Who Does Opting Out Hurt Most? 5/365

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imageThere is a relatively new movement that is gaining steam throughout the country, and it has taken up its post here in New Jersey as well.  Opting out seems to be gaining momentum year by year.  With state testing becoming more intense, more pressure packed, and more crucial to school and teacher ratings, more parents and students are choosing not to take the test.

I recently read an article on NJ Spotlight that discussed the movement, which I previously did not believe was legal in the state.  It says that the movement is still small, but the stories are starting to be shared (as is evident through blogs and editorials).

As much as I question the effectiveness of VAM and using Standardized testing to rate student achievement and teacher effectiveness, what I am about to say may shock you.  Think long and hard before you OPT OUT, it may not have the impact you are intending!

I understand all the reasons why you should.  They are the reasons making press stories right now.  But here is the flip side:

Your school and your child’s teacher are judged based on those ratings.  Without your child’s score, the percentage of test takers goes down and can create greater swings in the measurements.

What does that mean?  It means that your child’s score could be the difference between meeting AYP and not (don’t laugh, its bound to happen eventually.) Your child’s score could be the difference between rating categories for a teacher (again its bound to happen.) While you think you are helping your child, your child’s school loses funding, their teachers are judged more harshly and ultimately, your child’s real education is negatively impacted.

This sounds like a lot of crazy talk, I understand.  Simple put, when you lower the number of students taking the test, you increase the swings a bad score (and yes a good one) can have on the results. It makes data that is not the greatest, even worse.  It can and eventually will cause problems for schools throughout the state.

The more you look into how VAM works, the more it will impact other schools and students throughout the state.  Without your child in their respective “peer group” the “growth” of other children that would score around the same score will be skewed.  When that gets impacted, all the other schools will be impacted as well.  It will not be enough to “invalidate” the data (I question the validity of the data to begin with) but as this grows at a turtle’s pace, it will be enough to change the results across the board.

What will happen to the first school that does not have the minimum percentage of students taking the test to “validate” the data?  I for one am concerned about that possibility as well.  How will that school be viewed?  Will they be singled out for punitive measures?

If you don’t want to be “the poster child” for opt out, don’t do it.  Unless you are willing to rally a community, a school, a state, to move in a different direction for standardized testing, then don’t do it.

I know that it is a personal decision, and I know all of the reasons why you should opt out.  But, who actually has thought about the potentially significant damage that opting out creates for your child’s school and their school’s staff members.  What’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander.

I am not saying that opting out is the wrong thing to do, I simply have seen a lot of information being shared about why parents are choosing to opt out, and there is little said about the potential negatives.

I believe that there are reasonable concerns with standardized testing that aims to assess overall student learning, and evaluate teacher/principal effectiveness.  But if you are not ready to put yourself out there and make this an opportunity for change, all you are doing is hurting everyone else.  Before you say no to the test, think long and hard:  Who does opting out hurt the most?

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2 thoughts on “Who Does Opting Out Hurt Most? 5/365

  1. J. Trayers

    I have had the same thoughts when I read those articles. Here, if the child doesn’t take the test it actually counts against us as a failure-both for the teacher (test scores are 50% of our eval) and for the school rating. I also don’t know how they place the child the following year (since often that’s based on test scores) or if it’s a promotion standard how that will impact the child’s future as well.

    • Wow, 50% is an even greater percentage than it is here. It is not that I am a fan of standardized testing, far from it. But I find that people opting out have an inequitable access to information. How does the child who also has massive test anxiety but does not have parents that know or are involved deal with this? Who speaks for them when others opt out?
      I can see the small scale opt out movement as another inequitable issue in education. Until your willing to make enough noise to create a change in the system, your more likely just to create a negative impact for those around you.

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