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There is an alternative to opting out


The EdFly Blog

  • Standards and Accountability

    Standards and Accountability

    Students and schools must be held to high academic standards, with their progress measured and results reported in simple, transparent formats. The Foundation supports standardized measurement of student learning, including annual comprehensive end-of-course assessments in elementary, middle and high school, as well as grading schools on an A-F scale – just like students.

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Guest posted by Wendy Rivera, Florida parent

I’m a mom. And the happiness of my children, now and in the future as they go on to start careers and families of their own, is on my mind all the time. That is the American Dream. We all want a better life for our children and do everything in our power to make that happen.

This desire led me to become president & CEO of the Multicultural Education Alliance. After working with policy experts, teachers, principals and parents, I have come to the belief that measuring what students know and holding our system accountable to meeting high standards is one of the most critical levers to improving the quality of education our children receive.

And I am not the only one.

There is a reason why the National Council of La Raza, America’s largest Latino advocacy organization, supports annual testing in schools.

And why it is joined by the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and more than a dozen other civil rights groups.

They know the legacy of a system that often considered the success of minority and low-income children optional. Reversing that requires that every child is held to the same rigorous academic standards, and that the progress of every child in attaining them is measured.

Whether Black or Hispanic, artist or mathematician, American-born or naturalized citizens, our children must possess the same knowledge and skills to be successful after high school.  We cannot set one bar for some students and another for the rest. They all need to be proficient readers. They all need to understand math, science and civics. They all need to think critically.

But how do parents know their children are gaining this knowledge? Yes, they can and should talk to teachers. But they also need reliable, objective information that allows them to compare their children’s academic achievement with others in the state.

The source for this information is high-quality, standardized tests that measure what students should know.

This is why colleges use entrance exams, why the military uses entrance exams and why so many professions require passage of board exams to obtain a license.

Tests tell me how much progress my children are making from one year to the next, and whether they are on track for graduation and college or a career.

There are those who argue tests are unfair, that they put too much pressure on schools and children. But Florida shows that when held accountable, schools that once failed children can improve results dramatically. What is unfair is not preparing our kids to be successful after high school.

For the past 15 years, Florida has been raising academic standards for all children, and each time, our students have risen to meet them. The results for Hispanic students have proven that more than any other group. Prior to testing and accountability, between 60 and 70 percent of Florida’s minority and low-income fourth graders could not even read at a basic level, contributing to a dismal graduation rate of about 50 percent. Those numbers have improved dramatically:

  • Florida’s Hispanic students’ graduation rate increased 28 percentage points, from 47% in 1999 to 75% in 2014.
  • Florida has eliminated the gap between Hispanic students and white students taking and completing AP courses and exams, according to the 2014 CWendyNewPLollege Board, 10th Annual Report to the Nation.
  • Our state’s Hispanic students outscored or matched the statewide average for all students in 34 states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in fourth-grade reading in 2013.
  • Florida’s Hispanic fourth graders rank first in the nation in reading and fourth in the nation in math according to the Nation’s Report Card.

Despite this progress, I hear many parents, a growing number Hispanic, saying we should “opt out” of all tests and accountability connected to them.

I agree there are too many tests. Many of these are required by local districts and are being scaled back. In addition, the state is reassessing its requirements.

You cannot opt out of college, military and professional exams. We have to make sure our students are prepared when the stakes are truly high.

The good news is there is an alternative to “opting out.” The phrase we often hear now is “fewer tests but better tests.’’

That is a good approach. Parents need to know how their students are faring in the fundamental subjects, and they need to know how their schools are performing as well.

I understand there are frustrations, and state legislators and school districts have gotten that message. But returning to a past when so many children were allowed to fail (out of sight, out of mind) is not the answer.

Hispanics have never shied away from hard work and accountability. Let’s come together and fight for a better solution.

 

Rivera, Wendy Wendy Rivera is a public school parent, attorney and president & CEO of the Multicultural Education Alliance.

 

 

 

 

 


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8 Responses to “There is an alternative to opting out”

  1. Dan Thompson says:

    As a long time educator I am dumbstruck by the standardization of curriculum encouraged in this post. Why should all children learn the same things. Aren’t the parents, the teachers, and the community in the best position to decide what should be learned. When you begin the understand the difference between testing and assessment, you will quickly realize that a common core coupled with a standardized test is not in the best interest of our local schools, our families, or our communities. This blog entry’s reductionist approach to teaching and learning speaks to the naive approach to teaching and learning that accompanies the conclusions of those policy makers farthest removed from the day-to-day of schooling. I don’t ask my governor to fix my car. I wouldn’t want him determining how to educate my child. The best minds in education do not favor all of this testing nor the common core. They are only supported by the weakest (and, unfortunately, noisiest) of researchers and educational philosophers. As a long time teacher and current teacher educator at a major university, I speak from a position of informed opinion. I am not at all alone in my conclusions.

  2. Dr. Susan Werkheiser says:

    Author states that parents and teachers want to know how students are doing. She says, “The source for this information is high-quality, standardized tests that measure what students should know.” The problem is, the high stakes tests aren’t high quality nor do they illustrate what kids know.

