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Refusing the tests

Some of us coached our children to refuse six days of state exams last month. Some of us coached our kids to take the exams and understand that they are a meaningless measure. Some of our children who refused sat still for 90 minutes each of six days – nine hours total – not being allowed to read (in school!) and having extracurricular activities taken away.

Some of our children who refused were supported by their teachers. Others faced threats of detention and suspension. Others were marked absent despite being present in school. Many were lied to, saying their test performance would affect their grade.

More than 200 moms and dads from 16 area school districts have come together to share information about coaching our children to refuse New York State math and ELA tests. Why?

First, the test is a snapshot from which the kids' annual performance is measured – like a beauty contest being measured by the contestants' driver's license photograph. It's just not a good measure.

Another reason is concern over how the test scores are used. The New York State Education Department's plan is to use scores to measure building performance and teacher performance, yet the scores are not reported on the child's report card. Classroom teachers are not given the scores from the tests, so they cannot actually use them to help a child learn. Nine hours of test taking, plus the pre-test preparation and practice: Think of the worthy classroom learning crowded out by this waste of time. And we are merely halfway through the testing season. Still to come are the science and social studies tests.

Also of concern is what is being tested. The new Common Core curriculum was not in the hands of many teachers in September. Regardless of the quality of this curriculum, teachers did not have the material that the test covers. This is why administrators predict dismal scores this year. Parents have a concern about children being set up for failure.

Lastly, the tests are an intrusion on the classroom, not a part of the learning process. I understand that superintendents must require schools to implement these tests, because superintendents are pressured from the state. In turn, the state is pressured from the federal government to implement the Common Core, which requires these standardized tests. This is a cycle of bullying which has nothing to do with the classroom, nothing to do with teachers, nothing to do with children. Children are pawns.

The beautiful thing is that children have the power to stop this cycle. This is why my daughter, in eighth grade, refused to take these tests last year. She had no adverse effects on her report card or on placement for the next year. Refusing actually empowered her.

If you're interested in learning more to make an informed decision for your child during May's fourth and eighth grade science and social studies test and June's field testing, join the Great Rochester Opt Out on Facebook.

(School districts in which children refused to take ELA and Math tests are Brighton, Byron-Bergen, Fairport, Honeoye Falls-Lima, Marion, Newark, Penfield, Pittsford, Rochester, Rush Henrietta, Sodus, Spencerport, Victor, Wayland Cohocton, West Irondequoit, and Williamson.)