Teachers, parents, students and administrators all have been threatened with consequences for opting out and challenging DOE mandates. Principals have been force fed talking points on testing, teachers have been threatened by the chancellor and parents have been fed a confusing mixture of threats and misinformation to keep them from opting out- and more important, to keep people from questioning the top down directives coming from federal and state governments.
The real story of opt out is the thousands of people- children, parents, teachers and principals who wish they could opt out but do not.
I spoke to a parent the other day who told me she hates the tests, her son hates the tests and is miserable at school but they are not opting out because…
1.The administration has put a lot of pressure on parents around testing
2. Her son is worried about what his peers would think if he went to another classroom during testing
3. They are nervous about getting into a public middle school without 4th grade test scores.
All understandable- especially for low income parents with few options for middle and high school. Just like it is understandable for teachers with mortgages and families to fear speaking out. So many teachers I work with fiercely oppose high stakes testing and wish they could bring creativity and empowerment into their classrooms instead of test prep, but they don’t want to put their jobs at risk. And I’m sure that there are school leaders out there who wish they could use their budgets to hire more teachers instead of paying for test prep materials and curriculum. Taking or administering these tests is by no means an endorsement of high stakes testing.
So for every family that opts out- know that there are 3 families who wish they could. For every teacher that speaks out, there are 3 teachers who would say the same thing if they felt safe. For every principal who writes a letter or stands by their school’s commitment to children over data, there are 3 principals whose positions are too tenuous for them to take that stand.
Whatever we end up saying or doing-triple it- because that’s how powerful this movement really is. That’s how many of us want to see the end of high stakes testing. That’s how many of us want teachers to be respected and nurtured- not sorted and punished. That’s how many of us want to see children learning more than ELA and math. That’s how many of us want to see creativity, community, collaboration and joy in our public schools. Opt out numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.