As a former teacher in California Public Schools, I understand all to well the anxiety and frustrations faced by thousands of families as the school year draws closer to its end. Before the halcyon days of summer, there is the incessant and unnecessary stress of mandated testing – stresses which have negative affect across families and school communities.
But there is good news for parents! You and your children don’t have to participate. “Can parents opt out of state testing for their child? Yes. California Education Code section 60615 provides, ‘Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, a parent’s or guardian’s written request to school officials to exclude his or her child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant to this chapter shall be granted.’”
But why would someone want to opt their children out?
There are a number of reasons. The most common is disability. Forcing an ADD/ADHD child to take a test like this is nearly the equivalent of torture. Imagine being unable to focus and being forced to sit still, quietly trapped in a room for hours at a time AND have to answer questions about a train heading south and a train heading north. Other reasons may include test anxiety (perfectionist children suffer a great deal during these weeks) or Home stresses such as familial deaths or illnesses.
Personally, I do not find mandated testing to be an accurate accounting of education (by the student or teacher). Portfolios of work illustrating growth through a number of academic factors such as class work, comparison testing, and project based learning are more accurate indicators of knowledge. Snap shot tests are not.
Tests also tend to unfairly show more bias towards socioeconomic status than anything else. Research on mandated testing shows the same skewed socioeconomic results as IQ testing.
Tests also belittle school culture. In my own experience (ten years of direct classroom instruction for 3rd, 1st & 4th graders) students would often show two or three years of academic growth. Unfortunately, because they started three or four years behind the average, that growth still led to a failing score for the school. Even though my student scores regularly outpaced district and state growth, I was a teacher in a “failing” school and “failing” school district.
If you have a smart kid (preferably from middle to upper social economic class, most likely white and at least third generation American) with no anxieties – take the tests and celebrate your good scores. If not, consider your options.
I suggest getting radical and opting out. Fill your time with more engaging activities! Visit a museum, cook together, get hands on. If you are in Southern California, take a week to visit our great cultural institutions, such as LACMA and The California Science Center or have fun with regional favorites such as the entertaining Museum of Jurassic Technology or the Newhall Aquarium (a person favorite that currently has illustrations from Slumbering Sea on display).
But most importantly, get creative! Here’s a video on negative painting to get you started. Remember parents, you are the boss of your children’s lives. If opting out is right for your family, don’t be afraid – be radical.
K. Ryan Henisey is the author and illustrator of a number of children’s books, including the Restful Readers. You can find his books and art on kryanhenisey.com.