to spend valuable time with useless interventions and punitive meetings instead of spending time in the classroom teaching and learning! Standardized tests are great predictors of zip codes, but students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are just as capable of success as privileged students, given REAL learning opportunities. opportunities. Stop wasting their time jumping through hoops and let us teach!

  152. Barbara Mayo 07. Feb, 2015 at 10:03 pm #

    The tests themselves are flawed w/mistakes, are never seen after they are administered and therefore cannot even be used to drive instruction, are being used to evaluate teachers who cannot possibly control all the variables leading to a test score, stress kids out, and suck millions of tax payers dollars from our pockets. Need I say more?

  153. Lynn Smith 07. Feb, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    I teach English as a Second Language in New York State, and if you are an immigrant who comes in one day before the New York State Math Test — then you must take the New York State Math Test, even if you can’t speak, read or write a word of English. Maybe the new immigrant would have a chance if the test were straight computation, but it’s not. It’s almost all word problems, often with multiple steps, and the students also have to write about why they solved the problem the way that they did. Why on Earth do we do this to kids who have not even had the opportunity to learn English!? It makes no sense! The test scores show us nothing about the child except that he or she has not yet learned English — which we already knew. And they say nothing about the school’s math instruction — because the child has not been HERE to be instructed. Think of yourself, having to take a test in Arabic, Chinese, or Russian, when you have had zero exposure to the language. For the New York State English Language Arts Test, new immigrants have a year’s grace, but a year still is not much time, especially if the student is not literate in his or her home language. If they come to the United States at age 12, they may be placed in sixth grade, and they will take the ELA exam in seventh grade. In one year, New York State expects a child to learn a new language — and to go from illiteracy to reading at seventh grade level. Can a native speaker of English make seven years’ worth of growth in reading in one year — without even having to deal with learning a whole new language? If that were possible, we could just eliminate kindergarten through sixth grade and just let everyone start school at age 13. The ESL students try very hard to do these impossible tests, and many end up crying and saying that they’re stupid. They trust their teachers, and assume that if we gave them the test, then they should be able to do it….and if they can’t, something is wrong with them. These new kids, who simply need time to actually learn English, get labeled as failures when they can’t do the impossible — and so do the teachers and schools who serve them.

    • TexasESL 08. Feb, 2015 at 10:05 am #

      They do the same thing here in Texas. It is heartbreaking to see children’s self esteem destroyed because of unreasonable expectations. I studied Spanish in college and in Mexico for 8 years and I still wasn’t fluent enough to pass a test to become a bilingual teacher (which is why I am a ESL teacher). How can they expect kids to become fluent in 1 year is cruel and inhuman.

  154. Maria 07. Feb, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    As a teacher since 1987 and a parent since 1992, a yearly state test has never told me anything about a student (or my own children) that I didn’t already know. I am currently a special educator. These tests do nothing for my students except wipe out months of work building in them the confidence to take educational risks. I have watched (and shed tears with) students who have cried as they faced a test grade levels above their documented reading levels. What is the point of this? It is nothing less than abusive.

  155. Brooke 07. Feb, 2015 at 10:13 pm #

    There is growing anger related to the amount and length of tests given to students Indiana. I am not against a standardized test. I am against the overuse, misuse, and abuse of high-stakes standardized tests.

  156. Christine 07. Feb, 2015 at 10:33 pm #

    Common core & the tests that come along with them have already done so much damage to the experience of learning & education. It must be stopped in it’s tracks NOW. Children are being abused & us, the parents & educators will NOT stand for it!

  157. Robin Bowman 07. Feb, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

    I’m seriously worried about the terrible results we’re seeing and are going to see from the Standardized Testing revolution that’s overtaken the US. Opt Out is a GREAT initiative, and I support it.

  158. Andrea Miller 07. Feb, 2015 at 10:59 pm #

    Our current toxic testing environment has created an all time low morale for schools across our country. This strongly impacts a child’s leaning.

  159. MK 07. Feb, 2015 at 11:23 pm #

    I am a teacher of ELL students. After being in the country for only one year, they are being required to take the ELA and Math assesments in NY. Research has proven that it takes 3-5 years for academic language to be learned, yet we are testing after only one year. What kind of results will we get? Our students and their teachers will be penalized because they will NOT pass the exams.Our schools will be under scrutiny because of a low passing rates. How will one test, given once a year, adequately show the progress these students have made? Wouldn’t a better system of assessment be the daily progress the students have made throughout the year as assessed by their teacher, someone highly qualified to assess the students’ academic growth?

    Another point here is that teachers do not receive an analytical breakdown of the scores and scores are NOT received in the current academic year. How can this be useful to drive instruction when the teacher no longer has those students in class and doesn’t know which questions or what type of questions the students are getting wrong? This makes the testing results virtually useless. Forget the fact that the cureent ELA 3rd grade test was wriiten on a 5th grade lexile level.

  160. Christine Urena 07. Feb, 2015 at 11:24 pm #

    I had a realization a short while ago that changed the way I viewed the high stakes standardized testing that our children have been subjected to for the last 10+ years. I am a high school Spanish teacher, not a tested area. So, while new teacher evaluation systems and having to create more assessments to give my students to “prove” that they are learning have been bothersome over the last few years, I have been able to continue to teach my students using the best practices I have learned over the years and by gearing our activities to their interests.

    But then I imagined myself as a literature or mathematics or science teacher, which are currently the tested areas. I looked back at the last few years and thought, okay, when I was required to create additional assessments to prove my students were learning, I can shape them into our current studies so they are not harmed. When demand increased by administrators and State and Federal legislation and regulations to teach to that test, I could still teach my students using the best practices I have learned and they will still do well on their standardized tests and my students will not be harmed. I may get in trouble for not doing standardized test prep for my students, but my students would not be harmed.

    Then came the announcement that the new PARCC exams (which as I’m sure others have stated are flawed to say the least) would be a graduation requirement for high school. I was in my car by myself and I actually said out loud, “They’ve got me.” I can no longer shield my students from test prep and pressure, because now if they do not do well on the exam, they will not graduate high school. Now my students will be harmed, and I must teach to that test to ensure they graduate from high school. I can no longer protect them from the effects of high-stakes testing in my classroom.

    And then I thought, this was the plan all along. And that my students would be held accountable to a set of standards written not by educators, but by politicians and businesspeople, which standards were then interpreted by a for profit company, Pearson, and inserted into a series of extremely flawed exams that would determine if they graduate high school or not. I suddenly felt the hand of the federal government directly in my classroom. I suddenly realized that my local school no longer had control over our curriculum. That the local control of education that has long been the standard and law of the land for public education in this country had been eroded away.

    That was when I first decided that not only would by own daughter not participate in these exams, but that I would do what I could to educate my fellow parents and educators about the right of parents to refuse these exams as a statement of protest against the federal governmental infringement on our local education. Since that time I have begun to educate myself about how all this came about. I have joined several local opt out groups and have been amazed by the dedication and resolve of so many parents who have had to educate their local boards of education on the state of the law with great results.

    Many school districts have changed their stance on making students sit and stare at the screen during the testing periods or forcing parents to keep their children home on testing days as unexcused absences from school to allowing the children of parents who refuse testing for their child to be in an alternate location and read or do other school work. It feels like democracy in action to me. It feels like parents taking their power back when it comes to the education of their children. It feels good.

  161. Melissa 08. Feb, 2015 at 12:17 am #

    I pulled my daughter out of public school and enrolled her in an online charter school in Ohio – not because I think charter schools can do any better than a public school and not for any other reason than common core. I wanted control over what my daughter was being taught and what she was learning. Common core math is a year behind what she already knows and was taught in public school before their curriculum changed. She may be required to complete her too simple math assignments for school, but we focus more time learning above the standards in math. Language Arts is now a joke – there is no joy in reading, it’s informational text. While I understand that there is importance in knowing how to decipher informational text, my fourth grader could care less. She still believes in Santa, the Easter bunny, etc – she has an amazing imagination. But her Pearson published text book is full of informational text, making reading a chore, something she is required, not wants, to do.

    Now the government wants to test her on this garbage?!? School districts want to punish teachers if their students don’t perform well on these tests? How is this fair to students and teachers? If my daughter had to take the PARCC test she would likely fail miserably. Not because she doesn’t know anything, but because she doesn’t draw millions of dots, or squares, or some other picture to solve a math problem. On the language arts portion of PARCC she will get a 50% or lower – she can answer part A of each question no problem, but because she has a communication barrier that she gets speech therapy for, she struggles with being able to explain herself.

