March 13, 2013

United Opt Out Denver Conference, March 28-30th, Auraria Campus

Mother’s in the fight, Peggy Robertson and Ilana Spiegel, forwarded me questions from Nic Garcia, Reporter to Chalkbeat; . I thought I would share the answer to his questions. I begin with my closing remarks:

“I will tell you that it takes a great deal of courage to be the dissenting voice against well-funded corporate interests with public relations departments, lobbyists and purchased political influence. We, the mothers listed here, who single handedly fight this battle for our children with our spare change and bare hands very much hope that you will not misrepresent us or our concerns, or further marginalize this debate over what our children learn and who should be making those decisions.”

1.    Why are parent’s wanting to opt out?

  •  The tests consume a lot of time and money that we would rather see going to experiential learning and educational resources including: school counselors, librarians, arts and smaller class sizes.
  •   The test has never been independently audited or evaluated for reliability. McGraw Hill was even charged with Fraud from the Department of Justice.
  •  Socio economic status is the number one correlating factor to test scores. This type of accountability system rewards wealthy students and punishes the poor ones. Isn’t this obvious by the fact that all schools and districts on “probation” serve high proportion of low-income students.
  • Kids aren’t standardized; their learning outcomes shouldn’t be either. Kids with unique talents and abilities are particularly condemned under the one-size fits all system.
  •  Parents are sick and tired of the commercialization of our child’s education. They are not for profit. The policies around high-stakes testing are making a lot of money for the test publishers like Pearson. Kids don’t have lobbyists. It falls to the parents to protect children and their learning. Too many commercial interests including consultants, data managers and curriculum publishers are benefiting at the expense of real learning.
  •    Bad results:

               College remediation rates have tripled
               Achievement Gap has widened.     
               2000:  22.5%  (of the total children were at-risk)
               2013:  34.8%  (of the total children were at-risk)

  •  This test causes tremendous stress and anxiety for many students including: nightmares, loss of appetite, stomach aches and anxiety. I just learned CO has one of the highest teen suicide rates in the country.

2.    What guidance are your official organizations SPEAK/United Opt out providing parents?

We provide them with an understanding of their parental rights. We also provide support to parents who are challenged by the Colorado Department of Education and administrators who attempt to violate parental directives protected by the United States Constitution and supported through numerous Supreme Court Decisions.

3.    Specifically to Colorado laws, it is my understanding schools are required to test children who are in attendance during testing windows. How do plans hope to see this law changed/amended in the future?

CDE with the help of their “legislative liason” requested legislators change this from the original law that required Districts “to test every child in every grade.” This can be changed back. Either way, we are prepared to test state laws against the United States Constitution through the judicial process.

4.     To the tests themselves, do you have specific issues? Do your organizations have recommendations on how the state can fulfill it’s aim of measuring student growth/proficiency without TCAP/CMAS? PARCC?

NAEP – The national assessment of Educational Progress administered in every state since 1969. It has been independently evaluated and proven a valid and reliable measure. NAEP is federally funded and no commercial interests benefit.

5.     How, specifically, do you believe the state/school districts are responding to renewed pushback on state test?

By bullying parents, teachers, and students.

6. Parents have always wanted to opt-out of tests. However, it seems the movement has a renewed spirit. Why now?

The costs to our children have been too great.

From the National Education Policy Center:
While Policymakers Do Little, Marketers Are Busy in Schools
NEPC releases 16th annual report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends

BOULDER, CO (March 11, 2014) — Schoolhouse commercialism continues virtually unabated, despite the harm it does, and neither federal nor state lawmakers are moving to further control the practice, according to a new report released today.

The pervasiveness of commercialism in education has become so broad, its threat so great, and its reported benefits so minor that the report’s authors call on policymakers to ban any such activity unless an independent, disinterested body can certify that it does not harm children’s education.

Read the full press release here: