Letter to a School Board about Test Refusal

Courtesy Fort Worth Squath. CC license

Courtesy Fort Worth Squath. CC license

It’s testing season again. I have had conversations with a few parents about opting out, or as I’m seeing it now — refusing the test. Because my daughter is a senior, she doesn’t have to take them. My son (a freshman) is at a private school, so no tests. My family’s days of test refusal are over, but I dug up the email I sent to the school board last year explaining why we opted out. To be clear, my daughter was a junior at the time. She was very involved with the decision. It was not something we forced on her.

We sent a version of this to our state legislators as well.

Our Letter to the School Board

To the ISDxxx School Board and others,

This past school year, we opted our daughter out of MCA testing, and wanted to let you know why. She’ll be a senior next year, so no testing. We would definitely continue to opt out of MCA testing if she was younger.
We have long felt that there is too much emphasis on standardized testing that takes away from real learning. We were grateful that the Legislature changed the graduation requirements last spring, so she could opt out this year.
Here’s why we chose to opt out:
  • Test taking skills: when our daughter was in 8th grade, her math teacher told us she spent 3 weeks preparing the students for the MCA test. THREE WEEKS of valuable class time teaching them how to take a test?
  • 19th century skills: standardized, fill-in-the-bubble multiple choice tests test one type of learning and encourage memorization. They do little to allow students to demonstrate 21st century skills, such as creativity, critical thinking or collaboration.
  • Lifelong Skills: We’ve been in the workforce for over 25 years. We have yet to need to take a multiple choice test as part of our jobs. I’d prefer my kids were taught the skills needed in the current and future workforce, which include not only 21st century skills, but things like computer coding, visual literacy and creativity, and digital citizenship.
  • Teacher Merit Pay: basing teacher pay on student test scores is offensive to teachers and students alike. It encourages focus on test taking skills over and above less “data” like creativity. Our kids are more than a number on a test, and that is why we pay fantastic teachers to get to know our kids as people.
  • Stress/Anxiety: I hear from teachers and students about the stress and anxiety these tests cause. Teachers hate making kids take tests, kids hate taking them. Why put everyone through this for such little gain?
  • Delay in reporting: With the MCAs, tests are taken in the spring. Results come back months later, thereby practically useless.
  • Profit: the only people who profit from these tests is the companies who make them. They are expensive, there’s no accountability and there are proven errors. Why are we paying these companies so much money? This goes for the MCAs and the AP tests — cash cows for those companies.

We realize the School Board doesn’t make the decisions about the MCAs. We will also send this to state legislators, who in spite of not being educators, make the decisions about these tests that so impact our children.

The Board does make the decisions about teacher merit pay. This issue is complex, and I don’t pretend to understand it. However, I’d encourage you to reward the wonderful ISDxxx teachers based on things that really matter: the relationship they build with students.