    How do I know how she will do? She has been doing PARCC test prep weekly for the past 11 weeks! She has been subjected to this so much that there is no reason for her to sit for hours testing just to tell me and her teachers what we already know! It’s a waste of time that could have been spent getting her to improve on areas that she struggles. It’s a waste of tax payer dollars. But by all means, let Pearson score our children and teachers with their PARCC tests – maybe they will learn something in order to improve their failing online charter school Connections Academy.

    This is why my daughter will not be taking the PARCC test and why we refused. Kudos to all the teachers out there standing up for what you believe in – you are all worth much more to me than my child’s state mandated test scores!

  162. Barbara Landwehr 08. Feb, 2015 at 12:22 am #

    As a teacher in Washington State who has opted my own children out of SBAC, these tests are not a one size fits all. Students learn at different rates and have different strengths. A teacher would be privy to the student needs and strengths, but these tests do nothing to improve student growth. Let’s get rid of them and put the money into allowing students to use their imagination and exploration skills, not practicing for another high stakes test!

  163. Paul W 08. Feb, 2015 at 12:52 am #

    Those that trumpet Common Core do so because it “teaches critical thinking”. And many of the Standards do exactly that. Why, then, are these same people so gung-ho about a test that has nothing to do with these critical thinking Standards at all? The only thing these tests measure is income level. If your children go to a school with a low percentage of free/reduced lunch students, chances are they will do well. Students in high poverty areas, not so much.

    Also, we are now being told that these test scores will have a direct impact on our evaluations and the decision on whether we remain employed or not. Yet the only subjects tested are ELA and Math. Is it truly fair to tie a Music teacher’s job to test scores for students in a subject he doesn’t even teach?

  164. Jennifer Martin 08. Feb, 2015 at 1:20 am #

    As a resident of Florida where a school accountability program, with its associated high stakes testing and school grading system, has been in place for over a decade, and as a mother of two boys who were subjected to the narrowed, worthless curriculum and over-testing with a faulty test and inconsistent annual cut scores, I can tell you this system does not work and does the opposite of what those pushing accountability says it does. Being accountable means being able to be trusted to do what is right, but since school accountability actually prevents kids from getting individual needs met in the push to make every child learn the same thing the same way, school accountability completely fails to do what it is purported to do. I’ve seen too many kids badly affected, including my own gifted kids who got a dumbed down, grade-level-only, one-size-fits-all education that didn’t prepare them for college. When my son applied for college, an admissions representative told a group of parents at the school tour that the school hated all the testing because kids were coming into college unprepared, and from what I saw after my kids and their friends went to college, that was a true statement.

    School accountability is derived from business accountability systems. Motorola developed the Six Sigma system, but also died by it. Motorola engineers at the Florida plant had several mantras they repeated continuously as they watched Motorola implode due to over-reliance on an accountability system with a base philosophy similar to the school accountability system. These mantras were, “be careful what you measure”, “the metrics become the goal”, and “we’re just chasing the metrics.” It is not true that if all standards or metrics are measured at an acceptable level then the overall, broad goal is met.

    Accountability systems initially were designed for the manufacturing of products to reduce defects so all units are exactly alike. However, people (teachers, students, employees) are not products, don’t have defects that need to be eliminated, and are not all the same with the same needs, abilities and desires. Joseph Juran first introduced the human element to the Six Sigma system, but there are big differences between applying these systems to human beings as opposed to inanimate objects in a production line, and even Juran knew that adjustments had to be made. Just ask the 3M Corporation because it had to abandon Six Sigma when the program impeded creativity and discovery and almost killed the company, similarly to what happened to Motorola (another firm dependent on tech research requiring engineers to exhibit creativity and engage in discovery.) Young children learn by discovery, so what does 3Ms experience and Motorola’s experience indicate about how a similar system affects learning? Decision-making for something as important as a child’s education cannot be reduced to a simple black/white or yes/no answer without consideration of nuances and special conditions that affect each unique child. School accountability systems do not and cannot measure what the public thinks they measure and they do not and cannot encourage a nurturing environment where children’s individual needs can be met so they can learn not only subject material, but also learn to think and to think critically.

  165. Mike Archer 08. Feb, 2015 at 1:52 am #

    “At this point, the discussion is no longer about testing, it’s about learning and how we propose to be responsible about it—especially with reference to historically under-served children and their families.”

    You certainly will not be responsible about learning by pretending test-based accountability is sound education policy. Education research tells us what works. The current nonstop blitz of high-stakes, misused, and overused standardized testing could not be farther away from that.

    Those who set education policy have allowed blind worship of metrics to replace human judgment and wisdom. Why? Because when you pretend to have quantified a problem, then you can sell a quantified solution.

    Education “reform” as now practiced is not about education. It’s about building and sustaining markets for education products and services.

  166. Michael Pena 08. Feb, 2015 at 1:52 am #

    A year ago, I would have been stunned by the number of responses to your question, John. I would have thought that the Arne Duncan argument for accountability would have people nodding in agreement. If this is the reponse today, could you imagine where this will be in 2016 as the presidential race is really underway?

    Teachers have been the punching bags for politicians over the last couple of decades. They have sat quietly by, working to meet an increasing number of mandates that have created a mess in public schools- and it’s those mandates that have resulted in the stagnation that people always seem to point to as some sign that there is a problem in our school systems. And there is a problem with our public schools- too much political game-playing, fancy regulations that take time away from the children who need to taught, and an increase in oversight that seeks to create an unnecessary homogeneity in a country that prides itself on its diversity.

    It seems to contain a bit of irony, to me, in that one of our key tools in knowing our students- assessments- has become a weapon in the hands of those who seek to privatize schools. I won’t restate the numerous points people have made about how we use authentic assessments in our classrooms in ways that benefit students and teachers, or talk about the money trail to the various corporations and philanthropic organizations that seek to make a buck off of kids. There’s no more need to point out Secretary Duncan’s disconnect with a public schools system that he was never a part of or how the data collected by these tests only continue to show that the differences between schools and students reflect only their zip codes.

    As for the “accountability” piece that usually comes up when standardized tests are discussed…. Yes, taxpayers fund schools and as teachers, we wish to make sure they get their money’s worth. But we feel an even deeper level of accountability- we are morally and ethically responsible to and for every child that walks in to our classrooms. They come for an education and a development of their minds. Whether they become doctors or painters, scientists or dancers, engineers or musicians- they should each have the chance to learn to explore their own interests in the safety of acceptance that we give them. Parents trust us to help their children learn how to see and understand the world, and we are obligated to them to do so. We are also accountable to the teachers who have had our students before, to continue the lessons they learned before us; to those whom we share our students with each day to make sure we continue to connect the lessons they learn throughout each day; and to those who will have our students in the future, so that they can continue to open new doors to understanding as the student moves on in life.

    The carrot-and-stick approach to strengthening our public school system wil never work. Teaching is a “calling”, as I’ve heard so many times. We shed the same blood, sweat, and tears each school year as our students do- and there’s no test that can measure that. No multiple-choice science assessment can measure a student’s ability to do science- science is a process, not a regurgitation of facts. No test can measure how a student can apply meaning to a reading passage, for our understandings of the written word are filtered through our own individual experiences. No writing test can ever measure the simple beauty in constructing meanings out of words, how we put them together, and how they may be interpreted by the reader.

    To standardize those processes is a moral crime to the work we do with our students, and parents are awakening to that knowledge. Hundreds of thousands? Here’s to hoping that number grows much higher when it comes to parents opting out of the tests- and to teachers giving them.

  167. Michael 08. Feb, 2015 at 2:05 am #

    For three long years I have poured myself into this cesspool of CCRAP. I now know Corespeak, I can sniff out a pro-CCRAP troll a mile away and could have a PhD in this subject. What I’ve found is when I separate and then DQ anyone because they are tied to and therefore prostitute themselves for the money, there is nobody left to talk to. On the other hand, there are hundreds of thousands if not a million parents, teachers and advocates with nothing but children in their hearts; trying to fight this evil for profit abuse of children for nothing but that. Add to the anti side all those that can and do Refuse by way of private or homeschool. We refuse because it is the right thing to do for the children and everything else is just evil noise.

