Insert the acronym for your state’s standardized test.  I’m sure it’s the same everywhere!

First of all, to the parents out there, I bet you didn’t know you could do that.  You can.  All it takes is a letter to your child’s principal saying your child will not participate in the testing and you would like the school to provide your child with alternate activities during testing time.  That’s it.  No meetings or forms to sign are required.  Principals may tell you differently, but it’s not true.  You are the parent, you get to decide.  It’s your choice. No, the choice will not hurt your child.  Colleges do not take state testing into account.

Now, why would you, I, or anyone else make the decision?  What purpose will it serve?  The short answer is it sends a message to state and federal government that you do not approve of high stakes testing, the fear of punitive consequences imparted by those entities on local school districts, and the loss of local control that goes hand in hand with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

Here are some of the reasons my family has decided not to take part in CSAP:  Locally, it’s the children who are made to sacrifice for not meeting the government standards.  Our elementary students are not given the time for lunch, recess, and hands on creative learning that they need.  A scripted ( you better believe it’s scripted!  I’ve seen it in action and have heard from many teachers that it’s the wrong way to teach reading),  mind numbing  reading program.  From what I can tell the program is designed with standardized tests in mind,  not with showing a child how enjoyable reading is.  Children in kindergarten are left with little free play time.    Also, very little emphasis on science and social studies because those areas are not tested heavily on CSAP.    Then there are all the other standardized assessments kids have to take.  These assessments take up a ton of time and the only purpose they serve is to gauge how students will do on CSAP.

I know this sounds like an attack on our local school officials.  It’s not.  I think they could easily make some changes in policy regarding recess, creative learning time, and I disagree with other decisions they make,  but the fact is they are under enormous pressure from the state to raise CSAP scores.  If the scores aren’t high enough, the state threatens to take control over the district.    The threat is there, the fear is real, and that’s what I’m standing against.  Actions based on fear are rarely the wisest ones, but that is how the state and federal government encourages school districts to operate.

The faults of the CSAP test itself:   Did you know that students are given poetry to analyze and are expected fill in a right answer?  It’s poetry, not math!   Poetry by definition is open to interpretation.  How can there be one answer?  Are you aware that the portions of the test not graded by computer are graded by non-teachers who have been given one session of training?  They may grade several hundred tests during a shift.  Not to mention the pressure children are under to do well on the CSAP and how heavily it’s promoted within our district.  As a 9 year old, I would be stressed out about it!

Have you heard about the wealthy school district that’s been taken over by the state for low scores?  No, neither have I.  Because it doesn’t happen.  Zip codes that have high poverty levels tend to do poorly on the CSAP.   Maybe we should worry less about test scores and more about children living in poverty in our society.  The test is unfair to districts that serve children whose lives are unstable due to the effects of poverty.   I oppose CSAP for this reason.

People in Greeley are generally politically conservative, small government types.  Do you realize how little control we have over our schools?  Are you really willing to let the federal government dictate how our schools are run, due to No Child Left Behind, when the feds supply only a small percentage of the funds we use to operate?  It’s the opposite of the small government mind set.  Why can’t we, as a community develop our own standards and curriculum?  Why can’t we have the say in how we educate our population?  Why do we train our children to report to the federal and state government?  It goes against everything this community politically believes in.  Why do we allow it?

The first step in getting back some local power is by shouting loudly, NO MORE!  We will not be held hostage by government agencies that have no stake in our community.  By refusing your childrens’ participation in the CSAP, you are making your voice heard.  Let’s all demand a locally controlled, community driven model of education and see where it takes us.  After all these years of federal mandates, it’s worth the risk, as things are obviously not improving.  Please join me in the not so revolutionary concept of demanding local control.  I hear there was a tea party way back when that had some success with that.  Say no to CSAP!

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18 Responses to Why I Will Opt My Children Out of CSAP: An Open Letter to Anyone Who is Listening

  1. Conny Jensen says:

    Yes, simply refuse to go along with the plan! All over the country there are assertive parents doing it and each time one does, he or she helps to empower another one to do the same.

    Don Perl of http://www.thecbe.org receives many emails from parents who are saying “No”. Often they turn to him for advice on what to do if a principal or administrator tries to bully them into compliance.

