About Me

My photo
A concerned member of the human race

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My 2015 Opt-Out Letter

I read at NYC Educator that an "I Refuse" resolution was defeated by the UFT's delegate assembly.    Sterling Roberson said "parents need tests to ensure that they are getting the 'education they deserve.'"  Mulgrew spoke of "how parents want tests."  I understand that Mulgrew is drawing a distinction between high-stakes tests and diagnostic tests, used solely by the teacher to improve instruction.  Yet, I naturally wonder how they know parents want tests.  I would guess it is a false assumption.  I would guess the resolution might need to be tweaked, but that it is a very important one and that it would, ultimately, align our Union with the interests of most parents.  

I am a parent.  I do not want tests.  I have never met any parent who wants more tests, high stakes, or otherwise.  They detract from valuable class time.  Even if the stakes are not high, they will encourage test prep.  I particularly object to tests designed by someone outside of my classroom.  It leads to an ever-increasing march towards uniformity.  It saps the ability of teachers to creatively develop their own lesson plans.

I am not uniform.  Today, I taught a lesson exclusively on issues surrounding the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  It involved so many issues and ideas which will never appear on any standardized test.  We discussed how Hitler attempted to showcase Germany.  He severely toned down his antisemitic policies.  The verbotten (Jews forbidden) signs were temporarily removed.  Gypsies, however, were sent to concentration camps.  

Ultimately, we discussed whether or not the U.S. should have boycotted the games.  We also hit on issues of antisemitism in the U.S. (two top U.S. Jewish athletes were excluded from the 4x100 relay, probably to appease Hitler).  We watched footage of Jesse Owens and discussed his remarkable achievements in the face of a theory of Aryan superiority.  Perhaps, known to far fewer people, we also discussed his friendship with his German long-jump rival, Luz Long.  Sports could still bring disparate people together despite the prevailing philosophy of the state.  

Although these points will probably never surface on any standardized test, I love this lesson more than most.  It provides ample ground for the discussion of many moral issues and it also incorporates topics of personal interest to me as well as my students.  Most kids like sports.  Most people like the Olympics.  I like everything about it, starting with its theme song.  

In the spirit of allowing teachers greater creativity in the classroom and students a broader curriculum, I oppose annual standardized testing, high-stakes style or otherwise.  It is excessive.  Here is a copy of my 2015 opt-out letter written over the Winter holiday and delivered soon thereafter.  I was told I could look for a form letter online, perhaps, using Jeanette Deutermann as a model, but it seemed so much more fun to write my own.  (I'm not standardized at all, as you can see!)

I am respectfully writing this letter to inform you that we wish to opt         two students     out of their 2015 NY State Common-Core aligned tests.  I oppose a system which places undue emphasis upon the importance of standardized exams in the lives of young persons.  I oppose the prep it engenders.  I similarly oppose a system that seeks to use said exams as measurements for the performance of teachers and their schools.

I think the current trend of educational "reform" strikes at the heart of the most meaningful and lasting aspects of the education of a young person.  It also seeks to sap the spirit of young people as well as their will to learn.

I very much appreciate the work...the entire staff...contributes on a daily basis to make our children's lives as healthy and happy as possible despite, in my opinion, this current trend of severely misguided "reform." 


No comments:

Post a Comment