Take it from parents; teenagers are people, not data points

(A Blog Post by Wendy Lecker, Sarah Darer Littman and Jonathan Pelto)

Ask any parent, high school student or teacher- 11th grade is hell. Aside from the heavy course-load, juniors have to suffer through a litany of standardized tests- and these count: SATs, SAT subject tests, ACTs, APs.

Could anyone make junior year any worse? Why yes! Thank President Obama, Secretary Duncan, Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor, the State Board of Education and Connecticut’s esteemed legislators. They all pushed and/or voted to make the Common Core State Standards Connecticut law.

As we all know, the CAPT test, the only state standardized test in high school, is administered in 10th grade. That test will now be replaced by the Common Core test, which will now be administered in 11th grade.

Would anyone who has any familiarity with high school ever be moronic enough to add ANOTHER standardized test to 11th grade, losing weeks of learning time and adding stress to the pressure cooker that is junior year?

Of course not- but then again, students, parents and teachers were never consulted before the Common Core was rammed down our throats.

What could possibly be the justification for this move to eleventh grade testing? That “we” want to make sure students are “college-ready?” Do people really think that a standardized test, scored in seconds by a computer, will tell us whether a student is ready for the research, writing and in-depth learning she will face in college? Rather than imposing tests that pretend to measure whether they are college-ready, leave our kids alone- they already have enough exams on their plate. We want them to be well-rounded, healthy individuals, with time for extra-curricular interests and yes, even a social life.

Defenders of the Common Core, a set of standards written with virtually no teacher involvement, like to claim that its critics are right-wing nuts or left-wing nuts.

But we aren’t. We are parents, who care deeply about education and learning. We also love our children and unlike the geniuses that thought it would be a bright idea to add another round of high stakes testing in junior year, we understand their social and emotional needs.

When Sarah told her junior daughter that the Greenwich Board of Education had planned Common Core Alignment Testing to gather data for the State Board of Education this month, while she was also going to be taking AP Exams and preparing for the SAT, she said, “That’s just disrespectful.”  She is right.

We adults expect respect from our teenagers. But to earn their respect, we must show them the respect they, too, deserve. Expecting them take an assessment test for data purposes when they are already facing so much pressure is not only disrespectful, it is unhealthy.

Greenwich parents rebelled and Greenwich was allowed to opt-out of testing – for this year. But just for this year. Meanwhile, across the state, juniors in other districts are suffering.  Parents in the wealthy suburbs had better wake up and smell the coffee. This testing madness is coming for your kids too.

As adults, we should be modeling balance for our kids, not cruelty and insanity. The rate of suicide for the 15-24 age group has nearly tripled since 1960. Is it any wonder when the State Board of Education and the National Secretary of Education treat our already stressed out teens like lab rats instead of human beings?

This is not a partisan issue. This is a conflict between those driven by ideology alone, who clearly will never live with the consequences of their policies, versus those who live with children in our public schools.  And for those of us who teach in, learn in or have children in high school, no matter what our political affiliation, it is time to rise up and shout: “Enough is enough!”

Wendy Lecker, Sarah Darer Littman and Jonathan Pelto are public education advocates and commentators.  In addition to their pieces here at Wait, What? you can find many of Wendy’s commentary pieces at the Stamford Advocate and Hearst Media Group papers and Sarah’s at CTNewsjunkie

  • buygoldandprosper

    Sorry. This is a weird blog post.

    Fight the fight, but stop hovering over your kids…they will survive our collective stupidity and can actually learn a lot when you engage the forces that are destroying education in this state.

    “Parents in the wealthy suburbs had better wake up and smell the coffee”…I found that comment beyond weird and typically Greenwich/Darien/NewCanaan-ish.
    And tying in an elevated suicide rate is a bit over the top! You might as well toss in gun control to make your argument.
    Sorry. This article is a rare miss.

    • msavage

      Maybe it’s the Greenwich influence?

