Tuesday, April 23, 2013

State Ed 1, Brian 0


I've been thinking about this whole opt-out thing and it occurs that New York State Ed has won this round handily but resorted to a heartless trick that should embarrass us all.

I wanted my kids to opt out of the New York State Assessment tests, but they ended up taking three days of it last week and will take three more days of it this week.

Why?

Because they're embarrassed not to. Because they're afraid. And because I can't opt-out for them.

State Ed was shrewd. They refused to allow parents to take their kids out of the testing. They knew that if it was easy for parents to opt the kids out, many kids wouldn't take the exams. If a little kid has to do the hard work of resisting the powers that be, most will knuckle under or choose not to rock the boat.

My daughters are in fourth and sixth grades. They are respectful, thoughtful and intelligent, but not revolutionary. I'd like them to become revolutionaries and invent new ideas rather than following all the old ones. As part of that learning, I would like for them to refuse the testing.

New York State Ed has made that a difficult task indeed.

It's not impossible. My friends' children are refusing without ill effects despite threats and warnings from State Ed, the district, and their teachers. But my daughters are troubled by the idea of refusing their teachers, risking their future, and standing in opposition.

It's an effective strategy State Ed has. They've scared parents, kids, and teachers that without test results kids will be placed in special services, dropped from higher tracked courses, and ineligible for activities. State Ed made it so that parents can not decide for their kids that they won't be taking the test. They sold the whole thing as good food that's good for us and then innocently asked "why wouldn't parents want to know how their child is doing on the path to career and college readiness?" (As if talking with my children's teachers wouldn't give me much better information.)

It has worked. My kids are taking the tests though I don't want them to. Most kids are taking the tests because their parents don't know, don't give a damn, or are worried about bad consequences. State Ed will get their data and can then crow about "doing something" about the education problem in this state.

So why do I wish my kids weren't taking the test?

I don't believe there is an education problem in the state or country. Even if there was, this testing wouldn't help. We have a poverty problem in this state and across our country and that's what is wrong with schools. People living in poverty have kids who live in poverty and send them to schools which are stuck in poverty.

Last night, at a meeting of parents, I said that I attended a wealthy suburban high school with a planetarium, AP classes, a gigantic orchestra, state of the art sports fields, and on and on. My children's school bathrooms are unsafe, filthy, and broken. Their music classes are being slashed. They have no sports fields. And the heating system doesn't work.

I want a test for poverty.

My daughter's school, on such a test, would score as outrageously poor, in need of an infusion of cash, desperate for more teachers in order to have smaller classes, and ready for the chance to offer the extra curricular activities I had at my wealthy, suburban school.

If there was a test for that, you bet your ass I would opt in.

The current tests just gets in the way of learning. It masks the real problem of poverty that plagues our children's lives. State Ed can stick those tests up their collective ass.

They've one this first round by pointing at nothing, getting us to look, and sucker punching parents and children alike. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to get up off the mat and punch back.

Write on.