  168. Sandy Stenoff 08. Feb, 2015 at 3:19 am #

    Since last June, Opt Out Orlando has helped parents, teachers and former teachers to start their own local Opt Out groups in 26 separate districts across the state of Florida. In this way, parents and teachers have become empowered to address their specific concerns and to advocate for their children and students in their local communities.

    When parents make the decision for their child to opt out, some have expressed fear or hesitation; others say they are repudiated, even accused of placing the burden of opting out on their (often young) children. But the burden of excessive, punitive high stakes tests on the children is a far greater burden for children to bear, which is not imposed by their parents. Children are really on the front lines for matters that have nothing to do with their actual learning.

    When we ask children, especially young children, to bear the burden of performing on a single test, or else… in order to ensure their promotion, graduation, possible retention and/or remediation, whether their teacher’s contract is renewed, whether their school stays open, whether their school gets the right grade to ensure adequate funding, it is oppressive and abusive. There is no way that it cannot be.

    Those are adult concerns and have no place in any child’s education.

    Far more important than the FACT that high stakes testing does NOT serve the educational needs of children and does NOT inform or improve teachers’ instruction, is the FACT that it CAUSES REAL HARM to children, their teachers and their schools, and it needs to STOP.

    To allow children to participate in this farce is to condone and perpetuate these oppressive and abusive policies.

    I harbor no illusions that our education leaders would publicly support the Opt Out movement. Many do so quietly, and are only quiet out of fear. I am hopeful that they are understanding and supportive of parents as we advocate for multiple measures of authentic assessments for our children AND teachers. We as parents must do what we can to protect our children, their education, their very health, well-being, and best interests, which, because children are our most vulnerable population, must morally supersede any state mandate or law. Our current education accountability laws are, at best, misguided, and at worst, abusive, and must be overhauled. We advocate for lasting relief from punitive laws for our children and teachers. I am confident that our success to that end will only strengthen public education in Florida.

    Opting out is not easy. It is not an action parents “choose” without great consideration of all of the consequences. It truly is our last resort, in order to bring to bear the appropriate pressure on legislators to effect positive, meaningful and lasting change to the laws governing public education.

    We are grassroots and we are growing.

    Sandy Stenoff
    Opt Out Orlando

  169. heather charles 08. Feb, 2015 at 5:13 am #

    As someone who grew up poor in the era of high stakes testing and an educator, I can speak to the massive destruction testing has done to our communities and children. Testing replaced real leaning and authentic assessment, especially for poor children, whose scores were essentialized and turned into a tool to label these children as deviant and in need of a less rich education. What limited money the schools had was now going towards testing, instead of equalizing education resources for the poor. The scores were then used to justify the closure of neighborhood schools which were promptly replaced by charters that lack accountability and engage in horrible practices that criminalize the poor and don’t improve the quality of education. My high school was one of the first to be closed down, we had no textbooks, no AP classes and a revolving door of under qualified and over stretched educators and the charters are the same, but they also have the power to kick children out of school for minor infractions or refuse entry to the most difficult kids.

    When I got to Stanford I began to see just how different the education my peers received and the one I received was and it is a travesty of justice. I have yet to see high stakes standardize tests measure anything of value and provide anything of value and anyone else who went to a public school in my generation is keenly aware of how awful and stupid these tests are. So even if there aren’t the numbers now, Millenials will eventually mobilize and challenge these tests and then you will see widespread generation revolt, the early stirrings of which we’ve seen in places like Seattle.

  170. Bev F 08. Feb, 2015 at 6:14 am #

    I am protest. Every reason why has already been stated.
    Where are the Pro-Test people and their reasons why they are ? I would imagine the answers you may get is accountability. They will never say, look at all the money we are making. Then we must ask the question, where is their accountability, credibility and morality ?
    One may like to create a “test” so to speak to hold them accountable. I’m certain the pro-testers would fail miserably.
    Research who the Pro-Testers are and you may understand how we got to where we are today.

  171. SueSis 08. Feb, 2015 at 6:28 am #

    I am a New York State teacher. I have been a teacher for 22 years. The New York State Common Core Assessments administered over the past 2 years are a farce. They differ significantly from the state assessments given during the previous 10 years. They are designed to make your child FAIL! PROTEST the test!

    Reading levels on the assessments are well above grade level. Archaic language is used. Math is embedded within long reading passages making it hard to know whether it’s a math or reading error. On the multiple choice section, answers are so close, it can be a guessing game even for the teacher.

    Assessments used to be released afterwards to be used to improve instruction. They are now held secret and teachers must sign gag agreements which prevent us from even speaking about the questions with anyone. Administrators cannot even see the questions on the assessments. To be fair, NYS did release some questions last year.

    Should parents and administrators see the passages and questions our children are being expected to read and process, all hell would break lose–and SHOULD. This is why teachers are upset. WE see all of the questions. WE see our students and their successes DAILY. Then, during the 6 days of assessments, WE see their shoulders sink in defeat as they sit through these assessments. WE see their tears. WE see them feel stupid. WE see them think of themselves as failures. Our students are NOT stupid or failures. Our political system is failing them. This country is no longer functioning as a democracy as far as education is concerned.

    The politics and money surrounding the Common Core need to stop. We are damaging a generation of children. OUR children. Mr. Obama, Mr. Gates, Mr. Duncan, please, let teachers get back to our jobs of teaching this next generation of children.

  172. Joanne Brabham 08. Feb, 2015 at 6:53 am #

    John,
    Make sense of the testing calender for Hillsborough County please and then explain to me how this is not complete madness. Once parents fully realize what is happening in our schools, then the idea of “opting out” will seem far less radical…

    Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screening (FLKRS) Aug 19, 2014
    Postsecondary Educational Readiness Test (PERT)-11th-12th grade Aug 19, 2014
    Math Formative 1 – 3rd-5th grades Aug 25, 2014
    Kindergarten Readiness Test (KRT) Aug 25, 2014
    Writing Formative Assessment-6th-8th grades Aug 25, 2014
    Science Formative – 5th grade Aug 25, 2014
    Science Formative Assessment-6th-8th grades & Biology Aug 26, 2014
    Writing Formative Assessment-9th-11th grades Aug 26, 2014
    FitnessGram (PE Formative)-2nd & 5th grades Sep 2, 2014
    Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading (FAIR)-K-10th grade (11th & 12th as needed) Sep 2, 2014
    ACT Testing Sep 13, 2014
    Fall Adminstration of End of Course Assessments-US Hist, Bio 1, Alg 1, Geo Sep 15, 2014
    Fall Pretests (entry level 1/credit earning courses)-7th-12th grades Sep 16, 2014
    Kindergarten Readiness Test (KRT) Sep 19, 2014
    FCAT 2.0 Reading & Math Retakes-10th grade(retained/as needed) – 11th, 12th, Adult (as needed) Oct 6, 2014
    SAT Testing Oct 11, 2014
    Math Formative/Diagnostic Test A-6th-8th grades Oct 13, 2014
    Math Benchmark Formative/Diagnostic Test A (high school students) Oct 13, 2014
    ReadiStep-7th grade Oct 15, 2014
    PSAT-9th-11th grades Oct 15, 2014
    ELA Interim Assessment-2nd-5th grades Oct 21, 2014
    ACT Testing Oct 25, 2014
    ACT Testing Oct 26, 2014
    Writing Formative-6th-8th grades Nov 4, 2014
    SAT Testing Nov 8, 2014
    Math Formative 2-3rd-5th grades Nov 10, 2014
    Social Studies Formative (US History-honors & regular) Nov 10, 2014
    Science Formative-5th & 8th grades Dec 1, 2014
    Writing Formative Assessment-9th-11th grades Dec 1, 2014
    Personal Fitness Exam (select students) Dec 1, 2014
    Winter Administration of End of Course Assessments (EOC)-US Hist, Bio 1, Alg 1, Geo Dec 1, 2014
    FSA English Language Arts Writing Component Field Test-select schools only Dec 1, 2014
    Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading (FAIR)-K-10th grade (11th & 12th as needed) Dec 1, 2014
    FitnessGram (PE Formative)-6th-8th grades Dec 1, 2014
    SAT Testing Dec 6, 2014
    ACT Testing Dec 13, 2014
    ACT Testing Dec 14, 2014
    ELA Interim Assessment-2nd-5th grades Jan 12, 2015
    Mid-year and Semester Exams-6th-12th grades Jan 13, 2015
    SAT Testing Jan 24, 2015
    NAEP / TUDA-selected schools (4th, 8th, 12th) Jan 26, 2015
    ACT Testing Feb 7, 2015
    Math Formative 3-3rd-4th grades Feb 16, 2015
    Spring Pretests-7th-12th grades (entry level 1/credit earning courses-Art, CTE, English, Drivers Ed) Feb 17, 2015
    Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA)-(3rd-11th grades, ESE non-FCAT) Feb 23, 2015
    SAT-11th grade Feb 25, 2015
    Florida Standards Assessment (FSA)-4th-11th grades Mar 2, 2015
    Comprehensive English Language Learner Assessment (CELLA)-K-12th grade (ELL) Mar 2, 2015
    SAT Testing Mar 14, 2015
    Science Formatives-Bio 1 enrolled students Mar 16, 2015
    Social Studies Formative (US History-honors & regular) Mar 16, 2015
    Math Formative B-6th-8th grades Mar 23, 2015
    FCAT 2.0 Reading Retakes-10th (retained), 11th, 12th, & Adults (as needed) Mar 23, 2015
    Stanford 10 Complete 1st-2nd grades Mar 23, 2015
    Florida Standards Assessment (FSA)-3rd-4th grades (ELA & Math-paper based) Mar 23, 2015
    Algebra EOC Retakes-10th-Adult (retakers only) Mar 30, 2015
    Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading(FAIR)-K-8th grades Apr 6, 2015
    Florida Standards Assessment (FSA)-5th-8th grades (Math); 5th-11th (ELA) Apr 13, 2015
    FCAT 2.0 Science-5th & 8th grades Apr 13, 2015
    Stanford 10 Abbreviated-3rd grade Apr 14, 2015
    ACT Testing Apr 18, 2015
    ACT Testing Apr 19, 2015
    Biology EOC (FSA)-Bio 1 enrolled students Apr 20, 2015
    Algebra II EOC (FSA)-Alg II enrolled students Apr 27, 2015
    KRT Posttest-Kindergarten May 1, 2015
    FitnessGram-PE Posttest-2nd & 5th-8th grades May 1, 2015
    Art, Music, PE, Dance District Assessment-1st-5th grades May 1, 2015
    SAT Testing May 2, 2015
    Geometry EOC (FSA)-Geo enrolled students-first time testers only May 4, 2015
    International Baccalaureate (IB) Testing-11th-12th IB students May 4, 2015
    Personal Fitness Exam-select students May 4, 2015
    Advanced Placement (AP) Exams-9th-12th grade AP enrolled students May 4, 2015
    Algebra I EOC (FSA)-Alg 1 enrolled students May 11, 2015
    End of Year Math-Kindergarten May 11, 2015
    End of Year Science-K-4th grades May 11, 2015
    Civics EOC (NGSSS)-7th grade May 18, 2015
    US History EOC (NGSSS)-9-12th grade (US History enrolled students) May 18, 2015
    End of Year and Semester Exams-6th-11th grades; 12th grade (as needed) Jun 1, 2015
    SAT Testing Jun 6, 2015
    ACT Testing Jun 13, 2015
    ACT Testing Jun 14, 2015
    Stanford 10-3rd grade Jul 7, 2015
    Summer Administration of EOC’s Jul 13, 2015
    Printed on Feb 8, 2015

  173. Manhattan Mother 08. Feb, 2015 at 7:09 am #

    60K opt outs in NY state aren’t insignificant, and will only grow!

    LI Opt Out Info on Facebook is a huge group. Take a look.

    And watch this teacher’s testimony to the US Senate:
    http://dianeravitch.net/2015/02/07/jia-lee-a-teacher-of-conscience-speaks-out/

  174. Clementine 08. Feb, 2015 at 7:27 am #

    Here’s a thought experiment:

    A kindergarten teacher’s students are going to take a test that impacts her performance evaluation, job security and salary. (Though her own classroom-based assessments that show how many of her students are at grade level for literacy and math, while useful in guiding her own curricul planning, don’t count.)

    Does she continue her rich, experiential curriculum in which children play while learning academic content, social and personal skills (which research is showing lays the most powerful foundation for academic and lifelong success – see the new Alliance for Childhood report)?

    Or does she stop and take time to prepare them to take the test – how to answer bubble questions, use the computer programs, how to sit quietly and “show what they know” while they are used to talking and interacting as they think?

    She’d be a fool not to prepare them with so much on the line! It’s a horrible position to be in.

  175. Laura 08. Feb, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    There’s definitely a movement in Florida. Too much time is spent on test prep. Common core dI want take into account the different learning styles of children. How can that benefit them?? It holds teachers accountable for MANY mistakes on tests and holds teachers a accountable for students they have NEVER TAUGHT!

    It is ludicrous. My oldest child just started school this year and she will REFUSE every high stakes test. My child, MY choice.

  176. Mary Palmstrom 08. Feb, 2015 at 7:55 am #

    As others have noted, the various groups you note as being rather small are growing. And, they are not they only groups working to change the mandatory testing requirements. If you talk to educators, all will agree some testing and measuring is necessary and can be very helpful when done properly. Students involved in these tests will spend 12 plus hours each year due to the number of mandated tests. In some instances the teacher and student will never get to see the actual results or missed questions, and some results will take at least a year to come back. More and more people will join this fight as the real picture is shared with them.

    If you want to learn more about other issues related to how these tests may fail our students, please read the testimony share with part of the Ohio Legislature by the Superitendent of the Mentor Ohio School District.

    http://filecabinet7.eschoolview.com/F9F45258-FA91-4486-9FF3-E8173D51825C/Testimony%20on%20Testing.pdf

    keep watching — we may look small now, but things are changing

  177. Amnet 08. Feb, 2015 at 8:02 am #

    When our teachers are no longer gagged and bound, our movement will no longer seem like a “thousand tiny grass-roots”. There are hundreds of thousands of parents that don’t understand what’s happening here. And their first line of defense, those men and women that are in the trenches with their kids, can’t speak up. If my son’s teachers came to me and said “there’s something bad happening in our classrooms and we need your help” we wouldn’t have questions about legitimacy. Instead we hear “we’ll be doing what we need to, to prepare your children for the test.” because they’re afraid to speak up, afraid to lose their jobs. We need to take our classrooms away from the politicians and ‘for profit’ companies and give them back to the educators. The ONLY people who really know what our children need.

  178. Kay Hutchinson 08. Feb, 2015 at 8:34 am #

    I am a parent of three children ages 7, 12, and 14 in GA. I am also a psychologist with expertise in children, families and schools. My former work includes serving as an elementary school counselor, teaching at the university level as an assistant professor, play therapy, and coordinating projects in schools that focused on building children’s social, emotional and academic competencies- especially through relationships with their teachers. I am appalled at the turn in education over the past decade and especially in the past few years. NCLB put us on a train headed for destruction that sped up with RTTT. My reasonable nature had me assuming things would slow down, shift, turn- I could not have imagined where we would be. I live in a district with a Broad trained superintendent hired by a Broad trained board. They follow the ideas of Broad, Michelle Rhee, Gates, etc. The corporate reform plans unfold one after another. I can’t see much or any of it being for the good of children and teens. It has also been a terrible shift for teachers. GA’s new teacher evaluation system is insulting micromanagement and has everyone obsessed with data to the point that it is hard to “see” the students. Test scores will account for 50% of teacher evaluations beginning next year. I have tried to play nice in the sand box, working with leaders to communicate concerns and advocate for better. Those many hours of effort only paid off occasionally with small changes. It is clear few to none who are part of the system are going to protect our children (and I don’t count teachers as part of the system bc so much of this is aimed at them). So parents have to stop the train. Some teachers can also risk stopping the train. Even students can help stop the train. We are refusing the tests. In PROTEST. No dash.

  179. Anna 08. Feb, 2015 at 8:37 am #

    Our school library has become nothing but a testing center. We have tested the kids to the point we can determine their reading level down to the month but they have little access to the books in the library because of the endless testing going on all year. (See the testing calendar above. Our district is no different.)

