by David Safier
“Parents must have the right to make decisions in the best interest of their children, even if that means refusing to participate in a test they recognize is harmful,” union President Wendell Steinhauer said last month.So schools have to decide what to do. Many are trying to persuade parents about the value of the tests, which is fine. Give parents the pro-testing side of the story and let them make up their own minds. But the other part of the question is, what do you do with students who show up but won't take the tests? Do you leave them in the room to "sit and stare" at the tests in front of them, or do you give them activities to do elsewhere? School districts have come to different conclusions. Here's my favorite "Did they really say that?" justification for making the students sit and stare at the computer during the test.
Some superintendents have argued that putting the students in classrooms would give them more instruction hours and an unfair advantage.Let's analyze that Onion-worthy exercise in self-satire. More instruction time, the superintendents warn, would mean more education for the opt outers, which would give them an academic advantage over the kids who wasted the opportunity to further their educations by taking the tests. In other words, a school year filled with pretesting, re-pretesting and the actual state testing deprives students of hours and hours of useful instruction. By saying the non-testers can get an "unfair advantage" from "more instruction hours," the principals are making a forceful argument against our obsession with yearly, high stakes testing. If they believe what they say and also believe in education, those principals should be leading the anti-test protests, carrying signs like those carried by a group of students in Boulder, Colorado: "Education, Not Standardization."