My neighborhood school holds a “Summer Transition Academy” for all incoming Freshmen to help them “understand the school’s expectations both academically and behaviorally.” This two week program is mandatory to the point where anyone who misses more than four hours “will earn a grade of FAIL and will have to repeat STA next year…[and] THERE ARE NO PERMISSIBLE/EXCUSED TARDIES OR ABSENCES.” Students who are late for school are punished with detention. It is a program that establishes itself on paper as very serious and important one for setting the proper tone for a successful high school education.
Imagine my surprise when AFTER the academy was completed I received an email informing me that all ninth grade students completed “a computer based, adaptive test that helps identify a student’s individual learning level” with questions that “are aligned to the Common Core State Standards.” Instead of receiving her first experience in front of a high school teacher, my daughter was being tested by a computer that was classifying her and providing research material for the Northwest Evaluation Association. Welcome to the new world of “reformed” education.
It has been my experience that my children are unduly stressed by the administration of high stakes tests and I, therefore, signed the appropriate “opt-out” forms last year. Had I known that testing would also be part of the summer program I would have sent my daughter with a new form. This exposes a flaw in the system. Instead of parents having to work to exempt their children from a battery of tests that they consider to be harmful, they should have to give their permission for the tests to be administered.
Under the current California state law information can be purposefully kept from parents. They have the right to “opt-out,” but no one is required to inform them of this right. Additionally, nothing can be done to facilitate the process. “The parent or guardian must initiate the request and the school district and its employees shall not solicit or encourage any written request on behalf of any child.” This prohibits teachers or the district from distributing the necessary paperwork to the parents.
An opt-in system would not only guarantee that the rights of parents were respected but would also force school districts to provide proof to the community that these tests are beneficial. A study of one Eastern school district found that students spent 50 hours per school year taking required tests and assessments and another 110 hours preparing for these tests. It is time for administrators to provide validation that the resources being spent on these tests is providing benefits. Administrators forced to obtain consent from parents would be placed in a position where they would have to justify their methods to the parents. This type of openness is needed to ensure that the the types of education reforms that are being implemented are actually benefiting our students.