    Angela Engel gave some great suggestions for that during her presentation! Just remember, you do not owe anyone any explanation, considering that CDE has developed a category for those rebel parents in their accountability report: “Parent refusal”.

    If you consider opting your child out of CSAP, you are not alone. CDE posts numbers for test refusals and I found that in the early grades very few kids are opted out, but that number steadily rises throughout the higher grades. Statewide: 169 in elementary; 348 in middle; 992 in high school.

    Also, see this article about what it is like to score the tests: http://www.truth-out.org/the-loneliness-long-distance-test-scorer65845

    • Sara says:

      Love your letter! I hadn’t heard of the Bartleby Project until now, but had decided to opt out my 6th and 8th grader this year. I am a gifted education advocate. The district relies on the top students pulling in that 90th percentile, but then won’t differentiate instruction. These kids don’t learn anything new until Feb. and then spend second semester practicing for the big test. Only parents can turn around this NCLB freight train. This is the only way to send the message. In gifted education there is what is called the Bartelby Syndrome. Gifted kids who have previously been outstanding students begin to refuse to do the tasks asked of them. They want stimulation, rigorous curriculum, but are only given the basics. It is more common in boys than in girls. When the administrator read my email about opting out, she replied that what I was doing was for retaliation and not in the best interests of my children. Let’s just say I won’t forget that! Thank you for making this public.

  2. Sahila says:

    Here’s what I wrote to my child’s teacher/principal/school community when I opted him out of standardised testing…

    http://sahilachangebringer.blogspot.com/2010/10/standardised-testing-what-are-we-doing.html

  3. Chris Eikenberg says:

    I opted out back in September after learning from Don pearl and Conny Jensen about the truth of CSAP. I decided to strike out CSAP in our lives.

    It has made it a better school year for the children due to this action. Yes, the look on the faces of those whom I handed the letter was of shock. I am considered a rabel by administrators at D^ and meeker, because I did this. They don’t understand that is these are MY CHILDREN. I believe, in my children, I do not believe in fear and I encourage those of you out there to get informed and believe in a future for your children free from this abusive “measurement” program. P.S. Please get your flu shots… i didn’t and missed this woman whom I really wanted to hear speak. Her book is eye opening.

    Sincerely,
    Chris Eikenberg

    • Melissa Jones says:

      Chris, you are the second parent I’ve heard from who says opting out immediately lifted the unknown burden from their children. That says a lot. I’m glad your kids are having a better year!

  4. Kelley Coffman-Lee says:

    I’ve been opting my oldest child out of CSAP testing for 3 years. There’s really nothing to it! This year I’ll be opting two kids out of testing. It’s the right thing to do — parents need to stand up and speak out on behalf of their kids. Or, if you just want to quietly opt them out, that’s okay, too!

    • Melissa Jones says:

      The link isn’t working, and I tried google too. Is there another way to get to the article?

      • Conny Jensen says:

        Nice compliment for you from Tim, Melissa! He’s Head of the Division of Education, Human Development and Social Sciences, Penn State Altoona.

        The link works when I tried it. If it doesn’t for you, try this which will show you other good articles by him and his full bio!

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/timothy-d-slekar/

        • Melissa Jones says:

          Link works now! Tim, I have a 7th grader that I’ve opted out of state testing for the first time this year. She’s thrilled with the novelty of telling her friends she won’t take the test, wears an opt out pin on her backpack, and generally is enjoying the prestige that comes with doing things differently. But I tell her, you have to tell people why you’re not taking the test. Give them the reasons why. And we’ve been talking about those. I hope she’ll communicate to anyone who asks, student or teacher. As she reaches high school age, I’ve considered asking her to just write “I won’t take this test” on the test, instead of formally opting her out. She would have to buy into it, as she’ll have to sit there doing nothing during testing, but I think it would make an impact. We’ll see what she has to say in a couple years. Yes, I think the Bartelby Project is a great way to get students invovlved. Thanks for the comment!

  5. I have a “uh oh” moment on this one every time the subject comes up. I personally, in the grand scheme of things, do not have a real issue with my children partaking in standardized tests. My reasoning is simply, the fact that standardized testing has existed over many many many generations and still exists through high level education tells me that standardized tests aren’t going to “just go away”.

