Opting Out; A Parent’s Letter;

A Plea for Reason, Based on Research
by Gena Peters, October 26, 2011

After much research, evaluation and consideration, I have decided to keep my kids OUT of the NYS standardized testing from this point forward. I have one daughter in each, the Intermediate Education Center and Middle School at the Lewiston-Porter School District, who would have ordinarily been a part of the 4th grade and 6th grade testing in the spring. There are instructions for teachers on the proper coding for tests where there is a refusal, please be prepared to consider my daughters’ lack of participation as refusals.

Standardized testing has spun out of control, and from what I have personally observed, it stunts the educational growth of our children. The curriculum seems to stop at the scope of what is tested, and there is too much emphasis placed on doing well on the tests. A teacher proclaimed that the kids were so worn out after the round of testing that the remainder of the year would just be review. A different teacher emphasized that it is important to show your work in math because you must do it on the NYS tests… only later was it mentioned that showing work allows the teacher to find where the trouble arises in the computation.

It is shameful that the first priority was to comply with NYS testing requirements. There is too much time and emphasis spent on preparing for the tests. Much of this time could be used learning additional material, perhaps real world information not deemed important by the textbook company, yet still very important. I understand that a good portion of teacher evaluations are based or will be based on the outcome of this testing. This is another reason I am refusing to allow my kids to participate.

Using standardized testing as a method for evaluating teachers and even school districts, encourages the teaching of only test material, and emphasizing techniques to take the test well. It puts good teachers in the position of choosing between giving kids the education they deserve or looking good on their performance review. This is unfair to everyone.

The results of the New York State standardized tests mean nothing to me. More important however, is what the teachers say about my kids. How do the teachers feel they are doing in a particular subject? Do they freeze up at tests but really know the material? Report cards and parent teacher conferences and notes home from the teacher serve that purpose.

The idea of 21st Century skills was brought up at the parent orientation night at the IEC, one of those skills being adaptability. My question is, if the curriculum is structured to enable students to do well on state tests, how are they being prepared to adapt once they get into the real world? The tests are written by the companies who sell the curriculum, who provide the study guides and review websites.

Pearson was recently awarded a $32 million contract with New York State to develop curriculum and tests, after the last contract of $48.2 million to McGraw-Hill resulted in tests that were too easy and predictable. Perhaps another skill that should be taught is ‘follow the money’.

Please do not be surprised at my daughters’ absences on testing days. This letter serves as notice that they will not be participating. Perhaps we will take a family field trip and have a few days of learning outside of school.

I realize that from the administration to the teachers, everyone is ‘just doing their jobs’, unquestioningly. Perhaps a lone voice in the Lewiston-Porter district, I know I am not alone nationwide, in my concern for the future of our children. I plan to encourage others to take a stand to promote a better education for our children as well.