Thursday, February 26, 2015

Talking to your children about Refusing the Test

My husband and I are both teachers, and I co-moderate the Facebook group Opt Out Brevard. As a vocal advocate for refusing invalid high stakes tests, I regularly hear a this concern from many parents: “I want to opt my child out, but I know my little one will not be comfortable defying his teacher.” 
While I share a desire to raise well-behaved children; I also have a need to raise children who understand social justice, and the difference between right and wrong. I’ve never been a “because I said so” type of parent; instead I tend to approach my kids with logic and reason. I think that’s why I have (mostly) well-behaved children who do the right thing. For that reason, conversations about opting out were always natural for our family. If you need help starting a conversation with younger children about opting out, here’s a general idea of how we facilitated the discussion with our six and seven-year old kids:
“Mrs. TEACHER is a great teacher, isn’t she? She’s knows a lot about you. Isn't your teacher great at knowing what you're good at? She's also great at knowing the things you need to improve on, right? 
This test does not know you like MRS. TEACHER knows you, and lots of people think this test is more important than what MRS. TEACHER thinks about what you’ve learned. I want the teacher to be the one to tell you, me, and the school what you’re great at and where you need to improve because she knows YOU. 
I am not worried about how smart you are because I know that you're more than a test score. You could get an A or an F, a level 5 or a level 1 and that doesn't matter to me. What matters to me is that you always try your best. It also matters to me that as a family, we always do the things that we know are the right things to do. 
I don't think taking this test is right because it will make you a score. It says that everything you learned in MRS. TEACHER'S class doesn’t really matter. All that matters is what you earned on the test. So, if you don't want to take the test, you don't have to take it. Instead, we can continue to let MRS. TEACHER give you tests of what she has taught in class, and you can keep on learning without the "big test." 
You don’t have to worry about a “big scary test,” and you don’t have to worry about sitting for a super-long time and being afraid of a test. MRS. TEACHER teaches you well, and you are learning every day at school. Nothing about school – even tests – should be scary. 
Giving kids a sense of ownership of the decision to refuse, while respecting the teachers whom they likely adore, may help your family with the opt out process. 
In Solidarity, Darcey Addo Opt Out Brevard

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