8 Reasons To Opt Out

Peter Greene, Curmudgucation, Wednesday, March 8, 2017

 Depending on your state, it is that time again-- time to waste students' school time on the Big Standardized Test. Whether it's the PARCC or the SBA or whatever mutant offspring of the testing industry that your state prefers, it's headed your way like a hungry wildebeast.

Maybe you have opted your child out in the past. Maybe you've thought about it, but ultimately decided not to. Maybe you've even become comfortably numb about test-driven education. Consider opting out this year.

If you want to read more, wider, deeper perspectives on the movement, click on over to United Opt Out. If you want to find out the specific mechanics of opting out in your state, just google "opt out" and your state. For instance, if I look for "opt out Pennsylvania," I find the basic instructions for the steps I must take to opt my children out of testing (since my children are currently Negative 3 Months old, it won't be an issue this year, but I like to be prepared).

If you opt out, you may will get grief and pushback for your choice. Here's why you should do it anyway.

1) No Benefits for Children or Parents

Your child is not allowed to discuss specifics of the test with anyone, so there will be no after-test conversation that would help her glean lessons through reflection. Your child will not get any specific feedback telling her which answers she got right, and which she got wrong. You will not get any feedback on the test except a single blanket score between 4 (super-duper) and 1 (not so great). Once this test is done, you will not know anything about your child that you did not already know.

2) No Benefits for Teachers

In most states, we are not even allowed to lay eyes on the test, and we will receive a single score for your child. All of this is useless. We will learn nothing about your child, and nothing about your child's class (except how well they did on this test). If an administrator or a teacher tells you that the test results will give them valuable information about your child, ask them why they have not already collected that information by other means and if not, what they've been doing for the past eight months.

3) Wasted Time and Resources

What could your student have done with the time spent on preparing for the test, drilling for the test, taking the test? What could your state and local school system have done with the millions of dollars spent on giving the test? Students, parents and schools are paying big in both financial and opportunity costs.

4) Warped View of School and Life

Test-centric schooling leaves our students with the impression that they go to school to learn how to pass the test, and then to take the test. That is a terrible model for learning and for life. Contrary to what test supporters say, life is not all about standardized tests. You will not take a bubble test to get married or to have and raise children. Whatever your career, it will not involve a steady daily diet of test prep and test taking. Show your child that the Big Standardized Test is not the point of school.

5) Don't Negotiate with Hostage Takers

You may hear that your child must take the test because otherwise it will hurt the school or the classroom teacher. This is simply hostage taking. And it's important to remember that every year this continues, schools and teachers continue to pay a price-- in time, in money, in the growth of a pervasive toxic test-driven atmosphere. This argument is a bully who says, "If you don't let me beat this kid up, I will beat him up even more." In any bullying situation, the person to blame is not the victim the person that the bully uses as an excuse to bully. The problem is not that your child isn't taking the test-- the problem is the state that is threatening to punish the school and teachers. Deal with the real problem; don't enable it.

6) Privacy Matters

This is certainly not the only mechanism being deployed to capture, collect and monetize data about your child. In fact, many folks who position themselves as opponents of BS Tests are actually doing so to build a case for other data collecting methods (but we'll talk about Competency Based Education another day). But opting out is certainly one clear and immediate way that you can keep some of your child's data out of the hands of the Big Data miners.

7) The Value of Non-compliance

In this day and age, it is never too early for a child to learn that sometimes people in authority will demand that you comply with dumb actions. Unthinking compliance is unwise. It's good for all citizens to learn to say "no," and the Big Standardized Test is a good practice case for all the reasons listed above. Compliance is not a virtue in and of itself; this is a great chance to practice rebelling just a little.

8) Be a Snowflake

It's true-- your opting out may well not get your state or school district to change policy, may not recapture all the time and money being lost to testing, may not change the course on which we're currently set. But then again-- if you are one among many, it might. Put enough snowflakes together and you get an avalanche that crushes everything in its path.

The requirement to make schools test-centic, to put bad tests at the center of school's existence is foolish, on the order of demanding that all students wear silly hats. At this stage of the game, there can be no doubt-- there are no benefits to the test and many unnecessary costs. It will not go away easily, because test manufacturers are making a ton of money on this giant time suck. It's time to make your life a source of friction in the machine.

This year, whether it's for the first time or the tenth, opt out.