  • Apartheid First

    Stop testing students! It is too much. Standardized tests measure specific (quantifiable) skills–if they are well-designed–and that’s it. They should be one aspect–and a small one at that–of a student’s record of achievement. Truly meaningful “assessments” such as reports, projects (without fancy bells and whistles and pre-made component parts) are a better indicator. So is the ability to work independently, something none of these tests measure.
    Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be surprised if Greenwich and other gold-cost towns and wealthy places like Simsbury were able to opt out year after year. Resist this form of favoritism–no school or district should be required to enforce these needless tests.
    As for CAPT and CMTs, it truly would be more helpful if opt-out students took the zero–it would make their school’s ratings tank and eventually the inanity would be evident. But the more students opt-out and the more test-takers who demand their full answer sheet (something no one ever sees–except maybe some lackey for Broad, Gates, or Pearson), the faster we will divest ourselves of this nuisance.

  • msavage

    It’s not just children in high school who are serving as “lab rats,” either.

    Maybe the three of you are dealing with older children. I happen to be dealing with younger children who are also being used as guinea pigs. My fourth-grader brought home a letter informing us that she was being used as part of the CCSS “test of the test.” It’s not OK in the 11th grade–but it’s not OK for the younger children, either.

  • Allan Taylor

    You say: “the Common Core, a set of standards written with virtually no teacher involvement.”

    The AFT’s website says: “Over the years, the AFT has adopted a few resolutions in support of standards outlining what we believe to be characteristics of quality standards and a comprehensive standards-based system. Between 2009 and 2010, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, an effort led by National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers developed the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics and English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science & Technology. The AFT supported the initiative from the beginning and put together a teacher review team to participate in the development of the standards. The standards were released in the summer of 2010 and were quickly adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.”

    The NEA’s website says: “NEA is committed to this project.
    NEA believes that this work on Common Standards has the potential to provide teachers with more manageable curriculum goals. Their broadness allows teachers to exercise professional judgment in planning instruction that promotes student success. Read about NEA’s involvement in this project.” Follow the link on the NEA site to read about NEA’s involvement, and you see this:

    “How has NEA been involved in the development and implementation of the standards?

    The NGA and CCSSO invited NEA to be a partner in the standards project. NEA decided to join the partnership for two major reasons: to acknowledge and participate in the broad support for common standards from many thoughtful groups; and to ensure that the concerns and voices of teachers were considered.

    When the project released the first drafts of the Common Core State Standards for College and Workplace Readiness in mathematics and English language arts (ELA), the CCSS staff and writers met with two groups of NEA members who were National Board Certified teachers in either mathematics or ELA teachers. The standards project staff listened carefully to our members and made substantive changes in the standards based on the recommendations of the NEA teachers, as well as those of teachers from other organizations including the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). (emphasis added).

    As the standards were expanded to include K-12, NEA teacher reviewers and staff continued to provide input to the various drafts. NEA in conjunction with other organizations including CCSSO, NGA, IRA, AFT, and others continues support implementation of the standards.”

    “Virtually no teacher involvement”. Really?

    • guest

      For many months after the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) was launched in early 2009, the identities of the people drafting the “college- and career-readiness standards” were unknown to the public. CCSSI eventually (in July) revealed the names of the 24 members of the “Standards Development
      Work Group” (designated as developing these standards) in response to complaints from parent groups and others about the lack of transparency.

      What did this Work Group look like? Focusing only on ELA, the make-up of the Work Group was quite astonishing: It included no English professors or high-school English teachers. How could legitimate ELA standards be created without the very two groups of educators who know the most about what students should and could be learning in secondary English classes? CCSSI also released the names of individuals in a larger “Feedback Group.” This group included one English professor and one high-school English teacher. But it was made clear that these people would have only an advisory role – final decisions would be made by the English-teacher-bereft Work Group.”

      Sandra Stotsky, author of Mass ELA standards and member of CCSS validation committee (who refused to sign off on them)