My son and I walked into his school principal's office on Monday and declared that we refused to take the state exams.
Fittingly, the principal had come from a pep rally for the tests. I paused for a minute. Maybe getting kids pumped up about academics was a good thing but then I thought about all the pressure and anxiety that the rally was masking and I got back to the task at hand.
We were the only ones in the school opting out of the tests. Still, the principal recognized that there was a growing resentment among parents citywide and she was prepared for a case like ours. She calmly explained that the city might punish us for our decision by holding my son back. But she also stepped out from her role as school official and confessed to me that, as a parent, she was not only "proud" of us but that she also had concerns with test-driven public education.
Others also felt this way. A crossing guard I'm friendly told me she put her two sons in catholic school because of her disdain for data-driven curriculum. Both her kids are on their way to college despite the fact that cheerleaders of standardized tests insist the tests prepare our kids for higher learning.
Also, teachers who I had grumbled to about the test-driven curriculum supported us. And who better than teachers, many of them parents themselves, to understand how inappropriate it is to judge children, and their schools, by data points?
I am more than confident that my son would score well on both the English Language Arts and math tests. He reads on a fifth-grade level even though he is in third grade; math is his best subject. So rest assured our decision to refuse this test was not due to fear of poor scores.
One of the strongest motivating factors for our decision was how politicized and pressurized the environment around testing has become.
One example: when we went to the pediatrician to have her sign off on a 504, which would allow my ADHD-affected son to have extra time on his test, she refused to sign. She said a city education official had called to warn her about signing such forms. Instead, my son had to be re-evaluated even though his condition had not changed. The fact that pressure was being placed on pediatricians made it clear to me that the stakes were high indeed. Too high.
When I look at my son, I don't see a data point or a test score. I don't look at my son and see future SAT's or LSAT's. I see a kid frustrated with "practice tests" and the narrow curriculum his teachers are forced to teach.
I have no doubt my son will go to college if he chooses to. I know life will present him with plenty of pressurized situations but that doesn't mean I have to "prepare" him now by flooding him with "high stakes" testing, especially not at the age of eight.
No, thanks. We refuse.