I was told this week to just refuse to give standardized tests. Just like that. And while the person who told me probably meant well in their statement, I don’t think they realize how big of an action that would be. I have long blogged about how standardized testing such as the WKCE here is Wisconsin is not an accurate measurement of what a student really knows, but rather a snapshot of that very moment they took the test. I have also been vocal in my opposition to what that data sometime is used for and how we end up labeling students, teachers, schools, and entire districts on a meaningless measure that does little to emulate what we really do in our classroom. And sure, I have dreamed of refusing to simple administer it in my room. But that’s it, a dream, because in reality it probably wouldn’t do much for anyone but me.
If I were to refuse administering these state mandated tests, I would get in trouble. That is an absolute guarantee. And while I have never been one to shy away from too much controversy, the kind of trouble this time would be much bigger than a write up. I could even lose my job for failing to do my duties. To some that may not seem like a big deal, after all, I should be standing up for my students and their rights, my own opinions, I should protect those children that I teach from the tests. But my job is vital to my own children. My job is our health insurance. My job gives us just enough money so that we can pay our bills. I wish my husband had a huge paying job, he doesn’t, and so we are a very dependent two income family. So losing my job refusing tests just isn’t something I can rationally do and in a sense, I am not sure I should be the one refusing the tests anyway.
Teachers can try to change education as much as we want. Many do. We write, we speak out, we try things in our own classrooms that we hope will spread to others. We stand up for what we believe in, we spread our message. But in the end we are just the teachers. The real change must come from outside the classroom, from school administration, from school boards, from government, but they will not change until one group speaks out: parents. The real change must come from parents. The real opposition must come from those who entrust their children to us. They are the ones that can decide whether a test is harmful or inaccurate. They are the ones that can choose to opt out. I am not the one that decides whether testing will harm a child or not, I can have my opinions sure, but in the end the decision does not rest with me and as long as parents willingly have their children tested then my job is to test them.
So while I can dream of refusing to test my students it will only stay a dream until the parents whose children I get to teach are the ones that decide that things should change. We may think as teachers that it is only our responsibility to speak up and that if we don’t then no one else will. This is not true anymore. We may be the ones that start the conversation but others have to join the fight. Whatever they believe in. So when I am told I should simply refuse, I hope others see how it is not that easy. How my refusal will do little for my students and only harm to my own family. And while I would sacrifice my life for my students if I ever had to, I will not sacrifice my job in a non-lethal situation. I will not sacrifice the life of my own children for something that many others do not see as a big deal. Would you?