- There are too many tests.
- The tests are too long.
- The tests are poorly designed and poorly written.
- The tests are surrounded by a level of secrecy usually reserved for a nuclear arsenal.
- The tests are never returned to students and teachers to inform instruction.
- The tests are used to rate teachers, schools and whole school districts, purposes for which they were never intended.
- The tests are made by profit making companies who give huge contributions to legislators and perks to policy making bodies.
- The tests are used to justify the implementation of a National Curriculum- the Common Core- whose advocates claim it is neither national or a curriculum.
- The tests are incredibly expensive and take money away from the arts, counseling, and libraries.
- The tests are discriminatory in the manner they are applied to Special Needs and ELL Students.
- The high stakes attached to the tests have forced schools in high poverty districts to use recess and gym for test prep.
- The tests have been used as an excuse for closing thousands of schools and firing tens of thousands of teachers, many of them teachers of color.
Tennessee is no exception. Parents are asking how they can get their child out of testing. Today UnitedOptOut.com posted a TN refusal letter. It might help Tennessee parents who wish to refuse the tests for their children.
On the UnitedOptOut website, there is also a link to a Letter to Directors of Schools in Tennessee Regarding Opt Out/Refusal that Momma Bears think is an attempt to bully parents and take away parental rights. Your kids are data points to them. The Refusal letter is interesting. It cites TN code - TCA 49-2-211(a) states that, “Every LEA shall develop a policy setting forth the rights of parents and students as guidelines for teachers and principals with respect to the administration of surveys, analyses or evaluations of students.” Section (b)(1) of this law states that, “[t]he policy shall enable a parent or legal guardian to opt their student out of participating in a survey, analysis, or evaluation.” (Note that there are no definitions of “survey,” “analysis,” or “evaluation” in this statute.)
Momma Bears would love to see this stand up as lawful. What else could TCAP be besides an evaluation? Teachers don’t ever see the answers. There is nothing diagnostic to help a child improve upon what they do not know. These tests are used to “evaluate teachers and schools” in order to manipulate government policy. So we’d say they ARE a definitely an evaluation.
Momma Bears also loves the use of the Attorney General's opinion that claimed former Commissioner Huffman was within the law to waive the TCAP for grades. “While state law requires that TCAP scores make up 15%-25% of a child’s final semester grades, our former Commissioner of Education waived this requirement in 2014. Despite TCA 49-1-201(d)(1), this was allowed. The Attorney General opinion dated July 2, 2014 stated that “the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-1-617…can be waived; they are not statutory requirements related to “federal and state student assessment and accountability” under Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-1-201(d)(1)(J).”
The ending to the letter says, "Because it appears that I have the legal right to opt my child out of the TCAP evaluation, and the law requiring the use of TCAP scores in grades seems to be subjectively disposable, my child’s TCAP scores (or lack thereof) will not be factored into his/her grades. In summary, I respectfully request that you respond, in writing, confirming that you will abide by my expectations set forth in this letter. You may contact me in writing if you have any questions. ” Smart! Get it in writing. It is a good idea to keep detailed notes and written evidence. You never know when it might come in handy in court. Hopefully, it won't come to that, but if the TDOE keeps bullying parents, we may just have to file a lawsuit.
Today at the Tennessee Legislature, Representative Matthew Hill added a surprise amendment to a bill that would make Opting-Out legal. This amendment caused the folks at the Governor's astroturf organization, Tennesseans For Student Success, to royally freak out (since their well-funded jobs exist to save Common Core and testing). It was a beautiful amendment that Representative Hill did, simply stating "parents or legal guardians of students enrolled in an LEA may opt the student out of participating in all state mandated assessments." Unfortunately, Representative Hill withdrew it because it didn't fit with the caption bill it was attached to, but it did give him the opportunity to speak to the other legislators about Opting Out. There may be another bill coming up that is a better fit and might not be declared unconstitutional to attach it to, but with only two or three days left in the session, it probably will not happen until January. 2-4-6-8, who do we appreciate? Representative Matthew Hill!!!
Also on that bill, some amendments were attached by Representative Spivey that set in motion the death of Common Core. The bill passed the House 97 to 0 and is scheduled to be in the Senate tomorrow. Is it a smoke-and-mirrors attempt at keeping the Common Core? Perhaps. Time will tell. The language is pretty clear that the new standards will be created in a clear and transparent manner, and that the former standards (which are Common Core) will be rescinded. The Senate has been pretty much in love with all things that harm public education, so we'll see how the vote tomorrow goes.
Okay, now, back to the testing issue...
Refusing testing is a civil protest. And our lawmakers really need to understand that this is what happens when a government service, managed by the democratic process around tax dollars, is held captive by testing, sold off to privatization, and is manipulated by lobbyists and foundations un-elected by the citizens of this country. Public school is a public good, for the public. This manipulation through testing has ZERO to do with our children or education experts. It must stop. Opt-out and/or refusing is our only choice to show this bad policy must stop. For our kids.
"Parents are getting more and more angry and disobedient. Public officials are really trying to bully them, and never expected this much pushback." - Dr. Sandra Stotsky