Opting Out-Updated…

Zoe and I had quite an adventure today.  Watch the video below for details.  In essence though, she was told that she is not able to attend school unless she is willing to take the test.  More to come on this as things develop.

Update and Timeline:
March 2013-Zoe and I form a crazy notion to start a national campaign to do something about the teach to the test standards.
April 2013-We decide it will start with a Youtube based revolution.  We call it the Blue Hat Movement.  We make a little website…and shoot some video content but decide that we are not ready yet to make a final one.  We also choose a date for a nationwide rally date for a boycott.  Zoe also says that “if we really want to make a statement, then I would like to opt out of taking the state tests this school year.”  I tell her that this kind of idea is way too big and discourage it.  But I do call the County Test Coordinator for Chapel Hill Public Schools.  I am told that though they must discourage her from not testing…she will not be harangued and will proceed to the next grade with no repercussions.

May 2013-Zoe becomes pretty much dead set on not taking the MSL’s at the least.  Her mom and I sign on.  Her mom even sets a meeting with the school principal.  The meeting never happens but Zoe’s mom is told that there will not be any negative side effects of Zoe not testing.

May 13, 2013-Tomorrow is the first MSL and I email her teachers a friendly note, even though they already know that she is opting out.  The note, verbatim, is below:

“Zoe will not be participating in the MSLs this school year, and we wanted you to both know why, so you are not caught off guard when the test day arrives.

Her choice, which her mother and I both support, stems from quite a lot of research.  In essence, not doing the MSL is an act of civil disobedience.  It is a well thought out plan.  Zoe feels, as do I, that the Common Core Standards, Obama’s Race to the Top, Standardized Testing, and Pearson Publishing are essentially harming education in our country.

Zoe basically just does not want to be a part of a system that doesn’t leave teachers free to teach in ways that they see fit from the start.   We would really love for McDougle’s administrators and teaching staff to support Zoe in her efforts to “vote” for a better form of education in our schools.  Change must start somewhere.  And as long as we keep giving kids these tests, that we do not wish to be giving them, nothing changes.  Zoe has just decided to be a part of the change now.

Please do let me know what activity she can do while the other students are taking the test.  She will be armed with many books to read and does not wish to be a distraction to the other students during test time.

Also please note that I already have spoken with the County Test Coordinator based out of the Lincoln Center and he is apprised of the situation.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via email or call me at _______.”

May 14, 2013-I drop off Zoe for her day at school.  Within 5 minutes I get a message from the Principal of the school:

“Mr Morris, Here is the reply we received from the district lawyer:

(If the child remains enrolled, we are compelled to test your child. There is no legal avenue for excusing your child from the exam.)
I must also remind you that if she’s absent on test day and returns to school this year, we must test her when she returns.
I don’t have the latitude to not administer the test, regardless of the parents’ feelings on the matter.

I understand your concerns, but Zoe is hurting the teachers and our school by not testing. You may withdraw her if you want to protest the test.”

I drive back to the school to check in with Zoe and to let her know about this abrupt about face by the school.  After all, up til now, all of the faculty had been supportive in general and no one had indicated that this kind of stick was going to be thrown.  Much to my surprise she was waiting for me in the lobby.  She had been escorted to the lobby and told to go home with a parent…the logic being applied was that for legal reasons she cannot be at school again until she complies with taking the test.  And that is where we are at this moment.

I emailed this response to the Principal:

“I definitely can understand the position you all are placed in.  The local test coordinator literally told me that if Zoe was not tested that legally he could not tell me what my legal options were.  Yet he also said that grade wise…there was no issue with grade promotion.  As it stands now I am hard pressed to see how this “law” can be seen as educationally based…when Zoe’s lack of participation effectively means she would have to withdraw from school.  When a well liked straight A, respectful student speaks out, at what point do others listen instead of just knocking down the nail that has arisen?  What is Zoe learning from all of you about “education” when her free speech is abrogated by the role models surrounding her?  Especially when we all know that barely any teacher believes that the CCS and MSL’s being linked to teacher evaluations make for strong schools?  In other words…forcing Zoe to take the test, perpetuates precisely the kind of fear based pressure that has turned education into a factory for large test companies to make a lot of money.  
So I know you have pressure but really if we are not working to change the system then how will education improve?  And how you respond to the pressure role models for students how to behave in the world.
Can you please email me the phone number of the lawyer?”
May 14, 2013…Now
Zoe and I made a video about this.  Even though we were not ready to launch the Blue Hat Movement…even though we were not wanting to make waves about the MSL and Zoe opting out this year.  We pretty much have to say something about it now.  I can see how as long as there is only one student doing this locally that is an easy thing for the “system” to dominate and force a will upon us.  But the nutty thing is that this “system” is perpetuated by people who do not even believe in it.  They are afraid.  What a perfect machine the government has made of education now.  Teachers afraid to teach outside of a government mandated curriculum…tests given to students (MSL) to measure how well the curriculum is being implemented…funding and jobs being tied to how the students do on the tests.  It is a mess.  And as long as fear is the motivator, who will do something different?  It is amazing to me to see so many people all walking in a line because of who is above them walking in a line.  So many teachers and people that dedicate themselves to “teaching” being willing to put up with this mockery of learning.  Here we have a school telling a child that if they do not take a test, which is not even a part of their grade, that their option is dropping out of their school.  Wow…is this really about education?  Is learning a priority?  What kind of people make a law that makes a kid take a test that is not related to their final grade?  If you want to know where the buck stops in this debate, you can blame fear if you want.  I do not blame the teachers or the Principal of Zoe’s school. I can see how their hands are tied. I do hold them accountable though for not standing up and supporting a truly teachable moment.  If Zoe follows their modeling, does that lead to a better America?  What kind of society will we have if Zoe followed what the educator’s are actually teaching her through their silence?  Isn’t education supposed to prepare children to live out American values such as: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Freedom?
But back to the buck…Pearson Publishing/The Department of Education.  If you haven’t researched them and their connection with how your kid’s are learning vis a vis Common Core Standards and what the corporatization of education means, then you aren’t paying attention.  And you may think your children are free to learn.  But believe me, they are only free as long as they do as they are told.  Sigh…sure wish we were homeschooling again.