    Author states, “This is why colleges use entrance exams, why the military uses entrance exams and why so many professions require passage of board exams to obtain a license.” – none of these are “high stakes” tests. They’re placement tests. High stakes tests aren’t meant as placement tests.

    The author makes the argument that you can’t opt out of college entrance exams, military entrance exams, or certification exams. BUT THOSE aren’t tied to teacher evals, education funding or school ratings either! While you can’t opt out of those, because they are tied to a career choice, students are more likely motivated to do well because THEY MEAN SOMETHING TO THEM.

    Ah…the author is a lawyer? Not a teacher.

  3. Tracy says:

    You cannot opt out of college, military and professional exams.

    That’s where you are way off base. You most certainly can opt out of all of those because one doesn’t have to CHOOSE any of those paths. All 3 of those are CHOICES that ADULTS make.

    As the adult, I CHOOSE to trust my children’s teachers with their education. It’s what they are trained to do. Most with Masters Degrees. They are taught to write tests, evaluate students.

    Frankly, if my kids’ teachers think they need any of these tests to know where my children are academically, they have no business in the classroom and my kids certainly won’t be in theirs.

  4. Connie Crawford says:

    It truly worries me when I hear a person I consider to be educated and relatively well-informed talk as you do here. I wonder, “Does she not understand all aspects of the problem, or is she intentionally twisting the situation so that her perspective will sound more acceptable?” Please understand that the issue is NOT “taking a test”. It’s not even taking a “standardized test.” Are you aware that an international standardized test that has undergone a thorough validation protocol already exists? Why not use that? If authorities think it is dated, then spend the time (at LEAST 3 years) to develop a test and pass it through a validation process. Do you actually think that people don’t understand the stakes of the SAT? the LSATs? the CPA exam? Of course they do…. that’s why test prep programs make so much money? Your arguments are trite, simplified and completely miss the point of Opting Out. Look to Cesar Chavez…. he understood. The power structure will not listen to the voice of the people until some kind of united resistance takes place. That’s what Opting Out is…. united resistance. How sad that an informed, educated Hispanic women is encouraging compatriots to comply with being subjugated and controlled.

  5. Christine says:

    I agree with you on so many points in this article. I believe that teachers and parents need a true grasp of where students are performing each year. This could be measured by providing a baseline, midyear and end of year diagnostic assessment for students in grades 2-6 and a more formative assessment grades 7-9, still utilizing base-line testing. After 9th grade the ACT and/or the SAT should be the next set of testing used to truly measure college readiness.

    Parents in the Opt-Out Movement are not saying they do not want ANY testing. Parents are saying they want appropriate testing. Appropriate testing is designed to see where students have strengths in academics and weaknesses in academics. The strengths should be fostered and the weaknesses cultivated.

    There is a common ground and if money were not involved (or greed) I think we could do the right thing for all students (children).

  6. Jupiter Mom says:

    This is a confusing post. Truly. You are confusing having a test with having a “carrot and stick” approach to education. Florida has always had a test. I remember growing up in the 80’s, we had a test each year or so. Testing once a year is NOT a problem. No one is complaining about having a test to verify a student is making progress. What is objectionable is retention, automatic remedial placement, and the high numbers of tests being given due to state mandates for student data tracking.

    Please do not muddy the waters. Let’s keep it all straight and simple.

    Test- No problem. Make sure it is valid and reliable. Let parents, kids and teachers review the test after to learn from it.

    FL’s accountability system- Bad. Retention has been shown in study after study to be ineffective over the long term (there are short term gains that are lost apparently). Some kids are poor multiple choice test takers. Some kids can demonstrate knowledge by doing rather than on a test. Many kids like this won’t go to college but certainly can demonstrate high school level skills in their classroom. It is enough for them to graduate certainly. And state mandated end of course exams (EOC’s) count way too high for a final exam grade and are dependent on making sure the teacher covers a prescribed amount. No longer can a teacher go off on a lesson that drives the kids’ motivation and opens up the course to some fascinating learning. No- now they must stick to the script.

    So, thank you but let’s keep it all straight.

  7. Teresa Nieten says:

    You hit the nail on the head – we need fewer, better tests. These graded tests need to be made available to teachers and parents if we are to help the students learn from their mistakes.
    Or maybe what we really need are smaller, better tests given at midpoint and end, without the high stakes. If we are really using them to assess the students, don’t put the high stakes on them. Use teacher portfolios to evaluate the teachers and aggregate those results to evaluate the schools.
    The bottom line is, until we have accountability on the tests themselves, and vast improvement of the testing factors, the opt out movement will continue to grow. Because parents are fed up with false accountability that is levied only on public schools by people whose children attend private school that are exempt from common core and it’s monolithic high-stakes tests.

    • Jupiter Mom says:

      Great reply Teresa! I agree! We need tests that our kids can actually see once they are graded. We need professional educators to grade these tests so they can learn what the kids know and don’t know. We need reasonable stakes to be placed on 8 year old children- not drastic sink or swim stakes. We need tests to not be used to evaluate teachers. We have a lot to change here in FL. I’m glad to see we are moving towards that. Hopefully.

      And sorry they don’t show comments. Weird.

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