Parents, teachers and students are all too aware that the emphasis on standardized testing has come at the expense of much "big picture" learning. In Riverside, California, junior high school teachers have a tough time convincing students to study, complete homework, attend on time, or even to behave during classes--since, as long as they squeak through trimester assessments with merely a "basic" score, students can advance to high school even if they fail core English and math courses.
Not exactly the "rigor" touted by the authors of No Child Left Behind. Not the most coherent preparation for a glorious 21st century future.
What about opting out? The California Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education (CalCARE) has renewed its awareness campaign encouraging parents (and school districts) to know their rights about opting out of the state STAR test program. CalCARE is the state affiliate of watchdog FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.
California is one of the few states which allows parents to opt out of testing, but the movement has grown even in states where risks exist. CalCARE and FairTest provide support and technical legal information about what districts may or may not do to discourage parents from taking action. Both organizations also serve as clearing houses to connect, record, and publicize any intimidation used by districts or school sites.
The strength lies in numbers. California districts which are already designated by NCLB as hopelessly "failing" might have the most to gain by a collective opt-out. The move is especially important for parents whose students do not yet read, write or speak English fluently.
For more information and answers to questions, parents, teachers, and administrators can also contact CalCARE directly by phone, at 510-496-6028.