Sam's perspective: 'It's the right thing to do'

Sam Schmidt was interviewed on February 1, the night before the first February 2011 snow day. He is pictured with puppy Brown Bear outside the Substance office on February 2. Photo by Sharon Schmidt.George and I have had many conversations with Sam about school and testing. I knew he was over tested because he told me. We had not received information about testing from the school when he was in the third grade. I didn’t know Sam was taking a second round of Reading and Math Benchmark Assessments until he told me and I met with his principal. We hadn’t been aware of the first round or known there existed tri-yearly Benchmark Assessments until some test results came home in November 2009.

I asked Sam to answer questions for Substance. The following is an interview that took place on February 1, on the eve of the CPS’s first school closing due to snow in 12 years.

Interview with Sam Schmidt, age 9

Q: Why do think Dad and I insist that you opt out of the extra standardized testing at school?

A: Because you think the tests are dumb and unnecessary.

Q: What was it like the first time you were separated from your classmates when they took a test and you didn’t?

A: I was kind of nervous the first time I did it. I wasn’t sure how my classmates would react or if it was going to be boring, if it would take a long time, what I would do. When I got to the office I had to sit behind the desk where all the staff was. And, believe me, that wasn’t fun. The good part was it was fun to watch people coming into the office with weird stories like “some kid puked in girls bathroom.” Also, where I was sitting is a place where the bad kids sit usually, so everybody thought I was in trouble.

Q: Now what happens when it’s time for the test?

A: Most people who go in the office still think I’m in trouble, but the teachers and the kids in my class know I’m not.

Q: What happens after the test?

A: When I go back to my class usually the kids say things like “you’re so lucky” and “I want to hurt you.” I tell them they could just ask their parents, but they don’t really listen.

Q: Are you left out in any way because you’re not testing?

A: Kind of, because sometimes we work on stuff that has to do with the test.

Q: Do you feel okay about that?

A: I feel fine.

Q: Why do you think the students are given so many tests?

A: I honestly don’t know.

Q: How does your teacher know your abilities in math, reading and science without getting Scantron test scores?

A: The work we do in school — like essays, projects, homework, work on the board, tests that she makes.

Q: Do you ever ask questions if you don’t understand stuff?

A: Yeah, but you don’t have to put that down.

Q: You’ve taken a lot of standardized tests already so you know what they’re like. You had DIBELS in first and second grade, two rounds of Learning First reading and math benchmark tests (before I knew you were taking them and had you opt out) and the ISAT. What do standardized tests not tell your teacher about you?

A: What my personality is, how I am as a student, what I act like in class. Q: What do you like best about school?

A: My favorite part of school is friends, playing with friends. Drawing, reading, playing tag, tackling, fighting — all of the above.

Q: Do you remember when you spoke to the Local School Council about needing recess when you were in the second grade?

[The URL to the April 2009 recess story for those who can't access the hotlink above is:§ion=Article ]

A: Yes, I do.

Q: How did you feel about taking a stand on an issue?

A: I was freaked out.

Q: Did they listen to you?

A: Not really, not at all.

Q: But Josh [youngest of the three Schmidt brothers, in kindergarten] now gets recess and I think your effort helped that happen. How do you feel about speaking out and taking a stand about students being over tested?

A: I feel like it’s the right thing to do.

See other stories on this topic:

Students opt out of CPS tests

"It's the right thing to do": Q and A with Sam Schmidt

100+ unecessary tests (CPS testing schedule)

How to opt out

[Editor's Note: The article above (and three others linked in this article) originally appeared in the February 2011 print edition of Substance]. 


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