Testing: Opting Out

Today was the first day of the standardize testing season at our house. My daughter is a high school freshman. She had to take the GRAD test for writing this morning. Fortunately, she doesn’t get stressed about these tests. I hope she takes it seriously enough to pass, but that’s about it.

She said there were a number of kids in her group who didn’t speak much English. (The school has a large refuge population.) They were taken out of the room in order to have the directions explained, then came back in to complete the test. The test involved them writing an essay to incoming high school freshman about their high school experience.

I find this crazy. These poor kids, who don’t speak enough English to understand the directions, are expected to write an essay like this? What does that do to them? How do they feel getting that failing grade back? What a waste of their time. If someone can tell me a good reason to make these kids do this test, please let me know.

My daughter was actually pretty upset by this. Here’s her Facebook post:

What perversely minded educator though it would be a good idea to make kids who can’t speak English yet write an essay for the MCAs? This is the 21st century!

After dropping my daughter at school to take these ridiculous tests, I ran across an amazing blog post by Will Richardson about why he is opting his son out of their state standardized tests. His reasoning is sound, and I am happy to know that some of my thoughts about standardized tests are echoed in his letter. I wholeheartedly agree wtih his points like the fact that testing changes the whole focus of teaching and that rewarding teachers based on their students’ test scores harms both teachers and students. (More on my thoughts about standardized tests from an earlier post I wrote.)

The conversation on Twitter about this post drew in the big names in this field, and the conversation was lively. I am grateful to Mr. Richardson for taking the big step.

We seriously considered opting my daughter out of tests last year, but I didn’t have the guts to do it. (Then again, I’m not Will Richardson with a huge education reform audience!) But he has given me the courage to move forward. Unfortunately, my daughter is at the point where these tests are required for graduation, so I’m not sure we have the option to opt out at this point. I need to make some stand about this, I’m just not sure how.

Now I find out there are many people choosing to opt out. I wish I had known that last year! Here are a couple more blog posts about opting out. Go for it!

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