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Singled Out

My daughter was excluded at school today. Not from some game on the playground or for misbehaving in class, but because we opted her out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test. All the kids who took the test over the last couple weeks had an ice cream party, but my daughter—and other kids who opted out of the test—were asked to leave the class while the party took place. In fact, it was covered up. She was sent to another class to share a story, and she didn’t know what was happening until she returned to her normal class. When she entered the room, the other kids were whispering, “Shhhh, don’t tell her!”

Where do I begin?

Opting out of this test was our right as parents and was a choice we made based on a set of beliefs. On test days, our daughter was sent to a different class (a lower grade) that wasn’t taking the test, and was required to complete many pages of math worksheets as well as readings with responses to questions. Every day her class had testing, she spent the same amount of time doing assigned work. From my understanding, there was often enough work to fill the entire time and on some days, there was so much, she didn’t have time to finish (which actually stressed her out a bit because she didn’t want to get in trouble).

Hiding the fact that others get ice cream, without any sort of explanation to the kids or parents, goes against many of the schools revered principles, like honesty and being caring. Another very important principle, open-mindedness, is lacking here. By singling out the kids that are “different,” what message does that send to them and their peers? They did just as much work, yet because they didn’t conform to the norm at the school, they were punished.

It’s not about ice cream. It’s not even really about testing. It’s about treating everyone with respect. My daughter didn’t do anything wrong. She works just as hard as her peers and gets excellent grades. She follows the rules and cares about all her teachers and peers. Yet today, she didn’t get to celebrate with them because we don’t believe standardized tests are a valuable use of instructional minutes. She worked just as hard as the kids who took the test, but she was singled out and excluded because of what she and her family believe.

We’re still in shock. For a school to preach one thing and do another is disturbing. We chose this school because of their original emphasis on principles, but this event has left us questioning. We’re not sure how we’ll proceed, and we need to gather more information, but tonight, we are very saddened and disappointed.

What would you do?

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  • BrittonGildersleeve

    This is so wrong. And my heart aches for your daughter. I think I would approach it from that point: ‘Mary was so hurt. Is that the lesson we want to teach?’ And stress your own extensive Ed background. This is just so very sad…

    • luhoka

      Thanks Britton. We’re going to meet with the administration and I think you’re right, we want to convey how it made our daughter feel to be treated like this, especially for a decision that was ultimately ours, as parents, to make.

  • Kim Douillard

    I have to say this saddens, but doesn’t surprise me. I think that teachers and schools get so caught up in the test prep, test mind…in a linear thinking way that they don’t consider the implications of the (bad) decisions being made. The ice cream party decision is appalling…but the fact that your daughter had to complete worksheet after worksheet to fill the time not testing feels punitive too. How did this decision serve her as a learner? What other options might have been considered?

    I was reading about systems again yesterday, shortly before I read your post (When a Butterfly Sneezes by Linda Booth Sweeney). I started to think about the impact on the “system” (classroom, school…) when a family opts out, when a child is excluded…and how adult decisions can send the impact either in a positive or negative direction. This is complex and I think adults forget that children have little say in these decisions. And your post makes me think about decisions I make…do I think about the interrelationships and the ways that each piece/action impacts others? Are children being impacted negatively because of the decisions made by adults? (I’m thinking the school would have loved for your daughter to have tested given her work ethic and abilities!) So much to consider!

    I’m guessing the school wanted you to send your daughter to school during testing week so they could collect ADA, but it seems that her learning environment would have been better at home during testing! I know your daughter will emerge stronger for the experience–because you all will handle it with her best interests in mind. Thanks for a thought provoking post…and please give your daughter an extra hug from me!

    Kim

    • luhoka

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond, Kim, but as always, I appreciate the support! I also love how you decided to use it as an opportunity to reflect on your own practice and relationships with parents and students. You are truly a model teacher!

  • Catherine Calkins

    That is heartbreaking. The board of directors of your charter school, who sets policy, might be better informed by hearing about your daughter’s experience.
    I support your decision to opt-out. The bean counters have co-opted education, and we are the worst for it. Let us be the child in the crowd who speaks the truth: The emperor has no clothes. …All my love to your family and especially to your dear daughter! …a public school teacher, Catherine

  • dogtrax

    Holy crap …I would be up in arms … And if I were that teacher, I would be hanging my head.

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