NYC principal opting her own children out of testing


Here is a letter from a NYC principal who spoke out against standardized testing and corporate education reform on WNYC radio, when Brian Lehrer had Michelle Rhee as his guest.   She sent the below letter, about opting her children out of testing in the Ridgewood NJ public schools,  to their principals, teachers, the superintendent, the NCLB administrator, guidance counselors, Special Education supervisor, etc. The official response so far has been from the superintendent, who made a veiled threat that she could be reported for truancy for keeping her children out of school on these days. The letter has been slightly revised to omit the names of her children and their schools.
Good afternoon.
 Please be advised that I do not permit my children, to participate in the NJ ASK or any other standardized testing for state report cards and NCLB/RTTT accountability. I believe that this kind of testing is, at best, counter-productive and perhaps even harmful to my children’s education and development. My position is based on my conscientious objection to the State of New Jersey and the U.S. Department of Education employing an early 20th Century assessment model, which reflects the goals, aspirations and knowledge of that time, in order to make high-stakes decisions about the effectiveness of teaching, learning, and schooling today.  This kind of high-stakes testing is not based on what we know about teaching and learning in 2012, nor can it prepare our children for the demands of the 21st Century. The State of New Jersey and the USDOE overstep their bounds and do a disservice to the public when they ignore professionals in local schools by arbitrarily making high-stakes educational decisions based on standardized tests.  Finally, this absurd emphasis on standardized testing depletes valuable tax dollars that could otherwise be spent on improving and supporting teaching and learning.
 As a parent and a 26-year veteran NYC public school educator, children’s development as life-long learners is a top priority.  Educators know that assessment is either for learning or assessment is of learning. Assessments (or “testing”) should always generate feedback that students can apply to their future learning. Professionally, we know that assessment for accountability is wrong.  The NJ ASK gives the Ridgewood Public Schools no information that they don’t already have.  Ridgewood parents and residents insist on excellent public schools. Our local government and our democratic electoral process ensure that we consistently have high performing schools. 
 In urban areas such as Newark, Jersey City, Camden, Paterson, and New York City, high stakes testing for the purpose of school and school district accountability dooms the most needy students to months of intellectually bankrupt classroom experience.  The curriculum narrows in order to ensure that students can respond correctly to multiple-choice questions or formulaic short answer and essay questions.  Timed, one-chance tests subject all children to the perceived possibility of humiliation and failure. This pressure to perform scars children and robs them of their natural curiosity and innate desire to learn.  In fact, our current understanding of the neuroscience of learning indicates strongly that the environment created by high-stakes testing actually inhibits learning.  No Child Left Behind, including New Jersey’s current waiver from the sanctions of that legislation, fails to improve educational outcomes for students.  Ironically, it leaves increased numbers of “minority” subgroups and economically disadvantaged students even further behind. 
My children have had a wonderful experience at [their public schools] in Ridgewood. In fact, I too, am a product of the Ridgewood Public Schools.  As a result of the strong educational foundation established here in Ridgewood, I was able to attend two of our nation’s finest post-secondary institutions in order to pursue my dreams.  Personally and professionally, I must stand with the thousands of courageous parents, schoolteachers and administrators across our nation, who are boycotting high stakes testing.  By opting out of standardized testing, we will deny the USDOE the data that supports its ill-conceived agenda for education reform.  Together we will work to improve public education for all students based on current educational and scientific research. As citizens, it is our responsibility to save our public schools. 
Sincerely, Jean McTavish
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