    Test defenders claim that testing only takes a few days out of the school year per child but that is not the true picture. We have district mandated tests and state mandated tests in every subject. We test in order to predict how we will do on the BIG test. (Who knows? The test itself has yet to be tested in FL.) It creates a school environment that affects everyone, whether they are testing that particular day or not. It dominates the classroom conversations and the faculty conversations. It has caused recess to be eliminated and turned libraries into testing centers. All monies go toward computers for testing and curriculum that teaches to the test.

    The effects of this toxic testing culture has permeated public education to disastrous effects. Parents see the stress in their children and the teachers that stay are frustrated and demoralized. Charter school management companies are making fortunes while public schools are starved of resources. What little we have must be spent on the tests. It is time for the public to take back public education from Pearson, Gates and the Waltons. It is time to refuse the tests!

  180. David 08. Feb, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    Just a few points:

    1. Any test that is used to punish teachers and students is a misuse of assessment. The standardized tests yield nothing that educators can use to improve the teaching and learning of the student who take the tests.

    2. It isn’t just the seat time of individual students. I will have to administer the equivalent of almost 25,000 tests between March 2 and May 22 this year. That negatively impacts every single one of the students in my school for the duration of the assessment window.

    3. Ed reformers are so tied up on “objective” measures (and no test is objective) and quantifying students that they have lost sight of the fact that there is no “standardized” student, teacher, classroom or school and that a large and vital part of education defies quantification – it is qualitative. This is the reason many (most?) successful educational systems like Finland do not try and quantify much. Evaluations of both teachers and students are done via qualitative measures.

    4. Most of this is about money. Don’t kid yourself. When your state school board and members of the senate have ties to charter school companies there is motivation to do as much damage as possible to public schools to justify the transfer of public funds to private corporations. And many will shout “competition” but having spent a good deal of my life in various competitions, this is the first one where all competitors do not have to play by the same rules. I’m not sure I agree that education should be a competition, but if it is shouldn’t everyone have to play by the same rules?

    5. As an educator I am obligated to adhere to the laws that our legislators make. I cannot advocate Opt-Out etc. to my students. And since our legislature has made teaching an “at will” occupation it is unlikely that there i going to be a large scale uprising among educators. You didn’t really believe stripping educators of due process was about getting rid of bad teachers or improving schools, did you?

    6. As a parent, any system that tests kindergarteners or causes my son t come home crying in 2nd grade about a test in 3rd grade that may keep him out of 4th grade is a system that I am obligated to protect him from. Every parent has a moral obligation to protect their children from harm and abuse.

    There is plenty more to say and almost none of it is positive.

  181. Hannah 08. Feb, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    My husband and I are both teachers. We find it necessary to refuse testing for our kids. I have taken the tests and corrected the new cc tests. They are abusive. The focus of a school year should not be on one test. Sadly, it is.

  182. Sue Woltanski 08. Feb, 2015 at 8:49 am #

    Last year, I discovered that my 10 yr old daughter was scheduled to take 45 standardized reading tests during her K-8 school years. This included the ever-changing Florida state tests and a slew of both state and district mandated “progress monitoring ” tests (which I like to call “the test you take to test whether you’re ready to take the test”). This is in addition to the almost weekly reading tests her teacher required. All this for a little girl who has always read well above grade level and spends hours reading everyday. The state and progress monitoring tests, because they assess grade level proficiency, provide little to no information regarding the academic growth of my, above-grade-level, reader. They do, however, cause undue stress on my child, her classmates and her teachers and they narrow the focus of instruction to the point that passing the state test appears to be all that matters (she spent a good deal of time in 3rd grade learning “test taking skills, like “eliminate the wrong answers”, etc.). Since my daughter could presumably have passed the 3rd grade reading test before third grade, what does that narrowed focus mean for her right to a “free and appropriate education”? On top of all of that, our schools and district are spending huge portions of our school budget to improve the technology in our schools but the computer lab is almost constantly used for testing, test prep and remediation, so little real computer education, which might, actually, prepare my child for a career in the future, is ever provided. I say PROTEST!

  183. SunshineMsB 08. Feb, 2015 at 9:12 am #

    Those who are “protesting” these tests are not inherently “anti-testing”. Teachers believe in the value of assessing their students and monitoring growth. What we are against is the dangerous implementation of developmentally inappropriate standards and high-stakes standardized tests that haven’t been actually tested prior to implementation and were designed by people who obviously have no background in child development.

    These tests in NY state are designed with cut scores – that’s right, the test is designed with a specific percentage of failures. The children are being set up to fail. On the new NYS ELA exams, children are being tested with reading passages that are two, sometimes THREE grade levels ahead of the grade that they are currently in. That is not “rigorous”, that is unfair and invalid assessment. One test included a poem written in British syntax for a third grade ELA exam, a READING comprehension exam. How is that fair?

    The questions are specifically designed to trick the children, the actual directions say that students will be presented with more than one plausible answer, and must determine which one is “more correct”. Third grade. But of course, the general public doesn’t really know this, because educators are strictly told to NEVER discuss the test with anyone (not even our own coworkers), and the tests themselves are not released to the public (even after they are scored).

    I could go on here, but I will leave you with this: teachers are not anti-assessment, we are anti-unfair, developmentally inappropriate assessment.

  184. Katie 08. Feb, 2015 at 9:22 am #

    If a math book has 14 chapters, you would think students would be finishing chapter 6 in the waning days of December as they head into winter break. Try chapter 9 instead. The high stakes of standardized testing has forced teachers and schools to condense an entire year’s worth of learning into the 6-7 months of school before the big test. Countless days within those 6-7 months are eaten up by required school or district tests used to project how students will do on the big test. Students are individual people; no two are alike, and therefore no two learn in exactly the same way or at the exact same pace. Teachers are forced to choose between teaching at a pace that allows students to master the material–but leaving entire concepts untaught when the big state test rolls around or teaching at a pace that will expose the students to all of the material before the test–but leaving some students woefully lost because they didn’t have enough time to internalize and master the concepts. It doesn’t take much though to see how either option poses problems.

    It’s all because so much rides on the results of that one big test: whether third graders move on to fourth grade, whether high schoolers graduate, a student’s ability to take electives which might spark a passion or double reading/math with a triple dose of test prep, the school’s grade, local real estate values, the amount of funding the school receives, their teacher’s evaluation, whether their beloved teacher gets to keep his/her job, and (eventually) said teacher’s salary. To put this kind of pressure on children, whether they are 8, 11, or 16 is a ridiculous burden. From an academic sense, children should only need to worry about whether they understand the concepts. That way they can focus on the serious work of childhood: how to play, how to take turns, how to respect others, how to show compassion for all, how to be a good friend, how to take responsibility for one’s words and actions, how to care for one’s mind and body, how to be an ethical person, and how to speak for those who have been silenced.

    Come to think of it, many of the above traits seem to be lacking among the politicians and the powerful who are behind these high stakes tests. Perhaps they never mastered the serious work of childhood and therefore do not value other people’s children’s right to do so.

  185. Don DeVito 08. Feb, 2015 at 9:27 am #

    Whoever suggested the “sit and stare” approach clearly doesn’t know students. This will never work and parents won’t tolerate their tax money being wasted. If a student opts out they would tend to have the support of the parent and would more likely keep them home. There is too much politics tied to the tests. Simply implementing the standards without these rushed and questionable exams would have accomplished a great many of the goals and kept both sides tolerant.

