Saturday, March 29, 2014

#OptOut - Part the Fourth

Hi again, Gentle Readers (and raisers of ruckuses too *grin*).

When last I updated our sordid saga of test refusal in our Maryland school system, we had been basically thrown under the Testing Bus by the superintendent, despite his nationally-aired disregard for this year's administration of an outdated test. The whole time we were exchanging these emails, we were also in touch with the individual schools, AND we were furiously researching online for loopholes. Well..... we found a couple, actually.

Another parent in neighboring Frederick County had successfully managed to get her daughter's school to allow her to read during the tests by filing a suit; the school system offered the deal just before it would have gone to court. Nobody here in Montgomery County was buying that, though.

From the MSEA Facebook page
At the individual school level, things were happening. They had to happen - the testing window was about to begin....and then, the first two days were snowed out as a monster late-season snowstorm swept up the mid-Atlantic.

Woohoo - TWO DAYS of NO TESTING!!! A sign from God, don't you think?

Once the snow had been cleared and school resumed, my kids' schools picked up where they left off, planning to add the missed days at the end of the testing window. The way the two schools handled our family's test refusal spoke to me as much as our superintendent's declining to intervene in any way.

Friday, March 28, 2014

#OptOut - Part the Third

Gentle Reader:
Joshua Starr, MCPS Superintendent (Twitter Avatar)

When last we met, I had posted about our family's attempt to get our school superintendent on board with our efforts to refuse to have our children participate in a test whose only benefit, to our minds, was to provide millions of dollars to the Testing Machine that would be creating, distributing, and scoring the tests - but NONE whatsoever to the students or to the schools. After all, this is a man who was written about in EdWeek about this, and was quoted as having said, "I do not believe it is in the interest of our students or schools for the state of Maryland to administer the MSA this year, and many parents, educators, and local and state leaders feel the same way." He also posted a short video interview about the MSA's.

So, did this guy respond to our concerns?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

#OptOut - Part the Second

Dear Gentle Reader:

When last I posted about our family's refusal to take part in the final installment of Maryland's State school assessment, the MSA, I had just received the following from our county's Testing Office (our school districts are countrywide in Maryland):

Thank you for writing with your concern about your child's participation in the upcoming administration of the Maryland School Assessment (MSA). We are not able to grant permission for students to opt out of taking this statewide test.

MCPS is required to administer the (MSA) and the Partnership for Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests to students this year. The Maryland State Department of Education has instructed school systems that students may not be granted exemptions or waivers to taking these tests.

All public school students are required to participate in the public school program which includes state mandated testing in reading and mathematics. Therefore, any student in attendance during the multiple weeks that the testing window (including makeups) is in effect, is requiried (sic) by law (NCLB, 2001) to take the assessment.

Just to be clear, Gentle Reader, we had not ASKED for PERMISSION. We had REFUSED to allow our children to be tested. Not at all the same thing. We sent this to the Testing Office in response:

#OptOut - Part The First

Gentle Readers,

I've written about the MSA's before in my blog, when I was a long-term music substitute in my neighborhood elementary school. I've outlined the accumulated weeks of test prep, the practice tests that take hours of instruction that began even before Thanksgiving, the long hours of testing, the children finishing before the blocks of time that had to sit and stare at walls until time was up instead of being allowed to even take out books to read quietly. Well, this year, 2014, was the curtain call for the MSA (which is being scheduled to be replaced by PARCC next year). With the new Common Core curriculum in place through elementary and much of middle school, the MSA, being based on the old curriculum, made little or no sense this year. It wasn't being used as part of teachers' or schools' evaluation, and yet the state was mandating, even in the face of a petition and pending legislation to the contrary, that ALL Maryland public schools set aside 2 weeks for this effort, which cost the state about $9 million.

In the past, our family was reluctant to refuse the test because we did not want our children's teachers or schools to take a hit for lower scores, as in Maryland, untaken tests are scored as "zeroes" and averaged in to aggregate scores, but this year we saw no point to the exercise, and so we sent the following letter to our school system and to our kids' schools, which is based on Opt-Out letters we found on several Facebook opt-out groups.

Standardized Testing: Notes From the Trenches (From March 2012)

Originally published on the now-defunct Crunchy Progressive Parenting Blog on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 (You can tell by the description of the weather in March 2 years ago from today's writing LOL)

Well, the testing madness has begun in Maryland schools, and apparently in other states as well. Even our Public Television station has gotten on board, showing the Arthur episode about the S.W.E.A.T., a fictional standardized test that has students in Arthur's classroom stressing before it even begins. Because as a proctor in my school I've signed an agreement not to disclose any specifics whatsoever about the MSA's, I'm limited in what I can legally share publicly, but a number of general themes have come across in the many Facebook posts I'm reading from other parents and other teachers in different places:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Common Core State Standards: Why American Parents Should Pay Attention

Perhaps you've heard the buzz in the past year or so, or maybe just the more recent outrage, about the "Common Core State Standards." What are they? Why should we care?

There has been an incredible amount written about CCSS from both those who support them and those who oppose them. For anyone who doesn't know or couldn't guess, I'm opposed. STRONGLY. Why? Read on to see: