Friday, May 2, 2014

Truth or Consequences - Or How Can The Department of Ed Force Your Kids To Take State Tests?


Okay, short answer....the State Department of Education can not force your children to take state tests.  Oh they can give you a long list of reasons for your child to take the state tests and some of these are even punitive, but they can not force your child to do anything against your will as a parent.  At the bottom of the blog I will tell you how and why.  Meanwhile...

I've had numerous questions from people about testing requirements for the state.  I don't know the answers to these questions, nor am I even going to call the Department and ask because I find the entire matter of high states tests disgusting.  I also find them to be completely unhelpful to any child's education to the point of being harmful and fully antithetical to the notion of local education.

First, why are children being forced to test?  A federal law implemented by George W. Bush called No Child Left Behind, a re-authorization of LBJ's Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was written in 1964.  Since LBJ, every president has taken the original and 're-gifted' it to the American people as though there was some beneficence in the process.
  • Because schools could not be trusted to create an environment of educational excellence within their own communities the federal government was 'forced' to step in and take centralized control over education.  
  • Because states could get back money they had sent to the Federal Government (for a function that wasn't even theirs to administrate - education) in the form of grants and loans - including Title funds - by kowtowing to this new law, so they did.  
  • Because, after all, isn't education all about MONEY and centralized control?
NCLB requires 95% of all public school students be tested in reading and math from 3-8th grade and in science at least once during elementary, middle and high school because taxpayers complained students were not learning anything in school (so, according to the feds, don't complain, you asked for it!) due to poor reading outcomes.  This testing is the primary function of NCLB because of its emphasis on 'accountability'.  Here are the reasons public school students must be tested:
  • to determine all students are proficient in math and English by 2014
  • to allow schools to provide a report card to parents with a school score based primarily on standardized test test results
  • to determine how much of the students lack of student progress falls on the horrible classroom teacher
What does any of this have to do with Oklahoma?  Our legislators and political leaders have decided that the US Department of Education (though many will tell you is unConstitutional) is now so firmly entrenched in the American landscape that they simply cannot do anything about it and must, at all costs, go along to get along.  Yup.  That's about it.  No, we're not all that worried about the fact that we spew rhetoric saying how much we hate the DOE while simultaneously screeching, "BUT WE'LL LOSE OUR WAIVER AND TITLE 1 FUNDS!"

Now, I have heard many, many things about testing here in Oklahoma:
  • If my child doesn't pass the test the school won't let them go on to the next grade (3rd grade reading - RSA - although there is a move in the legislature to stop preventing student graduation)
  • If my child doesn't take the test and I take them out of school during administration of the test, the school will just test them again when they return to class
  • If my child doesn't take the test they won't let them go on to the next grade 
  • If my child doesn't take the test the school will get a bad grade on their report and have their money taken away - or be taken over by the OSDE
  • My school will be penalized if many students don't take the test
Sadly, all of these have some faint degree of truth as far as I'm given to understand.  Yes, thanks to our state government continuing to recognize the federal DOE and continuing to take money from them for programming, our state is inexorably tied to what the feds say.  Does that comfort you?  It doesn't me.  

Here are my thoughts on the topic and you can take them and/or leave them as you desire:
  • Bring your kids home to school or send them to a private school if that is something you are able to do as a family (incidentally, if you are financially equipped to do so but feel ill equipped to teach, please search the internet as there are many, many homeschooling programs out there that nearly anyone can accomplish at home such as the program we use, Classical Conversations)
  • Keep your child home and hope that enough parents will join you that the system crashes entirely never to be resurrected because parents have regained control of their schools 
  • Keep your child home and simply don't worry about the scare tactics and fearmongering and realize the school will not disappear completely should it make a D or F on its report card; continue to work through our legislature to stop the parental rights usurpation process that our state/nation is continuing and growing
  • Keep your child home and work with the school, trying to help them understand that their only accountability is to the parents and students in the community, supporting their decision to allow parents to opt out of any and all testing (this would be my option if my kids were still in public school)
  • Keep your child home and tell the school to suck eggs if they are playing the "I don't care about parents, I just care about following orders" card - after all YOU are the parent and there are attorneys out there who specialize in school law and the rights of parents (I would have also used this option!)
  • Allow your child to take the tests and don't worry about it
  • Allow your child to take the tests and continue to work through our legislature to stop the parental rights usurpation process that our state/nation is continuing and growing
In closing, here are some really great sources addressing testing:

OkEducationTruths is a great blog from someone involved in public schools.  They have many good posts and one is here: https://okeducationtruths.wordpress.com/tag/opt-outs/

Rob Miller, Principal of Jenks Middle School also has a blog - A View From The Edge.  You can find lots of valuable information there including this post on testing: http://viewfromtheedge.net/?p=3013