  186. Samantha Goodowens 08. Feb, 2015 at 10:21 am #

    Thank you for bringing to light that there are so many who are concerned with how our government is providing education. The misnomer is that it is pro-test vs. con-test. That argument is a symptom of the problem – not the cause.
    Currently our government is looking to gauge whether we are providing an education that can properly prepare our children for life in a global marketplace. I don’t think anyone would have a problem with that goal. We’re all worried about our children and the future. It’s incredibly scary considering we don’t know what the next 5 years is going to look like, how can we imagine what the future will look like for my 8year old?
    Unfortunately, the way we are trying to discover with our children is not only inaccurate, studies are beginning to show that it is exactly the OPPOSITE way to prepare a student for logical thinking or abstract problem solving (MIT study funded by GATES Foundation). The punitive repercussions to the child, the teacher, the schools and the districts based on the results of these tests have literally hijacked the curriculum. We are no longer teaching and then evaluating. We simply just teach to the test.
    But the test providers are saying we are using them wrong.
    Pearson Company (makers of PARCC) “The customer agrees and understands that our products are intended to be used in the overall assessment process, and are not designed to be used alone or to replace the customers professional judgement”.
    Why isn’t that common knowledge?
    Not only aren’t we giving the results WAY too much power, we are assuming the results are accurate measures of a student’s knowledge. In reality these tests are designed to get a result of a certain percentage in each level. No matter what the schools do, the tests are designed to produce the same results.
    And what of the children on either side of the standard curve? What measures are in place to measure the children who are already known not to be standard…. do these tests measure them against themselves so we can see growth? My children, students in Florida, are in the 99.999% in IQ. We have a terrible time finding them appropriate educational environments because Florida has an anemic gifted program. They also “under perform” on these tests. This is because the high IQ test taker can get bogged down on the semantic errors and vagaries (intentionally placed in the questions as detractors) and lose sight of the time, or the intention of the questions. With low test scores, regardless of their other achievements (of which there are many), they are ineligible for educational opportunities. An unintended consequence for many, the repercussions of the one test- one opinion approach to our students, ineffectively and expensively puts them in the wrong classrooms.
    And what happens when you don’t participate? If the real goal is to evaluate the children to make sure they’re meeting the standards, then why is the result of a missing score immediate punishment rather than an established process to garner that information in another way? Are we really suggesting that EVERY person can use the SAME tool in the SAME way? How is there not already an alternative approach simply as a matter of common sense? Why such a vehement and aggressive response from the government when parents simply ask for an alternative? It sort of begs the question of their intent in the first place.
    I am not against trying to make sure we’re doing right by our kids. We all want the best for our children’s future. But I’m not so focused on their future that I’ve lost sight of making sure their present is pretty good too.

  187. Tim Slekar 08. Feb, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    I keep thinking about this issue like this.

    Pro-test: Astroturf groups with large amounts of resources and power.

    Protest: The people

    If it’s about numbers in each it’s obvious that the Protest group represents far more thousands of real people truly concerned about the future of public education. Can the Pro-test group even claim a single “person?”

  188. Jamy Brice-Hyde M.Ed. 08. Feb, 2015 at 10:53 am #

    The very idea that a standardized test measures learning is completely opposite to the extensive research that has exposed how the brain learns! The idea that school districts are spending in some cases 45 or more days per school year on standardized testing is obscene! These children are being robbed of so many opportunities to grow and explore learning! Recess is being cut back for test prep! Can you imagine not have time on the playground in elementary school? I would have felt like I was in prison! I am a high school teacher of AP students along with regular ed and mainstreamed special education students. I have been teaching this grade level since 2000. I teach in an affluent community where education is valued by all stakeholders and almost half of my students have college educated parents. From 2000 to 2008 my high school students were innovative, creative thinkers ,enjoying collaboration and many truly loved to read. Then in 2009 i started to see a difference these were the kids that were a product of NCLB (test and punish stage one). I suddenly observed kids that feared and exhibited tremendous anxiety during quizzes and unit tests. Common requests as i shared the wonders of history multiple times during a class “is this going to be on the test?” The focus of students on test scores obscure their love of learning! As time marched forward and my first group of students arrived from RTTT and I am witnessing significantly high levels of anxiety,. Students actually asked, “does this test count against you?” along with “i can’t do these tests” RTTT is NCLB on steroids creating a test and punish environment here in NY that borders on child abuse. I am seeing a drop in performance instead of increased success. By the time I get these kids the system of test and punish has beaten our most vulnerable students into believing they are not capable. The CCSS high stakes tests administered here in NY were not age appropriate . Students who excelled in school were told they were failures in need of academic intervention services. Parents reported elementary students who told them they were not smart anymore! Local counselors have seen a rise in children with anxiety issues, some even calling it Common Core Syndrome. Teachers had to sign gag orders on tests that public tax dollars had paid to design. Teachers were provided no feedback on tests at all or useful data. The following school year in October when a new academic year had already commenced they may see some data but nothing useful to assist them in better serving their students. The data provided was about students they no longer served. The most disturbing component of these high stakes tests is that students no longer think creatively. I have observed a significant drop in ability to analyze, innovate and collaborate here among my high school students. They just want to know what is on the test and be able to regurgitate that information. This is not preparing students for colleges where a majority of your work is analysis, innovation, presentation and collaboration. There are few courses in college where bubble tests drive the curriculum. The idea we are preparing students for college is a sham! High stakes testing provides them with zero skills for the real world. As a matter of fact many colleges are no longer using SAT and high stakes test scores for admittance as they have found them a poor indicator of success in college! So why have we gotten to this point? One prominent businessman said, “Public Education is a 500 billion dollar untapped business opportunity.” These test do nothing but line pockets of wealthy corporations while our children starve for the rich education you and I were afforded.

  189. Laura 08. Feb, 2015 at 11:11 am #

    I live in CA, where we were sold common core standards separated from the Common Core State Tests. Our Govenor and state superintendent rightfully refused to both field test and state test our students. They refused to use the data of a test that was being field tested for placement, evaluation purposes. This move is now applauded as CA getting it right, but the grand cognitive disconnect is that the Common Core Standards can be viewed separately. They can’t be, they weren’t. My district adopted the Common Core Standards with “aligned” curriculum and tests. The whole package…I challenge you to find a district that didn’t. (Exception is Orange County) Districts’ budget hands were forced in order to receive their portion of Local Control Funding. What that translates to is this; I teach first grade, this year all our children k-6 were tested in our brand new computer lab to establish growth data, by September all teachers had a meeting with their supervising principals regarding their student scores. The results were invalid, children cried, looked at each other’s screens, lost screens yet we still had these meetings because it was a directive from the top. A month later teachers received a new “aligned” report card that included a section to record the computer reading &math score. The reading score showed parents a Lexile reading level equivalency. Look up Lexile levels…they measure complexity of text not grade level. When both teachers & site administrators complained the district finally walked it back so we do not have to test our k-1 students this way. Another product we received is the “aligned” curriculum. It has been a nightmare. It came directly from the reform ideas of New York. It is called Engage NY. In first grade it is a 30-50 minute daily Read Aloud lesson instead of a real book selected by the teacher. In math the worksheets are horrendous. The publishing company (Rupert Murdoch, Amplify) has no incentive to incur costs of improvement, make user friendly because the fix is in…we had 0 choice to purchase. At a testing meeting this week our Testing, Data Director gave teacher leaders a 90 minute session regarding the California’s new state specific test site. (CAASPP) we are to encourage our teaćhers to use this site to practice taking the tests. Originally SBAC offered interim tests that were just as long as the SBAC so students could feel & “build stamina” when taking the real test in the spring. Since SBAC just released that version, are requiring local districts to incur costs of scoring. it is no longer an option. We were told we will not receive scores until the end June. How is that better than paper pencil tests? We were told EDT has the contract to score the whole state. Yes, $15 per hour job will determine placement, ranking teacher effectiveness, & school. We can’t verify scores. Since when do taxpayers have to fork out billions to companies’ without testing out the product? Verifying its utility? Common Core Standards emphasize children cite sources for their “opinions”, what if the source is no more worthy of citation than Rupert Murdoch’s English paparazzi sourced Mag rags? Is this who we want to own and distribute the content to our children? Are we going to I trust them to keep our children’ private data safe? Ask Sony how safe it is…Teachers don’t have the energy or time to question, fight ill conceived mandates that are a direct result of bad federal policy. By the time anything is corrected (if) the damage is done. The front line site professionals are the ones that take the “heat”. There is no accountability at the district level for million dollar mistakes. Poverty schools need great teaching not computer assessments, they need music, art, science camp, computer lab that is used for more than test training or skill reinforcement. On another note, is this a movement or a little ripple…There will be a time when ALL citizens will have to take a side. Despite the lack, silencing, buying off of every education organization by Bill &Melinda Gates foundation and affiliated non profits…the word is out, PR will not trump school closures, illigetimate data, insecure data, children hating school, misuse and abuse of tests. Teachers are parents, parents are employed by many organizations, we are connected in more ways now than ever before. One ripple creates many more…the question is when will the tsunami hit?