26 thoughts on “Opting Out-Updated…

  1. thank you Michelle Chinn Cannon for this letter (ACLU is collecting stories of parents who are being forced into complicity)
    To whom it may concern:
    We, (parents names), do not give our permission for (kids names) to participate in No Child Left Behind Testing. Our Catholic faith teaches that it is a sin to participate in an action known to be fraudulent and to be harmful to our children and to our community.
    We are aware that parental rights are broadly protected by Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” Furthermore, the Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35). The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.). In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (262 U.S. 399). We are also aware that there is no federal law prohibiting a parent from opting their child out of end of grade state testing.
    We do not give consent for our sons (kids names) to participate in end of grade state testing at any time during the current school year. We do not consent to the removal (kids names) from their classroom for the purpose of make-up testing. I fully expect this request to be honored, and if it is not honored I will consider this a direct violation of my parental rights and will seek further action.
    In the best interests of our children,

  2. I am so sorry to hear about your difficulties opting out. The ACLU is forming a lawsuit of people who have suffered repercussions from their schools after opting out. Duke Law also has an education division and was very helpful to our family two years ago. Your federal civil liberties as a parent trump state testing laws — school district lawyers know this but need those funding dollars. I’ll ask around about other attorney options… Stay strong!

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  6. I am one of those teachers trying to stand up for my own rights. I did not want to score a test in NYS, because it meant if I scored it, I would not be able as a parent to discuss the test with my daughter. She is a child with Asperger’s and I am a single parent. We were threatened with our jobs. We received notice from the state if we encouraged anyone to opt out, we could receive disciplinary action. If we refused to sign the confidentiality agreement (WHICH I TRIED TO DO) I would be held insubordinate. I was given no choice, scoring was not a volunteer position. I do not teach English or Reading. It didn’t matter I was given a very loud directive to score the test and sign the agreement. The agreement, simply stated, talk about the test and you will receive a disciplinary hearing, or be charged with a misdemeanor. And by the way I was 42 days from retirement.

    The whole system of testing does not benefit the education of children. What good is a test where children don’t see the results and can’t learn or correct their mistakes. What good is a test where teachers cannot discuss the questions or see how there students answered those questions. Where teachers cannot discuss with other teachers how to better teach the subject matter? We need to stand together united, but even our unions cannot protect us.

    I need my job and my retirement as I am the sole support of my daughter. One person cannot do it alone, I stood up, and my colleagues stood by and watched. People signed the confidentiality agreement without reading it. I was dumbfounded. Where do we all go from here? Teachers, parents and students need to stand up to the bullies forcing this all on the public education systems in our country.

    I applaud your daughter for taking a stand and you, her parents for supporting her. Start you blue hat movement. I will be with the NYSUT rally on June 8th to protest what is happening here in New York. My daughter has made the choice to join me. Every individual needs to participate!

  7. Good for you! Don’t let them intimidate you. My child was kicked out of a charter for test refusal. Let’s see, there’s the ACLU, ADL, OCR, and of course; private legal representation. There are two suits going on in the US right now; NY and IL. Talk to the media and embarrass the Dept of Ed to death. I do at every opportunity. Post…post…post your story!

    Parents Across America
    United Opt Out
    Save Our Schools
    Schools Matter
    Class Size Matters
    Rethinking Schools
    …there are countless more parent and student opt out groups. Find me on Facebook.

    Nina Seifert Bishop

  8. Thank you for having the courage to act! Every time I hear another story such as yours, my courage and determination to act bubbles up even higher. Keep spreading the word!

