The Opt Out Update

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(Originally posted on Seattle Education.)

By the way, the third MAP test which is given in the Fall is solely for the use of NWEA. That’s why it’s “optional”.

We’re spending precious resources and time so that NWEA can have more test scores to plug into their database. That’s right people. You will note on the Seattle Public School (SPS) website that the Fall test is optional. It’s not needed by SPS for the purpose of tracking student data. NWEA should be paying us for that one.

POP Quiz:

OK Seattleites, look in the right hand corner at the “Note to self” and tell me, who is the bureaucrat at the chalkboard?

The answer will be given at the end of this post.


Check out the students in Providence Rhode Island:

Student ‘zombies’ march on R.I. Department of Education in protest

A group of Providence high school students, some with zombie makeup, protest against the rigid use of NECAP tests that determines eligibility for graduation.

PROVIDENCE — Spattered with blood, their eyes blackened, their T-shirts torn, a line of teenaged zombies zigzagged through downtown during the afternoon rush.

Chanting, “No education, no life,” more than 50 Providence teenagers marched on the state Department of Education to protest its decision to link test scores to high school graduation.

“To take away the diploma is to take away our life, to make us undead,” said Cauldierre McKay, a Classical High School student. “That’s why we’re here today…dressed as the zombies that this policy will turn so many of us into.”


A Facebook page has been created called Parents and Kids Against Standardized Testing. Check it out.

I found on another Facebook page this note:

Here’s a gem of a note I just received from Portland Public Schools regarding the upcoming OAKS test:

“Limit activities the night before tests. You may want to avoid having guests for dinner or skip his sister’s softball game if it means being out late.”

That’s right people, live for the test.

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Teachers around the country have been sending photo’s to the boycotting Seattle teachers.

More news:

Ballard High School students come out in support of the MAP test boycott

From the Portland chapter of Jobs for Justice
From the Portland chapter of Jobs for Justice


Nineteen Legislators Tell Cuomo New Principal and Teacher Rating System is Unproven and Potentially Damaging; Urge Governor to Convert New Rating System Into Pilot Program

An excerpt:

One of the worst decisions of President Obama was to select Duncan as Education Secretary. The massive testing industry is costing tens, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars: test creation, test prep in schools is rampant, art, music and physical education classes fading away, reductions in numbers of psychologists, social workers and guidance counselors, all to identify the same number of “bad” teachers that we identified under the former system (See Education Week here)

Every expert has decried the use of complex value-added measurements, (see Aaron Pallas here), apparently to no avail.

With the exception of the iconoclast governor of California, Jerry Brown, state, city and school district leaders have hopped onboard the Duncan bandwagon. The lure of billions of federal dollars and staying in the good graces of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is powerful.

Assemblyman Jim Brennan is one of the really “good guys.” He represents his constituents (Brooklyn: Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights) with a passion. The parents and principal at PS 321, an “A” school, have been adamant – they do not want their school turned into a “test prep” mill, and, they have actively organized like-minded parents around the city.

The testing system is deeply flawed.

“Testing and education experts have expressed serious concerns about the validity of the model, pointing to the inability of this methodology to identify the most effective teachers. As an Economic Policy Institute briefing paper mentions, one study found that across five large urban districts, among teachers rated in the top 20% of effectiveness in the first year, less than a third were in the highest rated group the following year, and another third moved all the way down to the bottom 40%.”

Nineteen legislators signed a letter to Governor Cuomo asking that he support legislation to turn the Principal/Teacher Evaluation law into a 3-year pilot program

The unintended consequences of this model extend beyond the teaching profession. This model creates incentives for an increased focus on test preparation and a corresponding narrowing of the curriculum. “The high-stakes testing model could have a direct, negative impact on the quality of the education our students receive. We must ensure that we do not mistakenly damage the teaching profession and our school system in a flawed attempt to increase accountability,”

Brennan plans to reintroduce legislation to turn the APPR into a three-year pilot program. In this three-year period, the Commissioner would be required to review and evaluate the APPR system and report to the Governor on the validity of the evaluations. High-stakes decisions, such as termination of employment and compensation based on student test data, would be suspended during this time.

The nineteen legislators deserve high praise – the governor has run roughshod over both houses of the legislature with very little opposition.

Portland teahers

Bedford Central Takes Jab at Standardized Testing

Bedford school board members balk at federal and state roles in education, call for cutting mandates for student testing.

Feeling that the federal and state governments have gone too far in their emphasis on standardized tests, the Bedford Central School District’s Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution that calls for scaling back requirements.

The act, called a “Resolution on High-Stakes Testing,” calls for the federal government (Congress and the Obama administration) to overhaul the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act by cutting testing mandates, promoting multiple ways of assessing student learning and not requiring test results to be used in teacher evaluations.

The board, in the resolution, also called on state officials – they are Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the legislature and State Education Commissioner John King – to take another look at the recently adopted teacher evaluation system and to include other types of assessments for consideration of importance.

The resolution approve is not against testing, but rather it argues that there is too much dependence of it.

Oh hey! I'm in this one! These were teachers and parents at the Scrap the Map! Forum.
Oh hey! I’m in this one! These were teachers and parents at the Scrap the Map! Forum.

