"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Choice – No Choice

PARENTAL PERMISSION NEEDED

I was a reading specialist in my school for the last 15 years of my career. Each time I wanted to screen a student using aptitude, diagnostic, or achievement tests I had to get written parental permission. Most times parents signed the permission to test because they were as anxious as we were to figure out how to best help their children. Sometimes they didn't. Sometimes they wanted a conference to gather more information.

Those tests were used to diagnose a child's learning issues...sometimes to refer them for further psychometric testing (which also need parental permission), but ALWAYS to help the classroom teacher and other support staff figure out how to tap into the child's learning potential. In other words we used the tests to help the child.

The tests I gave were only given to a handful of students each year, and once we purchased the test materials all we had to do was to order additional forms to continue using the test.

Standardized student achievement tests, on the other hand, are given to all students and must be purchased each year. Parental permission is not needed. In fact, the tests are required by federal law. Students (and their parents) who choose to opt out are often punished, depending on which state they live in. Instead of helping students, the tests are (mis)used to retain students in grade, to evaluate teachers and schools, and to reward and punish school stakeholders based mostly on the neighborhood they work in. They were developed to measure student achievement, but they actually measure the socio-economic status of students.

A SIMPLE, LOGICAL QUESTION

Peter Greene, author of Curmudgucation, asks
...if I have to ask permission to give an IQ test, why not the same for the [Big Standardized] Test?
In his blog post titled Opting In (which you should read), he writes,
...you can't give a child an IQ test without parental permission...

...Imagine if we did that with the Big Standardized Test in every state. Imagine if we recognized parental authority when it came to administering Big Standardized Tests to children. Imagine if the state and the school had to get parental permission before administering to your child the PARCC or SBA or PSSA or WhateverTheHellAnagramYourStateIsPlayingAt. Imagine if the people fighting so hard against opt out had to fight to get everyone to opt in.
"Reformers" are all for giving parents "choice" when it comes to "choosing" a private or charter school, but not when it comes to high stakes achievement tests.

We must get parental permission to test when we are using psychometric or individual tests, but no permission is needed when mass produced group tests are misused to evaluate teachers and schools.

When there are consequences for students, teachers, and schools, not only do parents not get a chance to give their permission, but they are allowed absolutely no "choice" at all.


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