    Before you hang me up and rip out my toenails, hear me out. My thoughts on this matter surround the fact that the test has to be appropriate in every way and if that can’t happen, then the scores mean absolutely nothing. The best example I can give you involves my own high school graduation exam and my father who was a teacher.

    I’m not sure how long the graduation exam had been in place in the early 80′s but it wasn’t a long time. Naturally when I took the test, my dad had a lot of questions for me regarding the test. For the record, he was a leader in education in Alabama and was against everything this test stood for. Once I had taken the test as a ninth grader, I relayed a question from the test to my dad that I found odd. Now that I am looking at it from the perspective of former teacher and parent of 2 young children, I see what he saw.

    I live in Alabama, rural Alabama. As a matter of fact, very rural to the tune of a population of about 450 people. The question on the test was a math question and the information was all there to calculate the answer. However, it was phrased in terms of “riding the subway”. How many times in my life (now at 42) do you think I have been on a the subway? How many times in my life do you think I’ve ever even seen a subway station, etc?

    The answer is none. Never. Not at all. Now, the fact that the necessary information was there makes the question acceptable I suppose, but it could be an easy turn off for someone who is not as comfortable with math in general as I was.

    I counter that with, how many questions exist on standardized tests given to inner city kids from New York that require the student to calculate in terms of riding a tractor, bushhogging a pasture, bailing hay?

    I’d venture to say…probably none. Now, back to argue that the point isn’t that the test is bad or good for me, I’ve basically come to grips with the fact that this is the case and when I took my GMAT for the second, I mean third, wait..maybe it was the fourth (just kidding), I knew, it was a matter of critical thinking. As an adult, expecting me to distinguish between subways and tractors is obviously not an issue, but for younger kids, this could be enough to keep the student from even reading enough to see that the information to do the calculation was available.

    Thanks for the use of the soapbox, someone else can now give it a scrub.

    • Conny Jensen says:

      Thanks for adding to the discussion of the issue. I just watched Diane Ravitch speak on the harms that high-stakes testing under NCLB and now Race to the Top has wrought in public schools and will spell their death sentence if we (parents and teachers) do not put a stop to it. Watch here; it explains it better than I can: http://defensedenver.com/2011/02/diane-ravitch-closing-schools-is-not-a-school-improvement-plan/

      You can find many more of her presentations on Youtube as she travels the nations trying to get the word out.

      When a standardized test (given only once a year, never mind how a child may be affected due to something that happened on the day before the test; a pet dying, domestic violence, being hungry, depressed, etc,) is used to determine how “well” a teacher teaches, and how well a school measures up to others in the state (norm referenced so that there will always be losers!) it spells disaster for those in low socio-economic areas.

      We have seen it in our district which as a result got put on academic watch and “overhauled”. All elementary schools are now on the same page at the same time, literally! All have the scripted Reading First curriculum that ignores children’s questions and comments during those 90 minutes. Recess was eliminated, and also playtime from kindergarten.

      Like Ravitch says, when that happens to a school, parents and teachers have to say ” This is enough, this is not a good education”. That is definitely the case here. Kids have started dreading going to kindergarten! They no longer enjoy reading.

      I see the point you are making, but that’s the thing about standardized tests. They can never be designed to better match individual needs or experiences. That’s why I as a parent value individual assessments, the way it was done when I was in school, in The Netherlands, by the way. There, just like in Finland, kids in elementary school.are not subjected to standardized testing.

      Because of the high stakes attached, kids now are test prepped and that takes away a lot of time from engaged learning!

  6. [...] around the nation are making their families’ experiences public, empowering others who may not [...]

  7. Oldsobe says:

    DO NOT READ INTO THIS!
    Do your own research, start with Wiki’s and Google.

    90% of the items they list as reasons for not supporting CSAP are false.
    This is a smear campaign sponsored by the Teachers Union in an effort to protect poor teachers from being exposed.

    I am a bit emotional on this subject, I bought into it all, and even sent a letter to my kids Principal that I now have to go retract.

    For starters, they say that the test are not fair because Non-English speaking students will bring down the average for inner city Schools. This is false, worse, it is a out right lie! C.R.S. 22-7-409 States clearly “students whose dominant language is not English for the first three years enrolled in Colorado public schools are exempt.”
    I wont go down the entire list, you can do the research in about 30 minutes and figure this out for yourself.

