State testing has been getting attention lately, mostly because of an “opt out” movement-parents having their children not take the state tests administered in their school. What should be getting the attention, though, is why our leaders continue to defy research and evidence regarding the true needs of our students. Instead of putting effort into providing more standardized funding and opportunity on the front end, they “opt out” of their responsibilities and hinge school reform on expecting a more standardized outcome on the back end-using state tests to enforce and evaluate the efforts of others. The tests and the corporations contracted to create them, meanwhile, are being afforded more privacy, respect and protection than students and their teachers being subjected to this. While assessments and scores can provide valuable information when educators are more involved, the current approach is not truly about that. Still. I am not a fan of “opting out”, and would not blindly promote that approach simply for the sake of making it happen. Opting out is like saying “no thanks” to dessert, and doesn’t address the importance of opting in to the really important stuff: collaborating with teachers, keeping track of overall progress, homework, behavior, bedtime, who their children are hanging out with after school… and so on. So my children don’t opt out, they refuse.
But misuse of assessments by politicians isn’t about my kids, really. It’s about the ever-increasing number of those left behind in the economic competition model of public education. More and more kids are coming to school tired, hungry, emotionally and economically insecure, with school and academics low on their list of priorities. Children can’t eat tests and tests can’t hug children. While our governor correctly stated the primary importance of parents and kitchen tables in a late campaign television ad, and has claimed to be a lobbyist for students, he was immediately back on the school attack once reelected. Students will benefit more when our leaders respect the people doing the work that they themselves are incapable of doing.
So speaking as a parent: elected leaders and those they appoint are put there to serve my children-my children do not serve them. What is the point of “reform”, really, if the most that we are offered is a coercive system that allows the unaccountable to impose accountability; the benefactors of inequitable policy to impose inequity, and politicians to remain secure and safe on campaign contributions funded in part by the diversion of public dollars away from the public? Has the decision been made regarding the value of a hedge fund manager vs the value of firefighters, police, teachers and students? Whatever the path my daughters choose, I want them to be happy, productive, and smart…not victims of someone else’s plans. To that end: I value parents, kitchen tables and teachers. I am a lobbyist for students.