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?