An opt out letter from a parent in Texas:

Dear (school principal),

This letter is to respectfully inform you of the decision my husband and I have made to opt our children out of the 3rd grade STAAR tests on Apr. 24 and 25 and the make-up tests on Apr. 26 and 27. We understand it is Austin ISD’s position that “by law there is no opt out for students” and that even though the test will not count towards school ratings this year, our children’s “unexcused” absences may negatively impact the school’s Adequate Yearly Progress report. We have been active, involved members of the school community, and our family has always supported the school and its many wonderful teachers, but after long and careful thought about what is best for our children and a great deal of reading on the topic of high-stakes standardized testing, we feel we must act on our convictions and engage in civil disobedience rather than be coerced into participating in a testing system that is deeply flawed morally and pedagogically, the result of corporate greed and political agendas that do not serve our children or anyone else’s.

The decision to engage in civil disobedience is not an easy one, and I would like to explain how we came to it. Our opt out story begins exactly two years ago when David, then a first-grader, came home from school and blurted out, “I hate the TAKS test!” At a loss to understand how he could be so upset about a test he didn’t have to take, I started asking questions and was stunned to learn that his class had a substitute most of TAKS week because his teacher was required to serve as a proctor for the test. The substitute, it seems, was little more than an unenthusiastic babysitter who sat at her desk and handed out worksheets day after day. As David understood it, she told the children they couldn’t use the bathroom so much because the noise of the flushing toilet would disturb a child testing in the next room.

As the mother of first graders, the TAKS had barely been on my radar, but when I questioned David further, I was upset to have to learn from my seven-year-old what impact the TAKS was having on the entire school: all specials and recess had been cancelled not only for testing grades but for every grade.

In his email to school administrators explaining that “Parents may not opt out of testing of any kind,” AISD General Counsel Mel Waxler encourages “parents who believe the standardized tests place undue pressure on their students . . . to meet with their child’s school counselor to develop solutions tailored to their child’s needs.” But “undue pressure” is endemic in high-stakes testing! When schools are virtually hermetically sealed during testing weeks, when all visitors, mentors, and parents who just want to have lunch with their child in the cafeteria are virtually banned from the school, when everyone must tiptoe and whisper in the hallways, when adults responsible for children’s well-being tell them they can’t go to the bathroom because the toilet flushing makes too much noise, children absorb it all, and the damage is done. I vividly recall my own “culture shock” seeing the window in the door of the testing coordinator’s office covered in black construction paper. No matter that I was an adult who didn’t have to take the test, even I felt anxious.

It was after I posted a rant on the school listserv the following fall, hoping to start a discussion with the new school year, that I learned I needed to redirect my outrage. Without legislative change, the teachers and administrators, too, are under “undue pressure,” trapped in an education system in which there is way too much emphasis placed on standardized test scores.

I learned from talking with you after your STAAR presentation on March 20 that what children endured with the TAKS was even worse than I had realized. I had had no idea that because the test had no time limit, some children were still testing at 5:30pm and later, laying their head down to nap when too tired to continue. Since the STAAR is timed, hopefully no child will be testing into the evening, but a four-hour exam for third graders is still far too long.

To read this letter in full, go to  The Innovative Educator.

And from Fair Test:

Testing Resistance & Reform in the News: February 21 – 27, 2013

It’s been another incredible week with stories from almost a dozen states chronicling the growing resistance to high-stakes testing overkill and illustrating assessment reform alternatives. There are several good models here for effective local organizing.  Not surprisingly, the testing industry and its apologists are pushing back with promises of “all new, improved” products that, no surprise, don’t yet exist. 

Warning from Florida: Ignore Jeb Bush’s Bad Advice on Education Policy

Excess Testing is Major Focus of Huge Austin Rally

Texas Rally Organizer’s Website:

Is Right-Wing School Reform (Texas) Toast — A Good History of the Roots of the Current Insanity

Four Ex-Education Commissioners Agree: Too Much Testing

Even Gov. Perry Supports Review of Testing Requirements (But Embraces Jeb Bush’s School Grading Scam)

Rhode Island Mobilizes Against New Grad Test

Editorial Blasts Rhode Island Plan to Tie Graduation to Test Scores

Connecticut Education Chief Seeks Newtown Testing Waiver

New York School Board Unanimously Endorses High-Stakes Testing Resolution: Model for Other Community Campaigns

Are New York Test Defenders Covering Up Uncomfortable Data?

New Jersey Community Meeting Dissects Negative Impacts of High-Stakes Exams

New Mexico House Resolution Questions State’s (Mis)Use of Test Scores

Kansas Senate Committee Rejects Test-Based Retention

Teacher Test Law Criticized in Minnesota

Teacher Survey Shows Record Low Teacher Job Satisfaction

Testing at a Crossroads: A Teacher Roundtable

Pearson Boasts About Growing Testing Business

We’ll end with a video of United Opt Out founder Tim Slekar speaking at a rally for public schools in Pittsburgh, PA and organized by Yinzercation.


Join us at MAP Test Boycott Parent Support.

Post Script:

The person at the chalk board talking to the student was our former substitute supe, Susan Enfield. During her time as superintendent, she, along with Bree Dusseault who was brought in by our former Broad supe from the Gates funded (crank ’em out) policy center CRPE after founding a charter school in New Orleans, decided that they were going to try and start their own Race to the Top assault on our public schools by firing the principal because of low test scores. There was such an outcry by the parents and students, that he was reinstated. Ooops.

Dora Taylor


Posted on by Dora Taylor Posted in High stakes testing

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