A Teacher Tries Opting Out


This is my first blog post and kind of the reason I decided to create my own blog: to keep people updated on what is going on with my request, as a teacher, to be allowed to opt out of administering the flawed Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Last month, my local association stood before our school board to say that as a group, we are opposed to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I spoke at that meeting and stated that I object to administering it and asked to be excused from administering based on my professional and personal objections.

On March 9th, I had not yet heard a response to my request and sent this email to the school board, our superintendent, and my principal.

“As you all know, at the February 19 school board meeting I declared my strong objections to the Smarter Balanced Assessment and asked to be excused from administering the assessment based on those objections. The statement I made to the school board is attached.

I have objected to this system of test and punish since it’s original implementation in 2001 with NCLB. I knew at that time that a requirement of 100% proficiency by 2014 would result in exactly what has happened in Washington state, where their legislature turned down the Race to the Top waiver and they remain under NCLB: 100% of schools are in “failing” status. There is virtually no goal or standard that can be set, including breathing without assistance, that every child in the nation can meet on the same day at the same time.

I attended a presentation by ODE and saw how their representatives are misleading parents about the SBAC. It made me sick and angry. I feel horrible about trying to put a smiley face on this for parents, and most of all for my students. I know that some of them will be okay. I know that most of them will be frustrated and feel stupid. Even in the best case scenario described by ODE, only 30% will do well. In the case of my students, I feel that will be much lower. ELL students who have taken similar Common Core tests in English around the country have passed at a rate of 3% to 4%, and this is taking away an entire week of instruction that those students would benefit from. If we consider that Migrant Summer School is only 3 weeks long, that puts the significance of that week in stark perspective.

I have not yet received an answer as to whether I will be excused from administering SBAC based on my strong philosophical objections. When I stated in my original letter that this was weighing heavily on my conscience, I was very serious. It keeps me up at night sometimes.

I am scheduled to administer on April 6th through 10th. I would truly appreciate an answer to my question about whether I will be required to administer or not. I would also like to know, if I were to refuse to do so, what the consequences would be for me. I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m just trying to do what I’ve always tried to do: stand up for what’s best for my students. I would like to be able to make a fully informed decision when deciding what actions I take in doing that.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.”

My superintendent responded with a very polite email stating that as a district employee, I am required to administer the state assessment and quoted the Oregon Education Association’s  FAQ “Opting Out of Standardized Tests- FAQs on Your Legal Rights as a Public Educator” which says:

What are the consequences if I choose/refuse to administer standardized tests?
a. You will be subject to discipline up to and including dismissal unless it involves a student whose parents/guardians have opted out and the district has given you notice of the opt out. It has long been school district policy and a job duty of school employees to administer standardized tests. Refusing to administer these tests would be considered a violation of district policy and insubordination. Based upon current law and school district policies regarding testing, school employees should NOT refuse to administer standardized tests without knowing and understanding the consequences.”

He also stated that he, too, is concerned with lost instructional time and the impact of testing on our children and that he hopes we will be moving towards a more sensible approach in the future.

Lots of people have been asking, so that’s where it stands with me administering SBAC. I have scheduled a meeting with my superintendent.

Parents, you can opt your children out. No one can fire you. If you want more information on opting out go to http://optoutoregon.org in Oregon or http://unitedoptout.com for information about other states. Teachers, speak up if you can. Parents trust you. Let’s work together for our kids.

(Reblogged with permission from Kathleen Jeskey)

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