We Will Not Perpetuate Injustice: A response to questions of opt out harm.

This morning I read a response to a friend’s editorial that was recently published by the Houston Chronicle: Why my daughter won’t take STAAR exams this year. The response’s intent was to give parents pause about following suit because our actions might unintentionally hurt our schools. We hear these concerns over and over, so I thought I’d answer them on my blog. Here are some quotes/points from the post and my responses…

If his daughter is well prepared and sure to do well on the test, yet chooses to opt out, that could negatively impact the school’s test scores. If that were to happen, important school programs (such as a Montessori magnet) could lose funding or the program itself. 

No program in Texas or anywhere else in the nation has lost funding due to parents opting out. When this was threatened very publicly last year in New York, parents redoubled their efforts and over 200k students opted out. What happened? The governor changed his stance and Congress enacted ESSA with new options for states to handle parents opting out.

Underprivileged children are, sadly, counting on the test scores of their more societally empowered classmates. This could unintentionally hurt the very students those who are concerned with the system surrounding the STAAR wish to advocate for. 

What about the underprivileged children at schools that are 100% underprivileged? Scores at other campuses from these “empowered classmates” as you describe them are being used to justify keeping kids out of art and music, keeping them in school on Saturdays and during Spring Break, keeping them from entering magnet programs, putting them in summer school or holding them back a grade. These “empowered classmates” scores are used to close neighborhood schools, fire teachers and justify the outsourcing of public education to charter and private schools. All of this, if you admit that the tests are “unjust, inhumane, and racist” are doing damage to entire people groups.

Protecting a small number in a group is not a justification to harm those groups as a whole.

But this article fails to address the negative impact “opting out” could have on the student’s school (and her less privileged classmates)

The article cannot fail to mention all the things that “could” happen. Lots of things “could” happen well beyond the ones you state.

The article does focus on all the things that ARE happening right now like first graders doing test prep, kids asking parents to stay in the second grade (happening at my campus too), kids being told by teachers that summer school is required if they fail (which is false and also happening at my campus), homework consisting only of test prep (also happening at my campus), and over-stressing teachers, parents and students (for which you concur).

Look, even if there is a small percentage chance that there are any negative consequences to opting out, you have to realize THERE IS A 100% CERTAINTY that the current negative environment will persist if we do nothing.

I fully agree that standardized testing is inherently corrupt and unnecessary. Please, fight it! Change it! But as it stands, sending your child to a public school comes with standardized tests that are tied directly to program funding and teacher reviews, and the vast majority of students have no other option but public school.

We are fighting it. We are changing it.

But no, just because a law or system is required by the state does not mean we must acquiesce and submit. Furthermore, if you know a system is unjust and you participate, you are as culpable as those that enact it.

Thomas Jefferson said, “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.” In this respect, history gives us many lessons from which to learn.

Yes, the system is total crap. Yes, it’s unfair, it’s racist, classist, stressful (to teachers, parents, and students alike).

We agree. All of these things alone are enough of a justification to not participate.

If we had a racist bus system; would you argue, “As it stands this is a public transportation system, the vast majority of riders don’t have any other option but public transportation, and they might lose the right to that transportation if they break its rules?”

No, you wouldn’t. And we won’t either.

We refuse to participate. And for those of us who recognize our own systemic privileges, we will not let the school district or the state use the threat of losing those unearned privileges to coerce us into being a part of the problem.

We opt out to protect our children. We opt out to protest the injustices against all children. We opt out to reclaim our schools.

We are reclaiming our schools for the professional and dedicated teachers that are best equipped to nurture our students to their greatest potential. We are reclaiming our schools for our children that need to learn not only reading, math and science but character, critical thinking, music, art, exercise and even some citizenship.

When we opt out, we are doing what’s best for our children and what’s best for our society.

3 thoughts on “We Will Not Perpetuate Injustice: A response to questions of opt out harm.

  1. Kudos to smart independent thinking parents for opting out—now if only the teachers would unite and opt out enmasse on test day—refuse to pick up or distribute test materials, plan lessons that really teach and engage the kids to want to learn and have lots of news stations on hand to record the event…it can be done!

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  2. I am a parent of a third, seventh, and ninth grader. Last year I went to pick up my youngest child from school, she came out work up and just inconsolable. She had learned that she would be taking the STARR test as a third grader. I was stunned, never had any of my older kids react this way. View it from her perspective. The younger students always know when it is STARR testing time, the school is in lock down mode and no one can leave their class rooms during the time of the test for fear of making noise. They see the worried looks on the older students, they hear STARR STARR STARR TEST TEST TEST from the teachers of the older students. They learn fear during this time. Three years of viewing this would stress anyone out. Third grade is the first year of the test. I went to open house night with the third grade teachers and I was floored by the parents stress over the STARR test that was eight months away. Parents wanting to see previous tests to practice, find websites that would help prepare and concerned whether their kid was going to be able to pass. Wow, if I was their kid I would be stressing too. We have had to change our daughter’s thinking about the test. We tell her it is just merely a test to see what you have learned and what the teacher has taught you. Can I yack here? Sure my husband and I had testing in our days, but it was only the odd grades of school. Did we focus primarily on it all year? NO! Watching my older boys now with their learning has me cringing! My oldest is lucky that his parent learned algebra and geometry, since we are spending our time explaining what wasn’t taught in class. Guess what I realize, when he has kids he won’t be able to teach or help his kids in math. Why? Because they never really learned it themselves. They are cramming more math down these kids throats fast and furious. They will never know it by heart and they will never really enjoy it. My future grandchildren are doomed if education doesn’t change. I wish everyone would step back and take a look where all curriculum and testing went wrong!! My husband and I feel our education was solid, since twenty plus years out and we still remember the foundation to school subjects. We retained the foundations but the kids now will not. I see a horrible trend in our schools with new changes to next year in middle school. Kids will now have a nine period class day and at what cost, shorter classes or maybe a little longer day. Wow, I don’t envy them at all. Really there aren’t enough options to fill four extra curriculum classes and have four required subjects but don’t forget the remediation class if you can’t pass your classes. What I am witnessing is teachers not exactly loving to teach anymore and I can’t blame them. They have less class time and the state forcing tests on them. The spark for teaching is getting extinguished by the government. I have three kids, one high school, one middle school and one elementary. I am scared for my kids and no I cannot afford to put them in private. I even work for a major university and here I witness professors frustrations with the students coming in as freshman. They are not ready to be at the college level. Time to review where it all went wrong and fix it fast! Time to educated not teach a test!

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