  190. Larry Proffitt 08. Feb, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    The false premise offered by those that a test can measure learning is an antique idea. When tests are announced, students cram their heads with a brutal attempt at mass memorization. The same is true of standardized tests. Students are tested and protested to boredom and disinterest in academia. Not only is this approach ineffective for testing and learning purposes, it wipes away student interest in school completely. Multiple measures, most often driven by educators from the classroom, more accurately assess learning. This approach and anything resembling it have been swept aside for profit-based testing for the purpose of moving out of the public education system to a market-driven system being accompanied by the privatization movement. As teams of lobbyists converge on D.C. and state legislatures, educators are lost in the shuffle. They do not have the resources to combat the false propaganda constantly pushed to the public by testing companies and billionaires bent on school “choice”, technology replacement of teachers, and privatization methods. As educators fight for the students, some fall prey to the attention and money offered for their cooperation, instead of resisting the increasing onslaught of mixed messaging. The true tragedy is one that happens every day. Students are nothing but pawns in the eyes of the corporations and privatized. They are used to show the “ineffectiveness” of schools. The losers, students, society, and democracy, are hopelessly injured. The answer, a continued rise of educators, parents, students and community members to stop the wrong approach and put the education system back in the classroom. This is our charge. This is our fight. For the students’ sake, we cannot fail!

  191. Larry Proffitt 08. Feb, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

    Corrections for my comments: pretested, has, corporations and privatizers

  192. Michelle Meeks 08. Feb, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    John,
    I honestly wouldn’t mind “practicing for the test”… IF they were being tested on academics! Who minds practicing math and reading the classics? Not me.

    Have you looked at the poorly written & “tricky-tricky” wording on any of the standardized test questions? There is zero academic value to these tests.

  193. Susan DuFresne 08. Feb, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    Good morning John,

    Please see what the #Renton4 teachers did on Wednesday, January 28th. We are part of a few, but growing global movement writing Teachers’ Letters of Professional Conscience.

    See more here: Teachers: A Call to Conscience http://wp.me/p5Fvz8-a

    We hope teachers around the globe will join us.

    As Dr. King says: “My conscience leaves me no other choice.”

    Albert Einstein says: “Never do anything against conscience, even if the state demands it.”

    Teachers, when you are ready, right to us in the comment section of the blog link above. We will post your letters. Follow your conscience.

    We must do what is right for children.

    End toxic high stakes testing.

    Susan DuFresne
    Integrated Kindergarten Teacher
    WA BAT, NPE, REA, #Renton4

  194. Liz Lauter 08. Feb, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Considering the needs of students first, the most beneficial assessments a teacher can make are authentic and in class so that instruction can be directed for student’s needs. Standardized tests on the other hand offer no benefit to students. The “money trail” behind standardized testing is easy to find and has glaring hazard indicators for children: those along this trail have little or no experience as educators and worse, are in a network which stands to benefit financially at the expense of school budgets. This trail is draining precious dollars away from schools.
    The rising voices from experts in child development are loud and clear that the direction of education away from “developmentally appropriate” is a crisis.
    So which voice should you listen to? The experts in education and child development, or the non-experts in education- politicians, big business people? Is this not abundantly clear? THE EXPERTS IN EDUCATION AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT KNOW WHAT IS BEST FOR CHILDREN, SO LISTEN TO THEM.

  195. Ms. Smith 08. Feb, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    The only beneficiaries of the pro-test fraction are those that are lobbyists, corporatists, and politicians that have financially gained from exploiting public education tax dollars for personal gain. Can we expect them to admit publicly to the test fraud, the VAM fraud, and the CCSS fraud?

  196. Sheryl Silcox 08. Feb, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    I am in favor of testing by teachers for instructional purposes! What other reasons are valid? To fail children? To privatize education? To punish schools? (or reward them for their zip code?) To evaluate educators? These folks are out to make a quick and recurring buck- test, remediate, retest, test prep, etc. In the meanwhile they will decimate public schools and their resources for the above worthless mania, technology and all. This is not what education is about. They are bastardizing a foundation of democracy- free quality education for all.

  197. Niel 08. Feb, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

    One only has to peruse the NYTimes, Salon, and a variety of other mainstream online news sources to understand that questioning standardized testing, and opting out, is no longer a marginal phenomenon. It’s a growing wave of discontent, originating with parents who are also voters, and it’s only a matter of time before it begins to affect political realities. Meanwhile institutions of higher education are increasingly questioning the value of standardized tests in making admissions decisions – the list of schools who have made the SAT optional grows by the week.

    The time when American parents uncritically accepted the notion that these tests are meaningful instruments of assessment is now over. The sooner the political establishment gets this, the better of they’ll be.

  198. Beth S., M.S., Ed. 08. Feb, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    We have refused the tests for our kids. They are otherwise excelling in regular education in an “excellent” school district in an affluent suburban town in CT. Our decision is based in our beliefs that:
    1. Practice, preparation for and administration of standardized tests takes away precious time from other more meaningful learning and arts activities;
    2. Standardized tests do not advance our children’s learning or overall school experience in any positive way;
    3. Tests developed by for-profit corporations rather than our children’s teachers and administrators are not in our children’s best interests;
    4. Standardized tests should not be high-stakes instruments for teacher evaluation;
    5. Testing is an invasion of privacy and presents extensive opportunities for identity theft.
    This is in addition to our view that CCSS, especially at the youngest ages, includes standards that are NOT age appropriate. Focus on testing and preparing for the tests at all ages reduces time for age appropriate activities such as free play, recess, arts and PE. Focus on testing by teachers and communities adds to an already inexcusably high level of stress for children. Educators need to be deeply involved in efforts to improve education. For profit entities should be removed from education entirely.

  199. Dr. Michael Hynes 08. Feb, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    As a school superintendent in Long Island, NY… When parents refuse the tests for their children, I respect their right to do so. I agree with the notion that we are over testing our children and destroying public education as well. This child abuse needs to end.

  200. John Merrow 08. Feb, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    Teachers who might be willing to be interviewed for our NewsHour piece, either publicly or in shadow with identity protected, should write me at jmerrow@learningmatters.tv or producer Marty Spanninger at Martha.Spanninger@gmail.com. Your identities will be protected…

  201. Eve Cohen 08. Feb, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    Wow, this sure has generated a lot of comments for something that’s not really a movement. My sense is, there are really three camps: those who are making money off the tests and therefore support them, those who have researched the tests and realize how destructive they are to kids, classes, teachers, learning, public schools and education in general, and those who don’t know anything about the subject and are keeping silent out of ignorance and a naive sense that things will work themselves out and those in power must surely know best. You don’t have to do much research to figure out how much falsehood, junk science and hunger for profit lie behind this push for nation-wide standardized testing. VAM to measure teacher effectiveness (“accountability”): totally discredited by statisticians; Common Core standards: un-tested, not-research based and opposed by most experts in child development, child psychology, pediatric neurology and, of course, actual educators; standardized tests as a means to measure how much children have learned: discredited in studies as being culturally biased, measuring income-level more than aptitude, and increasingly rejected by colleges as useful in judging student ability or talent; the PARCC test specifically, asking students to read at levels higher than their abilities, misleading, confusing questions that adults find difficult, computer-based, thus biased against those who don’t have access or experience with computers, the fact that teachers, students and parents can never see the lengthy tests their kids are taking, meaning they serve no pedagogical purpose, the list of wrongs goes on and on. I haven’t even mentioned data mining, English language learners, shrinking curriculum, stress; good gravy, where in this issue can one find anything to be positive about? There is a movement, and what motivates it is knowledge. The more people learn about testing, the more students and parents will opt out and oppose it’s presence in our schools.

  202. Claire 08. Feb, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    John, thank you for opening this dialogue.

    Are there any New Jersey voices out there?

    PARCC is scheduled for NJ in March and May.
    According to NJ Ed. Commissioner: There is no “opt out” option for parents.

