You are not alone.
And your child isn't the only one.
Standardized testing never used to be this way when we were growing up, did it?
We took the test and then went to out to play at recess and our school day went on as normal. There was no pressure or repercussions if you missed questions. No big deal. The teachers simply said that they wanted to see all you had learned and to do your best. There were no TCAP pep rallies, TCAP songs, TCAP t-shirts, pajama days, candy given as bribes on testing days, or videos made by desperate teachers to inspire kids to Zap the TCAP. Kids took the tests. Life went on.
That changed a few years ago in TN. Big time.
Test scores were put on a pedestal. The test scores of your children now prove the worth of their teacher. Student test scores are a huge percentage of every teacher's evaluation rating in TN, varying by district. Yes, we know it isn't fair. Yes, we know that some teachers don't even teach subjects that are on the standardized test--subjects like music, art, PE, library, electives, etc.. These teachers are unfairly forced to use the school's overall English or Math score for their percentage. Yes, and we know the teachers are incredibly stressed about it, too.
The other big change that happened a few years ago is that it became mandatory in TN that the TCAP count as 15%-25% of each child's report card grade. Yes, we know it isn't fair. Yes, we know teachers and parents never even get to see the tests or the questions on it. Yes, we know these companies are making a fortune selling these tests to our state with our tax dollars. No, we don't know if the TCAP test questions are legitimately fair or even if the answers are correct. We've heard rumors from teachers that even they can't figure out some of the answers because the questions and answer choices are so confusing, but nobody can prove it because nobody is allowed to see the test. In fact, teachers must sign an agreement to not discuss the tests. Teachers have told us Momma Bears that they have been forbidden by their administrators to post any comments relating to the TCAP or PARCC test on Facebook or social media. Things have gotten so bad that even students are told they aren't supposed to talk about the test questions, not even to their parents. (You don't tell kids not to tell their parents. That is WRONG. Unless you're throwing us a surprise party. Then it is okay.)
Contrary to popular belief, ordinary parents are the most powerful forces on the planet. It is true. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they work together, especially when they are Momma or Poppa or Grandparent Bears! Being a SUPER MOM is really quite easy. Here are the easy-to-follow steps:
Steps to saving the world:
- Put on your superhero uniform (cape & tights are optional) and harness the power of your words as a parent.
- Take a deep breath and blow off some steam. Let your words flow like Spiderman's web from his hands. You can do this. Write down everything that bothers you and your children about these stupid tests. Use curse words if you feel so inclined. The point is to get it out of your system.
- Take a break. Go hug your kids. Peek on them if they are asleep and smell their sweet, sleepy heads. Children are such a blessing, and they're only yours for such a short time before they're grown up. Cherish it.
- After you've cooled your jets and your head is clear, sit back down and look at the verbal vomit you spewed. It is probably pretty offensive and you need to clean it up. So, put on your thinking cap and turn those words into magic. You can do it. First, delete the curse words. Then, take out at least half of the exclamation points. There's no need for paragraphs to be written in all capitalized letters. Whittle down your message into a sane, cohesive letter or email. You're going to send this to some people who CAN make a difference, so make it polite and polished. If there are red squiggly lines popping up under words you typed, make sure they are spelled correctly and/or are the correct use of the word. You'll sound much smarter if you fix those errors. The red squiggly line is your friend.
- You can't just complain without offering a solution. So, in closing your correspondence, write what you want to see happen with regards to testing. Here are some options:
Don't tie it to teacher evaluations.
Don't tie it to student report cards.
Spend the testing money on more teachers instead of tests.
Allow parents to Refuse or Opt-Out of testing for their child without penalizing their child's grade or their teacher.
Get rid of Common Core.
- Good idea: Let your letter stew for 24 hours just to make sure you included everything you wanted to say.
- Optional: Show it to others to get their feedback.
- Read it one more time. If you think to yourself, "It is perfect. I wouldn't change a thing!," then make a wish or say a prayer and then send it!
- Wait. Who do you send it to? There are a bunch of important people who need to read it, so Momma Bears suggests sending it to them all. Here is how to find the important people:
- Google your school district to find out your Superintendent and School Board member's email addresses. Send your masterpiece to them. They need to know that parents are not happy. (If you're lucky, they will reply to your email in a few days and will probably say it is the State's fault. See #11 for a big fat dose of irony.)
- Legislators are very important people who make the laws that got us in to this testing mess. They definitely need to hear from real parents. Click HERE to find your TN legislators that live in your district. Be sure to tell them you are in their district; this matters a lot since they need your vote. (If you're lucky, they will respond to your email in a few days and probably say it is your local School Board's fault. LOL. Notice a big fat problem with finger pointing?)
- Gosh, since you've put so much work into it, you might as well send it to all the legislators. It may take you awhile to copy & paste their email addresses, and you may want to do it in small batches (send to no more than 25 email addresses per email) so that your email service doesn't think you are spamming.
- The Governor needs to see your masterpiece, too. Who knows... It might be the key that melts his stone-cold heart. His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Who else needs to hear it? Teachers? Principals? Newspapers will publish letters to the editor! Go for it!!!
- These are YOUR kids you are advocating for. If EVERY parent spoke up, we could make a huge difference. Don't rely on someone else to do it for you. Don't rely on your elected officials or your school's PTA. YOUR voice is important... Use it!
Your school district won't tell you this, but you also have the right to refuse these tests for your children. They are YOUR children, not the government's. If you want to know more about it, or meet other parents who have bravely gone down this opting out route before you, here are some links to real parents in Tennessee and across the country: Stop the Tennessee Testing Madness website, Stop the TN Testing Madness Facebook page, Stop the TN Testing Madness Facebook group, United Opt Out Website (National group), United Opt Out Facebook group.