With resistance to the Common Core standardized tests growing, more parents are refusing to allow their children to take them. But here’s why the solution may not be as simple as just opting your child out.
“Daddy, nooooo…..why?!” My 13-year-old daughter’s voice was cracking. “Please. Please!” When it registered that her father wasn’t going to give in, her pleading had switched from lighthearted to desperate. When he finally walked away, Amanda ran to her room, sobbing, slamming the door so hard that the family cat, on the couch 50 feet away, jumped.
If you’re guessing that the cause of Amanda’s meltdown was what she perceived to be an unfair punishment, you’re sort of right. Her dad, the night before her eighth grade ELA exams were to begin on March 28, was refusing to sign the form that was her ticket out of the tedious, three-day test and into the auditorium, where most of her friends, apparently, would be.
The school districts on Long Island lead the way in Common Core test refusals in the New York metro region. A Newsday survey of the 124 school systems across Long Island showed that fully half—52 percent—of the third to eighth grade students eligible to take the ELA tests did not. In some districts in Suffolk County, where we live, the numbers topped 80 percent last month.
My husband was one of many in our town who didn’t like the content nor the implementation of the Common Core Standards, and hated the intense test prep that came with it. So he signed Amanda out of the tests in sixth and seventh grade. I did tell him then that I thought it might be a mistake. Standardized testing was unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Before you know it, she’ll be taking the SATs, and maybe other college entrance exams as well. The more practice she had with the admittedly unpleasant experience of preparing for and sitting through them, the better, it seemed to me. Then there was the fact that life is littered with interminable tasks you can’t just opt out of.
In turn, he reminded me of the son of one of our friends who was totally stressed about what would happen if he “failed.” And of the third-grade girl down the block who had been in tears at the bus stop, as she had gotten the idea that if she didn’t do well, her beloved teacher would be fired. Indeed, I could see both sides of the argument, and I pick my battles. Amanda was signed out.
Interestingly, in elementary school, such tests were a non-issue for Amanda. They were annoying, sure, but in the same way that having to play kickball in the gym on a rainy day was. She was able to deal with it and quickly forget it. But now, she looked at them as a form of torture that all the good parents were swooping in and saving their kids from. My husband, meanwhile, had seen that opting her out hadn’t improved her grades, inspire her to learn for learning’s sake, or make her more relaxed throughout the school year. What it had done, he only just realized the night the door was slammed, was make her feel entitled to avoid what she didn’t want to do.
But, oh, she fought. She fought with the skill of a lawyer and the fervor of, well, a 13-year-old.
She first tried logic:
“A person, even a young person like me, should always stand up for what she believes in!”
She used her dad’s own words against him:
“You told everybody the tests were a waste of time!”
She invoked practicality:
“I could do all my homework in the auditorium, all my projects, everything, for the next two weeks. Think how easy school nights would be!”
And, in a last-ditch attempt, Amanda appealed to her Daddy:
“You know how you said you feel bad for me that I have to wait until seventh period for lunch every day? The kids who take the test have to wait even longer. I’ll be soooooo hungry. I’ll be fainting!”
In the end, it failed, all of it.
We passed two miserable nights of bitter complaining. ”See this bruise on my leg? It’s from being in that chair all those hours. I hope you’re happy!”
Will putting her back into the state-test stream be to her advantage? To ours? To anyone’s? We’re holding our breath.
The math tests are coming in May.