  203. Ken Previti 08. Feb, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

    Via a Florida parent: (Darcey Addo · Palm Bay, Florida)
    “Respectfully, Dr. Roberts, Commissioner Stewart is an intellectually dishonest, state appointed bully and her disingenuous letter does not dissuade those of us with conviction. We are not “opting out” of these assessments; we are refusing. We are refusing the assessments that lack curricular validity as has already been litigated in the state of Florida and upheld as precedent (Debra p. v. Turlington). We are refusing tests that bastardize public education in the name of data collection and reducing our children to data points. We are refusing assessment that undermines the authority of professional educators. We are refusing summative assessment that does not drive instruction, rather than formative instruction that provides valuable feedback to teachers, students, and parents. We are refusing pedagogically inappropriate use of classroom time. We are refusing to allow or children to silent sit for hours on end when all research, experts, and logic defies that as educational best practice.
    We are not opting out, Superintendent, we are refusing. It is our Constitutional right to guide and direct the education of our children while they attend public school, and that is what we are doing. We are not asking permission, we exercising our parental right. As a parent I appreciate your balanced view of assessment, but I demand better of my public schools. If my elected officials won’t work with haste, I will do my part for my children. Please acknowledge, Dr. Roberts, that refusing the invalid and excessive high-stakes assessments is a last resort for those of us who demand better for our children, their teachers, and their schools.” #defendchildren

  204. Mary L Previti 08. Feb, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

    The protest movement is real and growing. The Pro-Test campaign gets media coverage because it is being financed/promoted by big money interests, for example, the Gates Foundation. More parents are discovering and joining the protest, are refusing to stand by and watch their children be demoralized/abused by high-stakes testing. Here is another important dash, high-stakes testing vs. reasonable, insightful testing, administered by qualified, experienced, caring teachers.

  205. Diane Venezia 08. Feb, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

    Oligarchy. The tests exist to feed the corporations their precious data and money. We no longer live in a democracy. We live in an oligarchy. I wish I could unsee this horrible mess but alas, I cannot. So I will continue to fight. I refuse to partake in the dismantling of schools fueled by this testing mania. Starve the beast of its data. Refuse the tests.

  206. Lalu 08. Feb, 2015 at 10:53 pm #

    Protest!
    A student who is trained to answer standardized test questions is taught to spit answers, not to think. We will lose an entire generation, or two, to mindless responses for minimal effort.

    Do we really want to sacrifice generations to a social experiment that is bound to lose?

  207. Mike Archer 08. Feb, 2015 at 10:55 pm #

    This, from Anthony Cody, reveals how test-based accountability supporters are encouraged to design their arguments.

    http://www.livingindialogue.com/corporate-reformers-want-talk-testing/

  208. Carmen Scalfaro 08. Feb, 2015 at 11:38 pm #

    Standardized tests are a direct assault on PUBLIC education and they are using children to do it! The powers that be have one target, the teachers’ union. It is the only obstacle in their way of utter privatization and exploitation of learning and schooling. The mission of standardized testing is to corrode public education from the inside out. Their plan: By making schools succumb to impossible testing standards for students and deplorable working conditions for teachers (no teacher I know thinks they should be evaluated based on test scores) wealthy parents will pull out their kids and good teachers will leave. Public education will be a shadow of its former self and the union will crumble. But have no fear! private schools will be happy to enroll (those smart “normal” ) kids and take their vouchers as payment. And as for the rest of the kids, well you’ve read Oliver Twist, right? Get my drift? For the sake of democracy (what’s left of it) OPT OUT!

  209. Amy 09. Feb, 2015 at 12:16 am #

    These tests are excruciating for the kids as well as the teachers. They are long and the schools basically go into lock down for them. Teachers are supposed to actively monitor these tests while in essence do nothing. The kids have to eat lunch in their classrooms on state testing days. In Texas the STAAR tests do not count toward the students grade but the District benchmark tests that are taken before the STAAR tests over the course of the whole year (to show the district if the student will pass the STAAR test when its time) count for 40% of the students grade.

    I feel that teachers feel it necessary to teach to the test. Especially, now that they will be compensated based on their students test scores. I feel that Texas is trying to force us out of public schools and into private schools or charter schools which are cheaper for the state. Teachers will no longer be required to actually teach but read a scripted manual and babysit the class room during tests. This is not what I want for my children.

    I understand that a test can provide data to help however take it as that, just data, take the high stakes out of it and the number of tests given. Its hard enough growing up in this century. We don’t need to add to their already overloaded stressed out brains. They’re just kids remember.

  210. Jeff Nichols 09. Feb, 2015 at 6:49 am #

    Wow. The number and high level of the comments here are overwhelming. So much insight and so much passion!

    For me it all boils down to this: many things make high-stakes testing totally unacceptable to my wife and me (and our 11-year-old twins have never taken and will not take the mandated New York State tests), but the worst is that the practice has been systematically used to remove authority over education from parents and teachers. They are raising the next generation of Americans, and they will determine how that will be done. Period.

    Standardized tests are not intrinsically evil. They are intrinsically limited and superficial. They virtually never necessary, but can in some circumstances provide useful information to professional educators. That information is only valid when considered in the context of deep knowledge of the whole child, something possessed not by superintendents, state education commissioners or education secretaries, but by teachers. Moreover, testing is only appropriate when it is completely transparent to the teacher and the child’s parents or guardians. None of these conditions is currently met.

    Would we allow the state to prescribe medicine against the better judgment of doctors based on remote, computerized interpretation of medical tests?

    When standardized tests cease to be used as a weapon against teachers, when professional educators are in charge again of all critical decisions at every level of the education system, when these tests are restored to their proper, limited role as a supplementary tool to be used only when called for by professional educators — then and only then will we consider allowing our children to take them.

    By the way, there have been zero consequences to our children, their teachers or their schools because of their refusal of the state tests. Officials threatening parents and teachers need to find another profession and let us get on with the most challenging and important work there is, teaching — and learning from — our children.

  211. Carina Matthews 09. Feb, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    Standardized tests and test prep have taken over my children’s school days. The South Florida school administration and teaching staff has become very proficient at teaching how to fill in a bubble – beacause we have given them every incentive to do so. When did we loose sight of our children? Doesn’t each child deserve to learn everyday? The purpose of testing should include providing feedback to both the teacher and the student so that any gaps in their education can be filled. The test itself should be a valid assessment and use appropriate grade level vocabulary. Better yet, there are other options for assessment that can provide a truer insight into a child’s performance and level of achievement over the course of the year, not just a snapshot of one day. Project based or portfolio based assessment could be valid options. I’d like to see teachers be given back the time and the power to inspire and to teach problem solving, innovation, and creativity through hands on learning. What is the true cost of all this testing? The test itself, software and hardware required, staffing to proctor, pretests and practice tests, text books designed around the test, maintinence of the equipment, let alone the opportunity cost of time spent testing and not learning – the costs are staggering and never fully disclosed. Last year I discovered that all teaching was suspended during the FCAT – even for those not testing because actual lessons may cause noise that might disturb the test takers! What? n Monroe County a pubic school student on average takes a standardized test every 8.5 days. Let use that money to each our kids.

  212. William Adamsky 09. Feb, 2015 at 11:37 pm #

    John, I’ve been thinking about what else I could possibly say that 200+ respondents have not said already. Today I came to this: where are all the pro-test people on this thread, you ask? A simple answer might be that they don’t need to post comments on blogs. They can spend a million for a TV ad. They can spend 10 million on partisan think tanks that will provide white papers and reports touting the benefits of test-driven corporate reform. Comments sections in blogs such as this, social media, the opinion section of your local newspaper: this is where the protest folks wage their offensive. This is free. This is real grassroots activism. The reasons you’re not hearing from any pro-testers here is that a good number of them are far removed from the realities of public education, especially in poor urban districts.

    • Laura 10. Feb, 2015 at 10:06 am #

      Excellent point William, they know it is a losing argument. See Anthony Cody’s piece on how corporate reform shills are trained to speak about testing. They can only reframe, try to reach a consensus. There is no compromise here. These specific national tests are toxic, harmful to both children and our ability to sustain let alone support public education. Renaming, rebranding, reframing will not change the reality of destruction our communities have experienced. Eliminate the money incentive to create and sell, eliminate the misuse of them as high stakes ranking instruments….then we can talk about how educators can assess small children.

  213. Suzanne Arena 22. Feb, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

    I am thankful to the Rhode Island movement for reaching me and educating me to do the right child on behalf of my profound Dyslexic child who has an IEP. As such, he is monitored with his plan goals to make the necessary measured needs.

    I am so much more knowledgeable to this thread and all of the amazing information gathered that helped me write a letter to say before the School Committee which has never answered the first letter I sent. As the chapter founding member of Decoding Dyslexia in Rhode Island, many of our children that have IEP’s should ALL be exempt from this test. But, upon researching it has become clear there is no Data driving the validity of this test – therefore ALL children should refuse. This was appalling to read that these test developers refuse to sign a confidentiality agreement and will be privy to use our children’s information. I don’t understand how this can be carried out with all the HIPPA laws.

    Thank you Mr. Merrow for this story, which unveiled a ton of amazing information within the thread.

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