    I will also suggest this, go down and view the test, that’s it, take 5 minutes to go your child’s school and ask to look over the test.

    After you see that there is NO Poetry as Melissa Jones states in her 5th paragraph, then you will understand that she is just another lobbyist for the Teachers union.
    The same Teachers Union that made sure the teacher that was having sex with a student had a clean work record so he could continue teaching in another State.

    Please, take the 30 minutes and go do your own research, this woman is a liar being paid to discredit the only test given that gives any real insight to how well a Teacher, School, or District is educating children.

    • Melissa Jones says:

      These are my own opinions and viewpoints, based on facts and my own personal experience. I’ve never been paid by any teacher’s unions to write this blog or anything else.

      I would like to look at the TCAP test, but I seriously doubt they let people just look it over, what with all the cheating that happens and the high stakes attached. I believe the state only releases portions of past tests for examples, which have included poetry.

      Why so angry? Do you normally go around calling people liars and stating your own assumptions as fact, or are you just having a bad day?

      I would suggest you take 30 minutes to research who all the testing is benefiting;it’s not teachers, it’s not students, it’s not the taxpayers. Somebody is making serious money off the testing obsession while schools aren’t improving.

    • dana flinders says:

      Hello Oldsobe, I am not going to get into the research that you asked of those of us reading your post. I need no internet, book or report to tell me my experiences as a mother. My oldest son is in 7th grade and the last couple of years has become more and more stressed and nervous about CSAP testing. I blame myself for some of it since in the earlier years of his education I was a single parent and had little time to be in his classroom. You see, I did not realize that his first and second grade teachers were making such a big deal out of state testing. Oh, they really did it big. They had competitions, sang songs about testing, even mixed in the testing hype with recess and PE. My son started stressing out about testing IN THE SECOND GRADE! A time when he should have not had any stress at all. It snowballed until last year, sixth grade, he was at a point where he would stress about all tests. He got a B on a sience test and came home upset because his teacher told him that he should make sure to review what he missed because the information may be on the CSAP test and that if he wanted to get into a good college he needed to do well. IN SIXTH GRADE. Christmas break came and he asked me the day after Christmas how many weeks he had before CSAP. He became nervous. He is “that kid” that sometimes gets so stressed out they vomit on their test sheet.
      I do not pressure him to get all A’s, In fact, in the last couple of years school has become a nightmare for him. He gets so stressed that he actually freezes and zones out. I have always told him to do his very best and have a good attitude. It got so bad for him with his stress that I decided to try an online school this year. I work with him of course. He is doing wonderful. He is like a different kid. He retains information, asks questions that expand on concepts he is learning. He is responsible and comfortable. One of the reasons it is such a good fit for him is that he can work at his own pace. If he is taking a test and starts to panic or stress he can simply get up, go shoot some hoops or go jogging, then come back and finish the test. All is well…until about 1:OO a.m. this morning. You see, he is required to take the CSAP with this school as well. His scheduled test time is today, and he is currently dry heaving because he long ago ran out of anything to vomit. He is freaking out because he is worried he will “fail” at the test, worried he will freeze up, worried that he will get sick in a room full of people, and worried that he will not be able to show that he really is a smart kid on the test.

      I share this simply because I do not care about the background of Melissa Jones, just as I do not care about your background or the reason for your rant. I care about my son and the physical, mental, and emotional impact that these tests are having on him. Someone posted earlier that they have no issue with the test as these tests have been around for generations. Its true that they have, I took them myself years and years ago. The difference is that the tests that I took were graded by my teacher, they had questions on them that we could reasonably answer, and they did not take four days to complete. Oh, and there wasnt months and months of hype and pressure put on us by teachers and faculty to do well. Nor did they have us believing that if we did poorly that we would be letting them down, hurting their career, hurting our school, and killing our futures from elementary school.

      You see, I wouldnt have a problem with the testing if it was done the way it was when I was in school. If it was given to us randomly one day with a smile and the words, “Class, today we are going to answer some questions about different subjects to see if we are teaching the right information. Take your time, do your best, and put your head down on your desk or read a book when you are done” but then again, in the age when every additional dollar put towards schools somehow decreases the actual education value our children are getting, I guess the days of school being a low stress and positive life experience are gone forever.

