On Parenting and Standardized Tests

Much like the rest of North America, my students have been doing the BIG test these last few weeks.  Much like so many teachers, I have sat silently and hoped that I have been enough, that what we have done has adequately prepared them, that they do well.  And yet…

I have also refused to worry more about it.  I have refused to get further upset.  I have shaken my head, I have made my comments, but I have refused to take it home with me.  This test is so far out of my hands that me worrying more about it, losing sleep over it, getting my blood pressure up, is not going to do anything good.  I cannot change what I have taught.  I cannot help my students more than I have.  So by now as a teacher, I can only do my best and hope for the best.  I can raise my voice whenever I get a chance, and I can hope for change.  Because as teachers, our voices are being drowned.  Our voices are not being heard.  Proponents of the testing say teachers are too invested, too close to the situation to have an unbiased opinion.  We are afraid of what the tests may say about our teaching.  We do not want accountability.  And no matter how many times I argue about the fallacy of these statements, I am still lumped into a group that few want to listen to.  So as a teacher, I have had to find my peace within this testing obsessed nation, protect my students as best as I can and save my energy for the fight I will put up for my own children.

Because as a parent, I worry.  I worry about the massive amount of time these test are taking.  I worry about the developmentally appropriateness of questions.  I worry about how they don’t actually mimic the skills that we help our students develop such as arguing one’s opinion or noticing the different facets of an answers.   I worry about how these tests will be used to further rank our children as we rank their teachers, as we rank their schools, as we rank their districts.  I worry how these test will continue to perpetuate the myth that the American public education system is a broken one and it therefore needs to be all about choice and privatization.

So I already know all of my own children will be opted out when they get to that age.  I already know that my children will not be asked to sit through hours of testing to prove something that doesn’t benefit them or change their direct instruction.  They will not be asked to help rank their school through a computerized test.   As a parent, right now, I have a larger voice than I do as a teacher.   And I will keep using that voice whenever I can, even if it only means helping the four kids that I get to call my own.  The fight has to start somewhere.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

10 thoughts on “On Parenting and Standardized Tests

  1. Good for you! As parents who are teachers, our voice and our actions carry a lot of weight with other parents. Your opting out may influence other parents to do the same. We vote with our feet.

  2. From a student perspective it seems so clear that issue lies in our teachers being judged on our test scores, in tests we never choose to take; this is true in the UK too, but there doesn’t seem to be any ‘opt out’ movement over here. It’s heartbreaking to see some of the ramifications of this set-up when teachers feel too tied to the results to detach themselves as you have so valiantly done Pernille. For you or your readers my ‘in defence of teachers’ take on this was published here – http://bit.ly/1EqDeGB – a couple of days ago. This way of managing teachers is not OK. It’s hurting teachers and students.

  3. Pernille,

    I have been following your blog for some time now and love so much of what you communicate. This post especially got to me. I am a former Minneapolis Public School teacher who now works with and coaches teachers. I have been opting my two children out for three years now and am slowing observing more and more families ask for more information and begin their own journeys into taking a stand for their children. We (as parents) are instrumental in making the change that needs to happen. As a teacher there was so much fear going around, it was disheartening and oppressive. I applaud you for the hard, hard work you are doing on behalf of (the collective) our kids!

  4. Pernille-I had this same thought last week as my 5th grade class lugged through hours of testing. Not sure if the test’s suggested times were off, or if my kids were working oh so hard (and they were!), but a test that should have been an hour and a half, took more than twice as long!
    As for my own two boys who are too young to take these tests-not only do I want to opt them out of the week of testing, but the week(s) before of review! Ugh what a time waste–I decided next year it would be interesting to take a mini-vacation to Disneyland the week before testing–they won’t miss any new instruction, I won’t be tempted to “test prep”, and the week of testing my own 2 boys can sit in another room and reflect on a great family vacation! Win-win!

  5. I opted my son out this year. I don’t think he really cared one way or the other, but did enjoy staying home early in the day when the other kids were testing. I do wonder if ONE benefit is to help prepare him for the standardized tests (ACT/SAT) that he will have to take before college. Will these tests help? I’m not sure yet.

  6. I do not believe school districts provide their parents the information they need to make an educated decision about opting out or not. I thought the tests were required so my own children were tested. I do not have a single opt-out student but again, if parents knew they could, I think some might. I teach 4th grade so I still have WKCE in the fall and Badger Testing now in the spring. Computer tests do more than test math and language skills. They test computer skills such as using a mouse, typing skills (they are just learning) and click and drag. Not sure that is really fair.

  7. I took my son out of school several years ago and am homeschooling, mostly due to the ever-increasing testing demands. I wish more of us knew about the opt-out, but what I really wish is that the powers that be would stand back and let our teachers do what they do best–teach.

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