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.