There’s a new thing I’m doing that forces the teachers to remember that I’m part of Connor’s “team” at school, and it keeps me informed about any issues that are going on. What I do is I meet with his resource teacher every month now, and it seems to be working.
Last week was our monthly meeting, and we discussed progress and challenges. Towards the end, we somehow got on the subject of testing, and the standardized testing that starts in third grade. I casually mentioned that Connor didn’t need the extra pressure, and that I would be opting him out of testing when the time came.
“But you can’t opt-out of state testing”, she said.
“Yes I can. People do it. There is a way to opt-out.”
And the kicker was when she said, “I’ve never heard of anyone in this district opting out of testing.”
Now granted, she teaches K-2nd, and is not directly involved with testing, so she probably isn’t up-to-speed on things. And she did agree with me about how standardized testing has had a negative impact on teaching.
But damn. A teacher wasn’t even aware that you could not be forced to take the standardized tests.
Not that opting-out is right for everyone. But I happen to believe that standardized testing has narrowed the scope of teaching so that teachers are focusing more on test-specific material, and losing out on other teaching opportunities. It forces them to keep a pretty rigid pace in class, which means that they can’t afford to spend an extra day of class time exploring Mark Twain’s other literary contributions if a class has shown particular interest in him after reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
In addition, many school districts instruct their teachers to identify their “bubble kids”, children on the cusp of meeting proficiency but needing extra help, and putting in extra time and focus on those children. This leaves children that are further behind and desperately in need of extra help left behind.
You know what else is interesting about standardized testing? There’s about four companies that produce the bulk of the testing materials, and they are making an ass-ton of money. Which means, lots. Lots of money being made to produce the testing materials mandated by the government under No Child Left Behind. Money coming out of our school districts. Money that isn’t being used to provide services for special needs kids, or extra support for typical children that need additional help.
In addition, these tests aren’t necessarily making our kids any smarter. Finland continues to score top marks in education, year after year. They do not have standardized testing, but instead assign less homework and promote more creative play. They also have no private schools, even on the college level. So people attend school equally from elementary to college. The most interesting quote I read was that “education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.” But see, that’s not what we’re about here in America. We’re about individual achievement and standing out.
But I can put all that to the side when I consider standardized testing for Connor. The thing is, he’s already stressed from the pressures to keep up with his peers. He’s always just a bit behind the others, and works hard to keep it together at school all day, only to come home and do more homework at night, in an effort to “catch up”. He has learned so much this year, and has come so far, but it has not been easy. When I think about adding the intense pressure of testing to that load, I can’t even fathom how he would manage.
And why should he? He is learning, he is working as hard as he is able to work. That is enough for me.
In a year-and-a-half, I might be the first and only parent in our school district to opt their child out of testing. Am I worried?? Nah, I’ve been raising a child with autism for almost 7 years now, they don’t scare me. But it is Texas, so if you don’t hear from me….
Here are some official references and stuff, because I’m a sophisticated writer like that.
Test Materials Publishers:
No Child Left Behind:
Standardized Testing Outcomes:
Education in Finland: