Last week, my 9-year-old endured five days of testing, thanks to a government who doesn't believe her teachers can do their job, and a school that desperately needs the funding that they will (hopefully) get if the kids filled in those little bubbles correctly. And so, the school devoted hours to test strategy and practice tests, and sent my little perfectionist home with high-pressure messages that sent her over the edge. We considered refusing to let her take the test—here in New Jersey, unlike New York, there's no official "opt out" policy, but we still have the legal right to refuse. But we didn't feel courageous enough to do it, and my straight A+ daughter desperately wanted to boost her NJASK scores, in the hopes that she could finally qualify for her school's gifted and talented program. (That's another whole story!)
But what was most shocking to me was when I started hearing stories about how some of the schools handled the children who refused to take the test. (And let's face it—in most cases, that was the parents' decision, not the kids.) While some kids were able to hang out in the library and read, or help out in the kindergarten classes, others were forced to stay in the test room and "sit and stare." They couldn't read or work on homework, but had to sit and stare at the wall for a few hours. Others were sent to the principal's office, as if they'd committed some crime. In some high schools, the administrators said the children could be written up for insubordination. And at my daughter's school, the principal threatened the one child who refused to take the test that she would be excluded from a "NJASK dance" they were having during school hours, that is sponsored by the school.
If other children did these sorts of things to these kids, they'd call it bullying. But apparently, in an effort to try to ensure that students take these tests, the school administrators felt they could use any means necessary, including abuse. (And let's face it—forcing a third grader to sit silently for a couple of hours without allowing them to read, doodle, draw or do something engaging is pretty darned abusive.) And I'm sure there are parents who caved and let their children take the test after all, rather than make them spend several unfruitful hours over several days engaged in this battle of wills. There's a point where fighting for what's right isn't worth the price to your kid.
Next year, our state switches over to the PARCC tests, a series of tests that's supposed to make the NJASK seem like a walk in the park. I'm sure that more parents will be exercising their option to refuse next year—which puts even more kids in the line of fire.
Tell me: Did you opt out or refuse to let your child take high-stakes tests? Why or why not? How did your school handle it?
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