EDUCATION POLITICS--Once upon a time a “test” assessed a student’s comprehension of a subject, or perhaps a student’s relative degree of comprehension compared with his classmate’s; even occasionally a teacher’s professional realization of her intended curriculum. Even this last variant was ultimately grounded in the student’s goals as a learner. The student was the object.
No longer. There has been a quiet transformation of student as object to subject of test taking. The essence of Education ®eform has been to transform students from the object to which pedagogy is directed, into the subject that is scrutinized as a proxy measure for institutional effect.
That means our children have been transformed from learners developing an inherent birth right, into the instruments of an external operation. They have become Accessories To Education.
We’ve all heard about the danger of “teaching to the test” but the ultimate consequence of this is more nuanced than a simple loss of instructional time and alteration of the curriculum. It is this transformation of the student into the instrument for measuring teacher value and school worth. The student becomes responsible for the teacher’s welfare and livelihood and as if that were not enough, for their very school’s reputation and viability as well.
Thus our students in very short order have now come to be forcibly compelled to take Common Core “State Standard” (which they are not), “CCSS” tests under penalty of a veritable mash of threatened and actualized onerous consequences: grade loss, school honors disqualification, personal guilt, personal pressure and explicit, authoritarian threat.
Imagine the pressure of this. In addition to the nervousness of controlling one’s own performance and fate, is the child’s responsibility of personally shouldering the professional assessment of an adult known only slightly in passing, who may or may not have influenced one’s own learning significantly never mind one’s performance on a test, and with whom there is unlikely ever to be interaction in the future but who holds the current power to affect your own future permanently.
Reciprocal pressure arises from yet another quarter when school administrators insist a student is personally “accountable” for achieving the same proxy name and reputation achieved merely via reflection for an individual teacher above, this time additionally now for the school entity itself – which is therefore functioning in essence as a corporation. Should a child refuse these tests despite the right codified by CA Ed Code: 60615**, the child is essentially disowned by the school, disqualified from the community’s accolades and perhaps from recognition, ostracized and shunned from the community.
That is, the community has conveyed the message to its constituent, the student, that his/er value exists only inasmuch as the constituent is willing to support the corporation. That student has become an accessory to the institution of the school.
This is actually thoroughly shocking. It is nothing shy of unconscionable that our children’s inalienable right to education, be transformed into a commodity subject to coercion and reducible to a quid pro quo. By force of threat our children are made to sit tests of questionable value to them personally, which are nevertheless a source of indisputable stress and considerable instructional loss, and which all the while are complacently accepted in proxy status as the reflection of a derivative value of their sovereign, corporatized, proprietary school.
How can we affirm a school’s right to condition practice of its mission on its student’s performance when that performance is its mission? In addition to being circular, this logic is simply unfair and oppressive.
Our children must be allowed to opt out of standardized tests guilt- and consequence-free. They are not beholden to the provider of their education for its success. They may be personally grateful to individuals for contributions to their personal achievement but they are not emissaries of the corporations’. A school is not the sum product of individual students, even presuming their progress could be measured – and attributed – adequately and accurately to begin with.
Never should our students and parents feel bullied by administrators or teachers to supporting a corrupt system of facile metrics; corruption should find no purchase in a place of learning.
LAUSD should protect its students, teachers and administrators from retribution and blowback for refusing these tests as is happening across the country, and is every student’s right in California by law. With one voice we must opt for our children’s intellectual good health and encourage them to opt out of common core testing individually, collectively.
For more information, arguments and support as to why the CCSS, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests should be refused, please visit the national website, United Opt Out.
**CA Ed Code: 60615. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a parent’s or guardian’s written request to school officials to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant to this chapter shall be granted.
(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.com)