Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Standardized Test Opt Out Movement Gains Steam

Today, my son was required by the state of Colorado to take a standardized math test that was a full five grade levels below his current class and ability level. There is clearly something wrong with this system, and while I have never complained about standardized tests as a parent or an educator, I am beginning to feel the frustration that is fueling a growing "Opt Out" movement. The Fair Test organization is committed to providing parents - and even school districts - the information they need to safely and legally opt their children out of required state assessments. United Opt Out is another organization that seeks to provide information about the "option" and whether it does exist. Many parents are unclear and frustrated by the increased standardized testing and the pressure on schools to conform. And EdWeek has done an admirable recently of amassing information on the complexity of opting out.

One particular story from Lisa McElroy, a professor at the University of Denver, has hit the internet this week on sites such as Slate and the HuffingtonPost, where Lisa told of her frustrations when she attempted to opt her child out of Colorado's TCAP tests. Despite living in a rather liberal place like Boulder - where you would thinking fighting against the state would be second nature - Lisa was hounded by school personnel when she informed them that her children would not take the test. The school's response was based on the idea that students in Colorado are required by law to take the state tests, and schools whose students opt out receive a "zero" on that test. Thus, it lowers/skews the school's academic ranking.  Of course, the actual effect of opting out is rather ambiguous in Colorado. For several people challenge the notion that the state can force kids to take the test and can penalize districts for a student's refusal to do so.

The Coalition for a Better Education believes the state and federal government has no right or power to force students to take standardized state assessments or penalize kids and schools that fail to do so. Yet, there is no doubt that Colorado law requires such assessments. It all gets a bit ambiguous from there. Ultimately, a child's academic progress is accountable first and foremost to his own parents. And if parents choose not to place faith in a general standardized test, and instead trust the work of the teachers in the classroom and the grades/assessments they provide, should that not be enough? Is the state the right authority to counter that parental desire?

No comments: