This is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning.
But Congress voted to keep mandating that 95% of students take the tests.
It all happened with the much celebrated bipartisan passage of theEvery Student Succeeds Act(ESSA), the federal law that governs K-12 schools.
While lawmakers made changes here and there to let the states decide various education issues, they kept the mandate that students participate in annual testing.
They didn’t leave that to the states. Whether they were Republican or Democrat, almost all lawmakers thought it was just fine for the federal government to force our children to take standardized tests at least every year in 3-8th grades and once in high school.
If any school district, has more than 5% of students that don’t take the tests –for whatever reason– the federal government can deny that district funding.
Think about that for a moment.
Our lawmakers are supposedly acting in our interests. They’re our representatives. We’re their constituents. They get their power to pass laws because ofour consent as the governed. Yet in this instance they chose to put their own judgement ahead of ours.
They could have made an exception for parents refusing the tests on behalf of their children. They just didn’t see the need to do so.
Let’s say for a moment that this were true. In that case, we can expect no parent of color would ever refuse standardized testing for his/her child.
First, this is demonstrably untrue. Black and brown parents may not be the most numerous in the opt out movement, butthey do take part in it.
Second, in the majority of cases where white parents refuse testing, that would have no bearing on whether testing helps or hurts students of color. If the point is the data testing gives us on black kids, what white kids do on the test is irrelevant.
Third, even if opting out hurt students of color, one would assume that it is the parents prerogative whether they want to take part. If a black parent doesn’t want her black son to take a multiple choice exam, she should have the right to waive that exam and the responsibility would be on her head.
So there is absolutely no reason why lawmakers should have overstepped their bounds in this way and blocked all parents rights about what the schools do to their children.
It is a clear case of governmental overreach. And there are plenty of parents just waiting to bring it to the U.S. Supreme Court for the ultimate Constitutional test.
However, that probably won’t happen for the same reason it never happened through the 15 years ofNo Child Left Behind(NCLB) which also contained the annual testing rule.
Even after Brown v. Board, we have schools that cater to black kids and schools that cater to white kids. We have schools for poor kids and rich kids.
It isobvious which schools get the most resources. Why isn’t that part of this “accountability” scheme? We can audit districts to see how much is spent per pupil on poor black kids vs rich white kids. We can determine which groups go to schools with larger class sizes, which groups have more access to tutoring and social services, which groups have expanded or narrowed curriculums, which groups have access to robust extra-curricular activities, which groups have the most highly trained and experienced teachers, etc.
So why were civil rights groups asking the testing mandate be kept in the bill? Because the testing industry is comprised of big donors.
Only a few months before passage of the ESSA, many of these same civil rights groups had signed declarations against standardized testing. Then suddenly they saw the light as their biggest donors threatened to drop out.
Make no mistake. Standardized testing doesn’t help poor minority children. It does them real harm. But the testing industry wrapped themselves up in this convenient excuse to give lawmakers a reason to stomp all over parental rights.
The conflict wasn’t between civil rights and parental rights. It was between parental rights and corporate rights. And our lawmakers sided with the corporations.
Let me be clear: legislators cannot be against opt out and in favor of individual rights.