Texas parents organize 'Opt Out' for their children... 'We believe high stakes testing is immoral'

As the U.S. Department of Education and the Obama administration move to expand high-stakes secret testing of children in public schools across the USA, a growing number of parents and students are organizing for children to refuse to take the tests. The program is called "Opt Out." In Chicago, it is being supported by more parents (including this reporter, whose children are not taking Chicago's silly secret tests).

In Texas, the parents talked about their movement in a Valentine's Day article in the Austin American-Statesman:

DON'T LIKE THE EFFECTS OF STAAR TESTS ON EDUCATION? OPT OUT. Austin American-Statesman -- February 14, 20`2. By Edy Charmness

Vampires and guinea pigs have recently been noted in meetings in Austin in regards to the new State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness exams.

"You've created this one thing that the entire system is dependent on. ... It is the heart of the vampire," said Robert Scott, Texas' education commissioner, to State Board of Education members, according to the American-Statesman on Jan. 26.

Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, also recently remarked to parents about the STAAR counting for 15 perecent of high school course grades. "Make sure your voice is heard that this is not OK. Your children should not be guinea pigs," she said, according to the Jan. 25 American-Statesman.

Do you feel that your child is just a guinea pig with the implementation of the new STAAR tests? How can your voice as a parent be heard about the STAAR tests?

One simple way to be heard is to opt out.

We are Texas Parents Opt Out.

This spring, public school children across Texas will begin taking STAAR exams. Politicians have promised that these new tests will be tougher and more rigorous, and will more accurately measure the effectiveness of classroom instruction.

Our state government is using more than $400 million in taxpayer money to pay Pearson Education to develop the STAAR tests.

After spending millions of dollars on testing, there isn't any money left for classroom instruction.

Pearson Education profits while Texas public schoolchildren suffer needlessly.

High-stakes testing doesn't work. After 30 years of standardized testing in Texas, the quality of schools has not improved.

Every year, Texas teachers are compelled to interrupt hands-on, quality instructional time to "teach to the test." Students are marched through a series of practice tests and benchmark tests, and face boredom, test anxiety and depression.

To accommodate testing --- "the vampire" --- the curriculum has been narrowed to the point where the majority of elementary students spend nearly 75 percent of instructional time focused on the reading and math skills needed to pass the test.

High-stakes testing, including the STAAR tests, has led to corruption, profiteering and the destruction of effective instructional practices in our public schools.

There is a better way.

The Texas Parents Opt Out organization believes in authentic, hands-on, experiential learning, as well as inquiry and discovery-based approaches to help make classroom instruction meaningful and relevant for students.

Music, art, physical education, foreign languages, social studies and science education should be emphasized as much as reading and mathematics.

Student learning should be evaluated through authentic means such as portfolios, projects and experiments. We know that all students are unique individuals who learn and express themselves in different ways.

How can parents opt their children out of testing?

Chapter 26 of the Texas Education Code gives parents the right to remove their child from any activity that the parent believes is immoral or against their religious beliefs.

At Texas Parents Opt Out, we believe that high-stakes testing is immoral. Ten years of No Child Left Behind legislation have generated mountains of research on the negative effects of high-stakes testing.

Studies show what parents already suspected, that standardized testing:

-- Produces anxiety and depression.

-- Kills curiosity and children's desire to learn.

-- Narrows the curriculum.

Wastes valuable educational time.

If you believe that standardized testing is harming your child or depriving him or her of a quality education, and if you believe that current Texas laws concerning the 15 percent rule might harm your child's future educational opportunities, please join us by opting out of the STAAR tests.

It's your right.

- Chamness is the director of Texas Parents Opt Out;


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