In Favor of Opting Out



Do you know about this Common Core testing?

Do you really know?

I listened to two third grade teachers explain tonight that there are TWENTY 45 minute blocks of testing. TWENTY. For third graders. All on a computer, reading text and answering questions about the text while scrolling through and trying to keep track of where they are. And then having to read two pieces of text and then write a 2-3 paragraph essay where they CITE from the two pieces of text. Typing on a computer, while scrolling back and forth.

Can you do that???

Let me tell you what we will learn from this type of testing.

We will learn that if we’re going to test third graders on computers, we had better spend more time teaching them how to use a computer. Some schools have already started assigning 40 minutes of keyboard homework a week.

Don’t look now, but what happens if a student doesn’t have a lap top at home?

And we’ll learn that we need to make sure the directions are written at grade level and aren’t so long that the kids have to scroll through them.

That’s right–directions so long that they don’t fit in the screen and require third graders to scroll. Rule number one in the blogging world is to keep your posts short enough that people don’t have to scroll. So they don’t, you know, LOSE INTEREST. And that’s for grown-ups.

And also that the text pieces need to be grade level texts.

You might think that would be a given.  But then, copyrights cost money, and things aren’t public domain until they are 100 years old. I learned this lesson when I asked why on earth we were testing 11th graders with Thoreau. Thoreau. “Because he’s free”.  And those are the kind of solid, research based answers upon which  these tests are built.

And also that if a third grader has to navigate six feet of scrolling screen to read two pieces of text, then type a two paragraph essay in which they are required to cite the afore-mentioned texts–at some point a lot of them will say the third grade version of “F*ck it” (which for some of them will be “F*ck it” and really, who can blame them)–and just hit “Enter”.

We will not learn what the child actually knows or how effective their teacher is in the classroom.

Elementary schools are producing children who excel at one thing: reading directions.  You think I’m exaggerating? Watch this: in the Fall, the school districts will make teachers sit down with their data and try to figure out how they can be more “effective”. Teachers aren’t stupid, they know that too many Americans believe that low test scores equal shoddy teachers who drink coffee and read the Sports page while their students run amuck. So they will generate action plans that look something like this: Spend more time on keyboarding. Practice scrolling. Familiarize students with academic direction language. Practice these skills every six weeks and re-evaluate.

I do not believe in conspiracy theories. The Bad Guys In Washington are not purposefully trying to create a whole generation of worker bees.

But they are creating a whole generation of worker bees. Standardized testing was a nice dream. In practice it has been a disaster that will require decades of recovery in the US.

Maybe you are a college educated stay at home parent who has time to fill in the gaps of your child’s education. Maybe you can afford private school, which looks nothing like this.

But if you aren’t and you can’t, then what?

There’s only one thing to do: opt out. Not because the test can hurt your child.

Because the test is hurting the quality of your child’s education. That’s a BIG and DANGEROUS difference.


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