Guest column: Our children deserve better
November 16, 2014
Standardized testing happens for one reason only: Parents allow their children to be excessively tested. If parents, students and teachers refuse to participate, schools will have to replace these expensive tests with meaningful instruction and practical, low-cost, old-fashioned assessments based on essay writing, math skill sheets and oral reading fluency. The protest movement is growing, and your voice needs to be heard.
There are myriad problems with the new Common Core standards across all grade levels K-12. The new standards leapt a full grade level in many cases. A seventh-grade child now has a full year gap in math-instruction expectations. It's impossible for any child to skip huge chunks of linear math instruction and be expected to succeed in that subject. The school districts knew about this impending train wreck, yet they did nothing to phase these standards in slowly and sensibly. At lower grade levels, some standards aren't even developmentally appropriate.
The amount of classroom time consumed by testing and test prep is staggering. In the Roaring Fork School District, our children lose a whopping 72 days (almost half a school year) just in physically taking the tests from third to 10th grade. Test prep wastes even more of their precious learning time.
Common Core is hugely expensive, requiring technology upgrades and expensive textbook purchases. Two years ago, the school district threw away the reading curriculum taxpayers had paid hundreds of thousands dollars for — it pitched these good-condition books in the trash because they weren't "aligned" with the new tests.
The tests are not actionable in a meaningful way. No one gets to see the actual graded tests, so they have no way of knowing what content areas they are deficient in. Imagine how much more valuable our accountability system could be if "tests" were actually no-cost essays that students wrote to demonstrate they could connect the dots of literature, history and science? What if they got low-cost paper math-proficiency worksheets to test their math knowledge? And how about reading tests where children read a passage out loud, one-on-one with a teacher, who can extrapolate the students' strengths and weaknesses?
Standardized tests cause real emotional harm to children of all ages. This cannot be stressed enough. Children's love of learning is being purposely extinguished by the very institution that is supposed to ignite that spark. Moms have told me their kids are so stressed about these tests they can't sleep, they throw up before the tests and they are worried that their teachers will be fired if they don't perform well. No child should be subjected to this.
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So, what can you do about this? It's time for a little civil disobedience. We can stop this nonsense right here in our local communities and, in turn, inspire other families across the nation to do the same. This week, email your principal, the school superintendent and the school board president (email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org for the Aspen School District; email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org for the Roaring Fork School District). Tell them you oppose testing and that you do not give permission for your child to be subjected to any standardized tests this school year. (There are numerous tests given throughout the year; this isn't only happening in the spring — it's a monthly occurrence). Tell them your child will not be going to the computer lab to spend hours learning how to use the newest testing software. Tell them you want your child to have meaningful, teacher-created assessments that are integrated into regular classroom instruction. Email your teachers, and tell them the same thing. Reassure your teachers that you will stand with them when they refuse to administer the tests (as teachers all across the U.S. are now emboldened to do). Sign up for the free newsletter at http://www.unitedoptout.com. Send an email to the Colorado Legislature's Standards and Assessments Task Force at email@example.com.
Our children deserve better. Do your part, and create the change.