  9. Zoe is guaranteed a free and appropriate public education by federal law. It seems like the principal and the district could possibly be breaking federal law by essentially denying Zoe her right to a public education if they told you to withdraw her rather than sit for the test.

    Your other option is to let Zoe return to school, but then have her willingly refuse to take the test. This is what some other opt-out kids have done. They refuse to break the seal on the test booklet or touch the answer document. They refuse to bubble in anything. They simply sit there. This might be intimidating in a class full of kids all taking the test, but seeing as how Zoe’s classmates have already taken the test, it would probably be just her and a test administrator (like a teacher) giving her the test. This might be your best option. That way, Zoe can return to class and receive the education that she is entitled to, but also carry through on her protest against standardized testing.

    I’m behind you all the way. I’m a teacher and I’m appalled at ridiculous high-stakes testing culture that’s developed in this country. I’m not against standardized testing when it’s used strictly for evaluative purposes. In fact, testing can be quite helpful in identifying learning disabilities and be the first step in getting a child much need intervention services. I’m against standardized testing when it’s used for promotional purposes that wind up being punitive. It’s an insult to the teaching profession because it’s essentially taking the power of evaluating a student out of the teachers’ and principals’ hands…the very people who spend countless hours every school year with our children and know them much better than a ridiculous 3 hour test could. I’m not putting my own child through this crap when she reaches school age, I guarantee it.

    Tell Zoe that a teacher is behind her and I support her all the way. WAY TO GO, ZOE! And she’s lucky to have supportive parents who have her back. Good on you, dad!

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  11. I am a high school history teacher who enthusiastically supports Zoe’s actions. Her reasons are wonderful! I have posted signs in my classroom stating, “I’d rather teach HISTORY that CAPT or NWEA! My students deserve a REAL education!” and “Tested to Despair; High Stakes Testing is Ruining Education!” I have also posted signs that advise students of their rights to opt out.

    Tell Zoe that another teacher is behind her and will use her example in future lessons on civil disobedience. I’m PROUD of her!

  12. What a courageous young lady! What a courageous family! Thank you for taking a stand for millions of children across this country. Thank you for your willingness to stand by your convictions and truth. I hope Zoe’s example will be a catalyst for many more to show their courage.

    This retired teacher from NY sends support and gratitude.

  13. Good for You Zoe and DAD. Will join and have about 500 plus to alert!!
    NC has gone Test Crazy and has Raced to the Top with the Book Company collecting the millions of the $$$ they so crave!!
    Every Student needs to say No to these Tests…Every teacher needs to say No, I will not give your useless Tests that are used only to evaluate TESTERS!!(formally known as Teachers).
    I know of so many law suits that are pending already from teachers who have been harassed and treated so unfairly!

  14. I have hoped for years that someone like Zoe would finally take a stand. Thank you! I finally have reason to believe that the facade will crumble!

  15. Go Zoe! Your actions are courageous. And, you are absolutely correct in believing that we can do are far better job of creating exciting learning opportunities without these highstakes tests (and without the Common Core). I’m sure you have a bright future with or without the support of our system of schooling.

  16. Teachers appreciate Zoe’s stand. This testing is harming teachers and students alike. Teachers keep their mouths shut, and administer tests, because we are mostly trapped. Parents and students are NOT trapped. It is going to take a strong and informed public composed of parents and kids like you. Teachers are simply stuck – we cannot fight this corporatization because they are holding our jobs over our heads. Parents and students have nothing to lose. They will have to fight and win this battle.

  17. I did not want my daughter taking the EOG’s or the MSL tests! She is a 7th grader in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) and I have seen year after year her stress level go up and up over the prep for the tests. On Monday (the first day of testing) she told me her class was done with the day’s testing before lunch, but because the rest of the school was not done, they had to stay in their homeroom classroom until EVERY SINGLE CHILD WAS DONE TESTING IN THE ENTIRE SCHOOL. This means she sat in her homeroom from 9:15 am until 3:30 that day. They could eat lunch but they had to eat it in the classroom. They could not say a word once they were done with testing. They had what hey call “silent” lunch. The teachers would not even let them read a book. They JUST SAT THERE FOR HOURS ON END! The reason for no reading is they fear the kids will rush through the test in order to read a book (this is an honors class). How many adults could do this, much less 12 year olds? This is TORTURE and even more so because there is no reason for the tests to begin with. I totally support Zoe and her father. I wish I had the guts to stand up to the testing “gods” but since my husband works for the school district, I realize I would be putting his job at risk.

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  21. Dear Zoe, we are glad we found your story. You are not alone in this fight. My husband and I also opted out our daughter Penelope from the EOG tests. Cabarrus County Schools, NC are not allowing her to return to school until she takes the tests. Hope to speak to you and your family.

  22. Please use carriage returns after every few sentences in your post. Making a post in one giant blob of a paragraph is very hard to read. I tend to skim or even skip posts like that.

    See? Like this!

    Thanks and good luck!

  23. Pingback: This Student Refused to Take the State Test | CTA

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