One of our Stop the TN Testing Madness members has written a fantastic test refusal letter and he has been kind enough to share it with us. Not only does he refuse the tests, he also shares how these tests are hurting our children and are being used to tear apart our system of public education:
As responsible parents, it is our duty to be informed and involved in our children’s education. It is important to connect with our school and its administration, local leaders, and the community. We have a responsibility to shape our children into creative, well-educated, and productive citizens. With that weighing heavy on my shoulders, I wanted to write you an official letter denoting my intent.
Since Tennessee does not have an established procedure for opting out of the new myriad of standardized testing that Common Core is promoting, I am flat out refusing to allow either of my children to participate in any and all high-stakes testing. This includes, but is not limited to: TCAP, PARCC, DIBELS, DEA, SMARTER Balanced, and all pre-tests and benchmark tests associated with these “assessments.” I also refuse <Name> Elementary School or the Hamilton County BOE permission to circumvent my wishes by administering any of these tests online or in any digital format. If that means that my children will no longer be allowed access to the computers in their classrooms, then so be it. As an active parent, I would like to be provided with a comprehensive schedule of ALL testing and pre-testing, so that I may stay informed on the school day’s activities.
Last year, my children, <Thing 1> and <Thing 2>, were subjected to intense standardized testing. They not only lost weeks of meaningful classroom instruction, but <Thing 1> was also requested to attend your after school TCAP prep course. For an additional 4-5 hours a week after school he was drilled and coached on specific areas tested by TCAP. This extra time severely cut into his homework time, leaving my 4th grader to still be working on homework until after 9pm some days. It also instilled a sense of urgency so severe that he developed stress-induced anxiety, resulting in him losing focus, nights of sleep, and being physically ill on the days of the testing. After nights of throwing up and worrying, <Thing 1> official “scores” reflected the anxiety that was placed on these tests, not his actual scope of learning. In fact, the ONLY positive result from your TCAP prep was a person-to-person bond established by <Teacher>. <Thing 1> got <Teacher> as his 5th Grade teacher, and he was ecstatic. That bond was the SINGLE reason <Thing 1> was even looking forward to this school year, and that is a credit to a fantastic teacher, not a standardized test.
Based on the pillars of the 14th Amendment, and the Supreme Court rulings of Meyer v Nebraska (1923), and Pierce v Society of Sisters (1925), I exercise my Constitutional right as a citizen of the United States of America to take complete possession of my children, and to guide their education in a manner in which I see fit. As a taxpayer, I am entitled to the provision of public education for my children as outlined in the State of Tennessee Constitution. By proxy, my children also hold certain rights; among those, that they may not be denied the right to enter the school on testing days simply based on testing refusal, that they may not be discriminated against by denying them meaningful instruction or by placing them in isolation for hours on those testing days, and they they may not be punished in any way for not participating in the standardized tests.
It is my solid belief that Common Core (and the high-stakes standardized testing that drives it) is doing much more harm than good to our students, teachers, schools, and communities. By improperly balancing and reporting international test scores, a manufactured crisis was created back in the 1970′s. The lie that our educational system was completely failing introduced a savior offering a solution. This solution was a standardized curriculum as measured by standardized testing, and the savior a consortium of private corporations who produce, manage, and administer those tests. Common Core is a clear attempt to collapse the public education system and replace it with profit-driven private oversight. It is plainly forbidden for the Federal government to interfere with the States’ right to control education. Instead of an outright takeover, a carrot-and-stick approach was implemented in the form of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core, using federal dollars and cleverly crafted legislation. That legislation was funded and supported by the very people who will make billions off of it, companies like Pearson Publishing, McGraw-Hill Publishing, Wireless Generation, Ignite! Learning (owned by George Bush’s brother), The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Broad Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and most disturbingly, inBloom Inc.
If you’re not aware of them, inBloom is the main data collection and management source for the Common Core initiative. As a data collection company, inBloom does not stop at simply collecting test scores, but collects over 400 non-test-related data points on students. These data points include the education level of the parents, household income, time spent in prison, health conditions of the family, and other very intrusive topics. Not only is this a gross breach in privacy, but if history has shown us one thing, it is that this data is NOT secure, regardless of what they claim. So we see that Common Core is actually a data-led, corporate-fed entity which has, at the state and federal level, been bought out by these corporations.
Race to the Top has set up a system of failure. In 2016 or so, when the federal money expires and states can no longer fund these initiatives or maintain the updated computers to administer tests, they will be forced to do one of two things: turn to private corporations for help, or divert available funding from other places in our school budget. In Florida, McKinsley & Co (a private management consulting firm) is already in conversation to assume the Common Core “contract.” (And by “contract,” I mean “profit-based enforcement.”) If schools instead attempt to use in-house funding, programs like the arts, music, phys ed, drama, and sports will all suffer while a diminished education system continues to try and fund a data management and testing prerogative. This is a backdoor avenue to privatize public education, and my children’s well-being is a far distant second. This is unacceptable.
I do realize that this may impact the school in the immediate future, as high-stakes standardized tests are also now being used against the schools and teachers administering them, and I apologize for that. It is interesting to note that the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) Education Committee (who has always favored large corporate interests) has supported teacher performance pay, merit pay, and revising how we use assessments. Peeling back the curtain, the legislation bringing these harmful ideas to a reality include funding by The Lumina Foundation, State Farm Insurance, Affinity, and Microsoft- ALL members of ALEC. The corporations backing these self-serving initiatives have used their lobbyists to good effect, and their marketing has been among the best the world has ever seen. Opting out of high-stakes testing has never closed a school or gotten a teacher fired. Opting IN has.
I want you to understand that my purpose for refusing this testing is NOT to keep my kids away from a test, but that this is the only way that we as parents have left to use to push back against a system that was designed NEVER to produce positive results for kids, but instead to produce profits for corporations. I have a commitment to my children, and so, I have a commitment to my local schools. I’m not going to hold rallies in the front yard of the school, but I will let any parent know that I have refused testing and encourage them to also refuse the tests for their own children. I simply cannot allow my children to suffer while they are used as pawns in this game.
Finally, I wish to put forth my final point concerning high-stakes standardized testing. These tests are purported to measure “growth,” but growth in what? Growth in test scores? We can teach parrots, dogs, and monkeys to improve their test scores. If these tests were the ultimate proof of learning, then teachers would be completely irrelevant. We’re supposed to be teaching our children how to develop, not achieve higher points on a snapshot test. So many factors can affect a child’s performance. Stress, anxiety, lack of breakfast, and personal or home issues can all cause an “A” student to bomb a test. With the stakes attached to these tests, we are effectively telling our children that their worth is based on these test scores, not a composite of who they are as an entire person. I believe in taking back OUR education system together, and freeing teachers to reintroduce depth and creativity into the classroom. I’ll close with a quote from Albert Einstein:
“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
If you need me, you may call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. A copy of this letter has also been emailed to you, so you have my email address there as well.