One parent’s dilemma: Why I’m not opting out yet

I want, more than anything, to opt out. I want to tell the State of Ohio, Obama, Arne Duncan, and PARCC to suck it, you may not use my son as a guinea pig. You may not break his spirit and love of learning. But….

I do not want to jeopardize my son’s teacher, principal, school, or district. I do not want to punish the very people who work tirelessly on a daily basis to give him a safe, well-rounded education despite the extra demands placed on them.

Who do I believe? One side urging parents to Opt Out is the Ohioans Against Common Core. They are promoting HB 7, Ohio’s “Safe Harbor for Students.” This Bill allows parents a legal option to opt out of PARCC testing, which, on the surface, sounds amazing. But…

They are telling parents that teachers and districts are protected through Safe Harbor from the negative assessments teachers would incur. They claim the ODE is using scare tactics and lying to parents about the negative impact on teachers if parents opt out. But…

They have their own agenda. “Against Common Core” screams Tea Party, anti-big government, anti-Obama, anti-Common core. Yes, they want to protect our kids from testing, but are promoting their own agenda at the same time. This group wants to “restore local control” but I wonder where they stand on charters and privatization? I wonder if they are manipulating parents for their own gain much like the Federal Government as it pertains to education reform. I specifically asked this group if Safe Harbor protected teachers and never got a response. Remember, many corporate ed reformers want to blame teachers and public education to promote the privatization of education. I can’t support an organization that wants to “take back education” but gives no thought to the negative impact their actions have on the people working in education.

The ODE, on the other hand, has its own agenda too. It has issued a fact sheet listing all of the negative consequences to opting out. Opt out groups say these are scare tactics. Maybe they are, but does that mean the ramifications are untrue? ODE has to follow the law and has their own, state-mandated agenda to promote, involving education funding from the government.

So, to make my own decision for my child, I spoke to my local district. I’ve been in contact with several teachers, including my son’s third grade teacher, our school’s principal, Centerville’s Director of Curriculum, and Superintendent Tom Henderson. The bottom line here is that opting out right now would negatively impact my son’s school, his teacher, and our district. I’m not willing to do that. I believe too much in these people in the cross-fire. And while I still ultimately believe we need to find a way to reduce testing, I don’t think opting out is the way to do it unless teachers are protected from the ramifications.

Then how do I protect my son from the stress of testing? I don’t make a huge deal about it, I tell him not to worry about it, I do the best I can as his parent to shield him from the stress of this stupid testing because I am his parent and that is my job. The less importance I give the test, the less he’ll believe it’s important. I know his teachers are doing the best they can to do the same because I’ve spoken to them. And I continue to try to impact my government (anyone else vote against Kasich?) My goal this weekend is to begin a massive letter writing campaign to our state school board and our state legislators and to pass on the information to anyone else that wants to do the same. I’m going to use my voice, just not to opt out while it harms teachers. But…..

I want to know what you’re deciding and why. Please use your voice. Join in the conversation. Make your own decisions. Do SOMEthing to let legislators know you’re paying attention.

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6 thoughts on “One parent’s dilemma: Why I’m not opting out yet

  1. This is a great article. You make a good point about not wanting to opt out due to concern it will hurt your child, but also teachers, school and district. Might I throw this out: I know there are several teachers and administrators who also do not believe in PARCC/RTTT, However, they are scared to stand up due to losing their jobs. If we all sit mute individually, we will have complete government take over. It takes a school, parents, teachers etc. to come together and see how it’s adversely effecting everyone. When we stand tall together, we stand louder. We need to stop and research the government funding prior to running to the bank and cashing the checks. These big checks have many strings attached and PARCC/RTTT is just one of those strings.

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    • I can not allow my child to take these tests. I know she would do just fine as she is brilliant but I also know letting her take them is condemning another child to failure. If everyone who has a child able to pass the test sits by and does nothing, nothing will change.

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  2. Thank you for writing this and for your decision to not do something that could potentially harm teachers and schools. We really need to have a shift in the whole conversation. As you said, there are often hidden agendas behind some of these decisions. Are people opposed to testing? Are they opposed to high stakes decisions based on testing? Are they simply posed to PARCC but would be willing to replace it with another high stakes test? The truth of the matter is that OAA’s and OGT has been around for years but the outrage over testing has only started recently. Why? Is it because people are opposed to Common Core State Standards and PARCC tests? Is it because we are now attaching high stakes judgmental decisions to these tests? I think that answer varies depending on who you talk to. Personally, my objection is to the high stakes decisions. It changes the whole nature and purpose of testing. I think we need to push the legislature to re-examine the purpose of testing and to go back to using assessments for their intended purpose – to see where kids stand and then to determine what additional help and resources they need. Assessments can help us determine what additional interventions are needed, if adjustments need to be made to learning environment, etc. They are not intended to make high stakes decisions about students, teachers, or districts. So if people are opting out of testing simply because they are opposed to PARCC, I would ask them what they would replace PARCC with and how would they use the results of that test. If they are still going to use the results to make high stakes decisions, then nothing has changed other than a test name.

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    • Thanks to the writer, to Melissa, and others who are working hard to share factual information on this important issue. As both a teacher and parent of a high school student, I agree that we need to truly examine the purpose of assessments in education. Teachers regularly assess students to inform instruction. They assess informally to make immediate instructional adjustments in pacing, depth of content, etc. and formally to determine student mastery of grade level content. Both assessment types are useful and necessary. They help teachers and parents know where students stand and what supports (intervention or enrichment) they may need.

      High stakes assessments do not achieve the intended purpose. The information comes too late to help teachers with instruction as new students are sitting in front of them by the time the data is released and the actual test items cannot be viewed by teachers or parents making it impossible to know why the student received the score they were awarded. This is true whether you are speaking about the former OAAs, OGTs, or now PARCC and AIR (Ohio’s tests for Science and Social Studies). We are spending too much time, energy , and resources on an assessment system that fundamentally is flawed.

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  3. This is a vey thoughtful article and shows just how complicated things have become. It is really critical that we all understand that there is a role for assessment in educating children. Assessment is an essential component in the education process. There needs to be some way to determine if students have grasped the material presented and have met the standards. Opting out of an assessment seems to be borne out of frustration with the inappropriate testing that is governed more by an accountability system than what is best for students. It is essential that we look at why we use assessments and make sure those assessments given are used to enhance the teacher’s ability to teach and a student’s learning experiences.

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