Thursday, April 2, 2015

Students Stand Up for Their Right to Learn

A few days ago I shared a rant about standardized testing--specifically the way in which the new Smarter Balanced assessment was being implemented in my son's high school. In the meantime, there have been developments. In essence, members of the junior class took matters into their own hands. Because many students were upset about the way in which the test schedule would have damaged their ability to keep up with their schoolwork (they would have missed their first- and second-period classes for most of a week), they threatened a mass opt-out. And after a few scrambles and missteps, the administration apologized for its error in judgment and rescheduled the test, compressing it so that all students and teachers will miss as little class time as possible.

Now, in the big picture, things may not look very different. The kids still have to take this giant dumb test. In the small picture, however, the students are ecstatic. As my son crowed in the email he sent me yesterday, "The revolution was (semi)successful!!!!" Students took a stand in favor of their right to an education, and the powers-that-be conceded to them. For kids who have spent most of their lives as bottom feeders in the top-down world of educational control, this was a huge victory.

As the students were skirmishing, I was writing a letter to the administration in support of my son's decision to opt out of the test. Now I no longer need to send that letter: having accomplished his goal, he is willing to meet the administration halfway and take the test. This is his decision, and I told him that I would support him either way. Nonetheless, I think the points in my letter are still valid, so I'll share a few excerpts.
When my son comes home from school and says to me, "All I want to do is just be able to go to class!" then I know that something is deeply wrong with the testing scenario. Our family did not make the decision to opt out lightly. But as a parent I have the responsibility to support my son's best interests, which, in the case of this test schedule, are also his teachers' best interests. 
While I regret that these actions have made the administration's job more difficult, I think that you, too, are aware that the state's approach to testing is misguided. It is abhorrent that policymakers continue to use these kinds of assessments as political tools for shaming schools and educators. Perhaps our children, in their eagerness to stand up for their right to learn, are taking a first step toward change.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

BRAVO to all!! I applaud these students and the many more in other schools who simply WANT to go to class. As a teacher, that makes me very proud and very hopefully for our collective future.