Thursday, April 16, 2015

Truth or Consequences

At Monday night's meeting of the PTA Council of Howard County, an interesting moment occurred when a parent asked about opting out of PARCC testing. They had been told they could not opt out for their child. Period.

The moderator said that although Maryland is not an "opt-out" state, one could "refuse" the test, and that this precise wording was necessary. In fact, she said, speaking as a private citizen, she had refused the test for her children and the school gave them something else to work on while the testing was in session.

A parent responded that her school told her that if she didn't want her children to take the tests, she would have to keep them home or make other childcare arrangements for those days. The moderator informed her that the school can't actually say that.

(As an aside, I know a parent who offered to keep her children out and was told that this was not permissable, that the school would test them as soon as they returned.)

At this point a member of the Board of Education stepped in and said that, in order to attend public schools in the state of Maryland, your child must participate in all of the curriculum (with the exception of certain health/sexuality material) and that standardized testing was a part of the curriculum. Therefore, your child had to participate in the assessments (by law) because they were a part of the curriculum.

The moderator respectfully disagreed. She asserted that there is no law in the state of Maryland that makes declining these assessments illegal, which is why she and other parents are able to invoke "refusal". At this point it got a bit weird. The Board member responded, and this is a paraphrase as I was not transcribing this conversation:

While it was true that there was no law prohibiting the test refusal as outlined by the moderator, in fact the tests are a part of the curriculum, and that as she made this choice she will also have to be willing to bear the consequences of her choice.

Wait, what?

What on earth are the consequences of refusing the test? And if there is no law prohibiting parents from refusing the tests, then how can the tests be required by Maryland State law? And, my personal favorite--

PARCC and other high-stakes testing are designed to assess whether students are learning the curriculum. So how can an assessment be the curriculum? As a friend said,

How can the test, designed to assess the effectiveness of the curriculum, be the curriculum itself? This is equal to the judge and the accused being the same.

I could give you my opinion of what is going on here, but I don't really think that's necessary. All you have to do is read what has transpired and realize that something doesn't add up. Parents are being told a variety of stories which are inconsistent with eachother from school to school. And parents are being asked to believe statements which defy credulity.

When an ordinary meeting of the PTA Council morphs into an episode of Point/Counterpoint, members are challenged to use their higher-level critical thinking skills and analyze conflicting information. Do we, as parents, have the ability to compare and contrast? Do we have the right to?

Our children matter too much for us to sit back and let someone else do the thinking for us.



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