Saturday, February 7, 2015

Opt Out 2015 - Part the First (And Hopefully the Last!)

And so it begins....The start of our 2015 Standardized Testing Refusal. If you've been following along long enough, you know that last year we refused the MSA (Maryland's predecessor to the PARCC, and that while our older child's middle school was able to work with us and ultimately honored our wishes, our younger child's elementary school did no such thing; the younger was given the test with her class and took 2 segments of it out of sheer boredom, and when we kept her home for the third morning out of four, they took her out of class that afternoon and tested her, alone except for a single staff member.

So without further ado, here's this year's letter to the same school. There's a different testing coordinator at the school this year, and a different administration in the school system, and this time we have access to some of the PARCC manual and procedures in advance, so it will be interesting to see how things play out this year. I've already had some folks ask on Facebook if they may use our wording as is or adapted; by all means, be our guest. :-)
To Whom It May Concern:

    Our daughter [Monkey] will NOT be taking the PARCC assessments in the 2014/2015 school year. Our family is refusing to participate in the PARCC testing of our children. We feel that we have much more complete and relevant information about how our children are doing from the reports their teachers give us, which comes on a timely basis and is specific to their educational needs, strengths, and weaknesses, unlike feedback from the PARCC. We are primarily concerned (in academic terms) with how our daughter is learning; we are not interested in whether her education, as measured by test scores, is superior to that of children in any other jurisdiction, and we feel that the scores themselves are not likely to be indicative of the quality of her learning or of her teachers.

    We support our children’s schools and teachers, and we thank [Monkey's] teachers for their teaching and support of her education thus far. However, we do not support the time and money that PARCC takes in the school year, and we do not support the unrealistic demands placed on students during the test (in how many real-life scenarios will they be expected to spend this many hours working at their seats in utter silence with no access to reference materials or to bathroom breaks at will, using only a Chromebook to do their work?), nor the (eventual) use of test scores to evaluate teachers and schools. [Update: I've been informed that according to the PARCC testing manual, students may take stretch or bathroom breaks, and that teachers may take whole-group breaks for up to 3 minutes at a time.]

    We are aware that Maryland does not have an “opt-out” option for families. We are not “opting out;" we are declining to participate. There is no penalty to our children or to our family for this in any set of laws or codes that we can find. We are not averse to reasonable testing, nor to assessment that is ongoing and will be used to remediate academic shortcomings in our children’s learning, nor to testing that assesses what children have learned and what they can do in realistic environments and settings, nor to testing that does not turn a school’s schedule upside-down for several weeks of the school year, nor to end-of-year testing that actually takes place at the end of the school year; PARCC does not meet any of these criteria in our opinion.

    Last year [Monkey] was tested despite our family’s clearly-stated objections, to the point where, according to her, she was taken out of actual classroom instruction one afternoon after we had kept her home that morning and given that morning’s test alone with a single staff member proctoring; this year, we trust that she will be permitted to engage in other activities during testing time (reading either in the classroom or elsewhere, or doing relevant academic work initiated by either the school or by us, or some other constructive use of the time), and that she will not be forced to “Sit & Stare.” PARCC themselves have told a number of parents that non-testing students should not be in the room with testing students for security reasons, so it is incumbent on you to provide an alternative setting for her, just as it is incumbent on us as parents to alert you that she will be a non-testing student so that you can plan accordingly.

   Thank you in advance for your support. If you have any questions about our family's stance, please feel free to contact us directly.

Crunchy Progressive Music Mama and Hubby

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Please keep it clean. Differences of opinion aren't a problem for me. Rudeness is. Thankyouverymuch. :-)