One Step Forward

It’s been an interesting ride since my last post about my daughter’s school punishing the kids who opted out of the (optional) standardized test. I thought maybe 10 people would read it, but I guess it struck a chord, because it’s gotten a little over 900 views since I posted it four nights ago. The support has been overwhelming and the handful of trolls talking trash along the way have kept things in perspective. I appreciate the majority of people who took the time to read the post and respond thoughtfully—whether they agreed or not—either in the comments, on Facebook, or through Twitter. Especially given this response, it seems important to catch everyone up on what’s happened since.

I was contacted by Hannah Furfaro from the Fresno Bee yesterday morning. I had meetings all day so I couldn’t respond right away. About five minutes later, the school’s executive director called me to set up a meeting. This was actually what we—the parents of the opt-outers—had wanted, and my wife and another mom already had a meeting scheduled. Prior to this meeting, over the weekend, most of the parents involved had compiled a list of concerns and potential requests. It was agreed, though, that this first meeting would be a fact-finding mission to get the school’s take on what happened and why.

The meeting with the Executive Director was very positive. She was friendly and open to hearing our concerns. At first she tried to play it off as a misunderstanding, saying it wasn’t intentional, but the moms didn’t let her get away with that. With some pushback, it was clear that it wasn’t just a simple mistake. There were some clear decisions made by the teachers involved and the ED promised there would be a staff meeting to discuss the issues. The ED was very concerned that our kids felt punished and shamed, and said that apologies would be made to the kids and their classes. There seemed to be more excuse-making by saying that it was the first time they had administered this test, so they weren’t prepared for kids who would opt out. (We think this was a lack of foresight and planning, but we’re willing to cut a little slack here.) The moms also pointed out that having opt-outers do stacks of worksheets was punitive, and at first, the ED didn’t seem to understand. After further discussing how much work and effort our kids put into the assignments—for fear of getting poor grades or being punished for not finishing the work—she seemed to get it. This led to a discussion about developing better learning opportunities for them while the others take the tests. It was clear that this hadn’t been thought through on the school’s part, and more effort needed to be put towards taking care of all students during the testing weeks.

When my daughter got home yesterday, she said that apologies were made and that it felt good to have the issue addressed openly. Of course, it was never about the ice cream, but the kids who were excluded from the party were given ice cream as well (which she said felt weird, but she rolled with it).

As a parent, it felt good to see the school administration following through on what they said they were going to do. I can’t help but wonder if this was pure damage control, but we’ll take it. However, this isn’t over. The school needs to keep following through and the next step will be seeing a written policy that outlines clearly that parents can opt their students out of the tests, what the kids will be doing while the others take the tests, and whether or not rewards will be given to all students that show up and work hard, regardless of whether or not they believe in taking the tests.