Opt Out Parents Resistance Standardized Testing

Peter Greene: National PTA Sells Out to Testing Industry

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Peter Greene read an article written by a spokesperson for the National PTA and reacted with a combination of dismay and disdain.


The article, written by Shannon Sevier, vice-president for advocacy for the National PTA, echoes the talking points of the testing industry, Greene writes.


Sevier is pleased that her own children took the standardized tests because, while they had trepidation, she can now remember “the importance of the assessments in helping my children’s teachers and school better support their success through data-driven planning and decision-making.” You would expect to hear that sort of talk from a Pearson rep, not a parent. Or as Peter Greene might say, “Said no parent ever.”


Greene quotes from her article some more, and responds:


Did I mention that Sevier is a lawyer? This is some mighty fine word salad, but its Croutons of Truth are sad, soggy and sucky. While it is true that theoretically, the capacity to withhold some funding from schools is there in the law, it has never happened, ever (though Sevier does point out that some schools in New York got a letter. A letter! Possibly even a strongly worded letter! Horrors!! Did it go on their permanent record??) The number of schools punished for low participation rates is zero, which is roughly the same number as the number of politicians willing to tell parents that their school is going to lose funding because they exercised their legal rights.


And when we talk about the “achievement gap,” always remember that this is reformster-speak for “difference in test scores” and nobody has tied test scores to anything except test scores.


More to the point, while test advocates repeatedly insist that test results are an important way of getting needed assistance and support to struggling students in struggling schools, it has never worked that way. Low test scores don’t target students for assistance– they target schools for takeover, turnaround, or termination.


The Sevier segues into the National PTA’s position, which is exactly like the administration’s position– that maybe there are too many tests, and we should totally get rid of redundant and unnecessary tests and look at keeping other tests out of the classroom as well, by which they mean every test other than the BS Tests. They agree that we should get rid of bad tests, “while protecting the vital role that good assessments play in measuring student progress so parents and educators have the best information to support teaching and learning, improve outcomes and ensure equity for all children.”


But BS Tests don’t provide “the best information.” The best information is provided by teacher-created, day-to-day, formal and informal classroom assessments. Tests such as PARCC, SBA, etc do not provide any useful information except to measure how well students do on the PARCC, SBA, etc– and there is not a lick of evidence that good performance on the BS Tests is indicative of anything at all.


Well, actually, I disagree here. It is not true that test scores tell us nothing at all. They are actually a pretty good measure of family income. There are variations, of course, but the correlation between test scores and family income is strong. And the “achievement gap” is itself a product of standardized tests. The tests are normed on a bell curve, and the ends of the curve never converge. The curve is designed to be a curve, so there will always be an upper half and a lower half.


Greene adds:


Did the PTA cave because they get a boatload of money from Bill Gates? Who knows. But what is clear is that when Sevier writes “National PTA strongly advocates for and continues to support increased inclusion of the parent voice in educational decision making at all levels,” what she means is that parents should play nice, follow the government’s rules, and count on policy makers to Do The Right Thing.


That’s a foolish plan. Over a decade of reformy policy shows us that what reformsters want from parents, teachers and students is compliance, and that as long as they get that, they are happy to stay the course. The Opt Out movement arguably forced what little accommodation is marked by the Test Action Plan and ESSA’s assertion of a parent’s legal right to opt out. Cheerful obedience in hopes of a Seat at the Table has not accomplished jack, and the National PTA should be ashamed of itself for insisting that parents should stay home, submit their children to the tyranny of time-wasting testing, and just hope that Important People will spontaneously improve the tests. Instead, the National PTA should be joining the chorus of voices demanding that the whole premise of BS Testing should be questioned, challenged, and ultimately rejected so that students can get back to learning and teachers can get back to teaching.


I agree with Peter here. If there is one thing we have learned over the past 15 years, it is that policymakers are entirely out of touch with children and classrooms. They make laws and regulations and mandates with little or no concern for their practical consequences on real children and real teachers. They listen only when parents make noise. Which is reason for opt out to increase, because otherwise they won’t listen at all.





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