      I apologize Oldsobe if I have rambled on. It is after three in the morning here, I am writing this between reasuring my son that the test will not restrict him from having a sucessful life, changing out the cold cloth on his head, and posting this. I am assuming from your post that you have children. If none of them have the stress issues with testing that mine does, then consider yourself blessed. I still cry when my babies are hurting, no matter if it is inside or out. The level of pressure and the stress that is put on these kids early on over a test is absolutely not ok. NOT OK. If they want to test the progress of schools, teachers, and their lessons, then they should come up with a testing proceedure for the educators, the administration, and the lesson plans. Make someone else, an adult, jump through hoops and get hyped into being stressed out that they spend a night vomiting. Leave our kids out of it. Bottom line, they need to come up with a new system, one that is not stressful and one that actually reflects what these kids are learning and how the educators are teaching.

      As far as specific issues I have with your rant, I think that you should probably not encourage parents to waste their time by going to the school and asking to look over the test. It clearly states on the CSAP website that no parents will be allowed to view the test prior to it being taken and that only parts of the test and examples will be able to be viewed after a child has taken the test. If the school that your child goes to has done this they should be very concerned that the CSAP Oompa Loompas may find out…..

      Your comment about non English speaking students not having an impact on the test scores…well…made my eyes cross. You Quoted in your post, “C.R.S. 22-7-409 States clearly “students whose dominant language is not English for the first three years enrolled in Colorado public schools are exempt.”” So they get a waiver for three years. WOW. Do you honestly think that three years is going to just magically put them at an even level with the English as a first language students? It is not. Even in the highest funded schools, not that its likely that the majority of these students are lucky enough to be in a high funded school, three years would not be enough time to put these kids on a level playing field. You are talking about kids that most likely are the only ones in their household that speak English. There are some that at some point may have not been going to school at all depending on where their families came from and their economic background. Statistics show that these kids are going to be in a family with either a single working parent, or two working parents. In addition to the language limitations, they are also dealing with cultural impacts and many times economic ones as well. What is three years going to do?

      Telling people to do research on the matter with Wikki and Google is a bit annoying as well. Why not link some specific information from credible and accurate sources if you have it? I am sure that everyone, probably even good ol’ Melissa, would be very interested in reading it. The best way to combat the information that you are saying is false and lies is with valid information proving your point. Google and Wikki can tell just about anyone anything they want to hear if they look long enough and are creative enough with their search words.

      As far as a the comments about this all being made up as lobbyist lies, well, again I go back to my personal experiences as a mother. Other than that, I hope you are not expecting anyone to be shocked at the idea that a union provided a defense for one of it’s members…you do realize that is the reason that employees join unions? The point of the union is to protect the worker. Now I know not of the specific case that you spoke of, but if you are going to expect me to pass judgement on a person simply because they belong to the same union that has a member that according to you did something wrong, then well, I guess I am going to have to pass. I always make it a practice to not act as judge and jury for someone simply because they are a member of a particular group. You see, I read a story about a guy that did that once awhile back and it just made me realize the danger of a person using their voice to pass along their beliefs about a large group and using those beliefs to demoralize and slander an individual. Nasty stuff. You may have heard of the guy?….They called him Hitler.

      On that note, I am off to figure out how to get my son excused from testing so he does not have to deal with vomiting and dry heaving in a room full of his peers for five hours today. I wish you the best of luck on your quest to bring down the almighty teacher-lobbyist-union people. Just as I am sure, as a parent, you wish me luck in finding a solution for the challenges that my son faces.

      P.S. I thought I should go ahead and add a legal disclaimer….I am not now, nor have I ever been, a teacher. I did get my Associates degree in Elementary Education, but simply so that I could gain some skills in helping with my kid’s learning. My BA is absolutely NOT related to education in any way. I also am not now, nor have I ever been, in a union. Finally, I have not ever had sex with a student…well, except when I was a student too…and I was married to said student…he was a student at the college that I went back to school at…we drove together…it was nice..anyway…….so I think that I am clear on that…we were both over the legal age limit…yup…totally in the clear…whoosh..thats a relief.

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