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Sunday, April 22, 2012

NYC principal opting her own children out of testing

Here is a letter from a NYC principal who spoke out against standardized testing and corporate education reform on WNYC radio, when Brian Lehrer had Michelle Rhee as his guest.   She sent the below letter, about opting her children out of testing in the Ridgewood NJ public schools,  to their principals, teachers, the superintendent, the NCLB administrator, guidance counselors, Special Education supervisor, etc. The official response so far has been from the superintendent, who made a veiled threat that she could be reported for truancy for keeping her children out of school on these days. The letter has been slightly revised to omit the names of her children and their schools.
Good afternoon.
 Please be advised that I do not permit my children, to participate in the NJ ASK or any other standardized testing for state report cards and NCLB/RTTT accountability. I believe that this kind of testing is, at best, counter-productive and perhaps even harmful to my children’s education and development. My position is based on my conscientious objection to the State of New Jersey and the U.S. Department of Education employing an early 20th Century assessment model, which reflects the goals, aspirations and knowledge of that time, in order to make high-stakes decisions about the effectiveness of teaching, learning, and schooling today.  This kind of high-stakes testing is not based on what we know about teaching and learning in 2012, nor can it prepare our children for the demands of the 21st Century. The State of New Jersey and the USDOE overstep their bounds and do a disservice to the public when they ignore professionals in local schools by arbitrarily making high-stakes educational decisions based on standardized tests.  Finally, this absurd emphasis on standardized testing depletes valuable tax dollars that could otherwise be spent on improving and supporting teaching and learning.
 As a parent and a 26-year veteran NYC public school educator, children’s development as life-long learners is a top priority.  Educators know that assessment is either for learning or assessment is of learning. Assessments (or “testing”) should always generate feedback that students can apply to their future learning. Professionally, we know that assessment for accountability is wrong.  The NJ ASK gives the Ridgewood Public Schools no information that they don’t already have.  Ridgewood parents and residents insist on excellent public schools. Our local government and our democratic electoral process ensure that we consistently have high performing schools. 
 In urban areas such as Newark, Jersey City, Camden, Paterson, and New York City, high stakes testing for the purpose of school and school district accountability dooms the most needy students to months of intellectually bankrupt classroom experience.  The curriculum narrows in order to ensure that students can respond correctly to multiple-choice questions or formulaic short answer and essay questions.  Timed, one-chance tests subject all children to the perceived possibility of humiliation and failure. This pressure to perform scars children and robs them of their natural curiosity and innate desire to learn.  In fact, our current understanding of the neuroscience of learning indicates strongly that the environment created by high-stakes testing actually inhibits learning.  No Child Left Behind, including New Jersey’s current waiver from the sanctions of that legislation, fails to improve educational outcomes for students.  Ironically, it leaves increased numbers of “minority” subgroups and economically disadvantaged students even further behind. 
My children have had a wonderful experience at [their public schools] in Ridgewood. In fact, I too, am a product of the Ridgewood Public Schools.  As a result of the strong educational foundation established here in Ridgewood, I was able to attend two of our nation’s finest post-secondary institutions in order to pursue my dreams.  Personally and professionally, I must stand with the thousands of courageous parents, schoolteachers and administrators across our nation, who are boycotting high stakes testing.  By opting out of standardized testing, we will deny the USDOE the data that supports its ill-conceived agenda for education reform.  Together we will work to improve public education for all students based on current educational and scientific research. As citizens, it is our responsibility to save our public schools. 
Sincerely, Jean McTavish


My Child is NOT a Test Score said...

As a parent taking the stance much like this principal, it is appalling that there is any threat to a parent making an extremely conscious and purposeful decision to put their "child first." All the talk of putting children first, from Michele Rhee to Gov. Cuomo has parents like myself feeling terribly angry. If this was the purpose of these High Stakes tests and the so-called ed reform these folks seem so hell bent on ramming into law, then why are parents, teachers, principals and children so outraged? If those making policy about what is best practices for everyone who has skin in the game were really concerned about us, then why have our opinions been completely eliminated from the discussion and decision making? I applaud this principal for taking a stand for her clearly stated principles!

cityteacher said...

I want to work for Principal McTavish!

Anonymous said...

I hope this principal is setting a standard all parents will also attain. Children should not have to suffer through standardized testing that does nothing to improve that child's education! It is time for our nation to rise up and tell President Obama "Enough is enough!" We want our children to experience the same education his daughters are receiving.

Donna Yates Mace ~ Florida public school teacher

Bill Liebeskind said...

As a NYC public school art teacher, I have spent much of the year being relieved of my art teaching and made to teach math to prepare kids for The Test. I am one of many first had witnesses of how awful the system is. But our words about how testing and accountability is robbing kids of a real education are weak. People read, nod and go on. That you have actually opted out is courageous. I hope it starts something.

Anonymous said...

Everything being stated about testing by the principal is true. We have allowed the two weeks of testing to-ruin the education of our children and the ability to teach for our teachers in our public schools.The time wasted on test prep which does not teach our children anything but how to take a meaningless test is a crime, The psychological damage done to many of our children and teachers is unfair.Parents and educators must continuously fight to provide the best education possible for our children that will prepare them for a successful life after school. The test philosophy just turns many of our children against trying hard in school.
However, I am not sure if boycotting this test by a minority of parents will do anything but hurt the children who miss the test and perhaps the teacher whose class they are in. It would be nice if a huge majority of the parents would keep their children home on test days,but I am afraid this might only be a dream.

Shivalan said...

I'm at the other end of this debate, someone who has employed the products of teaching to the tests, and it is not a pretty sight. It's possible to be a semi-literate and pass the tests by clicking the correct boxes and knowing stuff. Surely, in this day and age it is critical thinking that's important and with the vast array of knowledge available one or two computer clicks away, these tests are reactionary and in the way of real education which is and always was about developing in students the personal qualities that will enable them to be successful in life.