I mentioned the stress it placed on my son, along with the fact that the teacher evals were tied to scores. "Oh my gosh, so are you from the union? You sound as if you're making an argument for the teacher's union!" -- NYC parent in convo with principal re: opting out
As angry as I was before, seeing the tests today (which we are not allowed to quote in any way) has sent me over the edge! I haven't even read all of them yet but the fifth grade test is unbelievable. Easy reading selections and lots of trick questions--more than I have ever seen before--that are absolutely no indication of any kind of 5th grade level reading comprehension. My APs and I can't even figure out what answer they are looking for in some questions! I think we absolutely need to fight that these tests be made public. People will be shocked to see them. --- NYC PrincipalAhhh, the high stakes testing game is bringing out lots of people who were not activists before. Over 30 years I have battled against HST that began with a principal in 1979 forcing them down our throats and forcing me out of the classroom that I loved so much. The UFT support for HST was one of the issues that broke me with Randi --- I won't go into details now. The forces are growing amongst parents and teachers while the UFT/AFT as an org stays out of the battle- other than issuing a lame statement every so often.
I haven't had time to address the amazing group of parents who have sprung up around the opting out of the test issue, led by the people involved in the GEM Change the Stakes testing committee. There are wonderful emails flying around that I can barely keep track of. And they go beyond NYC and are reaching out nationally. These parents who seemed isolated before have begun to find each other through the Change the Stakes conduit. Build it and they will come - which is what GEM seems to do so well. What I love about this process is how GEM does not try to take ownership and control but allows the group to breathe and go forth and organize. I foresee this opt-out group touching base with the Willimsburg/Greenpoint parents fighting Eva/Eric and this can create a citywide organizing group to jump into the political battles ahead. A bunch of them were at our evaluation event yesterday and were delightful to meet.
The UFT of course is silent (and they took quite a bashing at our Teacher Evaluation Nightmare Forum yesterday.)
As I was finishing this up I came across this post on Schools Matter: Special Ed Child Forced to Take Test, Mom Threatened by School Officials in Oceanside, NY
While many parents in NYC report some decent experiences when discussing opting out with their principals, this parent faced the kind of principal so many teachers face.
Well, I had a somewhat disturbing conversation with our principal. I brought my child in to school at noon, after the testing period, and was told that, "according to Legal", if he entered the building at whatever time, they were "required" to administer the test. I hadn't read through the threads here today, where i see that some schools have made accommodations that permit some of the opted-out students to help out in other classrooms. So, if "Legal" says my son is "required" to take the test if he's in the building, why is this not being enforced city-wide? (answer: it's a bunch of bull).And this came in from a principal:
She acted as if she were confused by my opposition to the test: "testing has been around for years!" Yes, I said, but not in this way-- and please don't pretend you're not aware of the controversy surrounding these particular tests. I mentioned the stress it placed on my son, along with the fact that the teacher evals were tied to scores. "Oh my gosh, so are you from the union? You sound as if you're making an argument for the teacher's union!" (not that there's anything wrong with that). I pointed out that the real issue for me, as a parent, was that the tie-in to teacher evals is bound to alter the dynamic between student and teacher-- or should i say test-taker and evaluee?
I politely told her that this was no easy decision for us (after she rather offensively said "I don't see how you could place him in the middle of all this")-- as if I were simply using my child to, i don't know, run for political office...
Finally I said, "we understand that we'll need to talk about possible consequences to our decision, but we feel we're making it in his best interest" to which she replied "well, he'll have to go to summer school."
Really, I said. He's been on the honor roll; he's reading at the fourth-grade level; he won first place in the science fair-- what possible academic justification would you have for making him go to summer school? She smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "We have to follow the rules, whatever they are" (like the one "requiring" her to administer the test if he's in the building?)
I left it with "well, we don't accept that" and "thank you for your time"... I handed her the temperate, polite letter I'd written explaining our decision and she promised to read it. How wonderful for us.
But I'm glad we're doing it. We don't intend to back down in the face of such bland bureaucratic intimidation-- I only wish I could do this without putting my son in this situation...although when we left he said "you and me...linked, Dad. I'm on your side."
Right. So on to victory. Sigh.
As angry as I was before, seeing the tests today (which we are not allowed to quote in any way) has sent me over the edge! I haven't even read all of them yet but the fifth grade test is unbelievable. Easy reading selections and lots of trick questions--more than I have ever seen before--that are absolutely no indication of any kind of 5th grade level reading comprehension. My APs and I can't even figure out what answer they are looking for in some questions! I think we absolutely need to fight that these tests be made public. People will be shocked to see them.Leonie asks:
Can we have teachers take a look at the ELA passages and tell us, either on or off the record, how confusing and/or ambiguous the choices of answers are?
And note this: