My official refusal of standardize testing or…

Standardize testing can SUCK IT!

A lot has happened since my last post way back in December, but today I’m just going to focus on a small victory for our family. The TCAP was this week. For those who don’t know, TCAP stands for “must take this test instead of being taught actually school work for an entire week and no, you won’t be learning for the rest of the school year despite there being a month left before the end of the year”… No, I don’t actually know what the letters stand for and that’s part of the problem. They administer these tests without knowing what is on them, without any proof that our students are better for them and without releasing a grade for them until it’s already too late to do anything about it. Those who took the TCAP this week will not receive their grades until sometime this summer, and won’t be told what they missed, just what the final score was.

I’m not a fan.

I can vividly remember the anxiety these test days produced in me as a child and I was only expected to take them during my 4th, 8th and 10th grades of schooling. Today’s children, in most states here in the U.S., are expected to take these tests every year from 3rd-8th grade, followed by End of Year Exams from 9th-12th grades. Some schools and districts have even begun to administer these tests as early as kindergarten in an attempt to get ahead of the curve and get as much test preparation in as possible before the kid is even old enough to read.

I’m not a fan.

This year would have been the first year Sissy was expected to sit for the TCAP here in Tennessee, but my husband and I decided at the beginning of the school year that she would not be sitting for this exam under any circumstances. I tried to not sign her up for a testing site. Didn’t work. I tried just not taking her to the testing site the first two days. I was met with multiple emails and phone calls. Then I wrote a letter…

I’m much more articulate in writing. After some editing from my husband (I tend to follow rabbit trails when I’m agitated), I replied back to the school psychologist, a woman who has NEVER met or spoken with or about my daughter, with the following email.

***NOTE: I did change names to maintain privacy. I’m not nearly this snarky normally… Well, yes I am, but that’s beside the point. When she sends me canned emails addressed to “Dear Learning Coach”, I really did want to reply with “Dear School Psychologist”, but my husband was against it. ***

“Dear School Psychologist,

I understand you are the contact person regarding testing arrangements for the TCAP this week. I understand your concern about my child, Sissy, being absent during the scheduled testing time. I assure you, she is just fine. I write this letter to inform you that she will continue to be absent for the duration of the week and will not be participating in any make-up tests scheduled on her behalf. My husband and I are fully aware of the state mandate on local school systems to administer the test, but in absence of a mandate upon my child to actually take said test, we are hereby exercising our right to refuse the TCAP on behalf of our daughter.

Based on the pillars of the 14th Amendment, and the Supreme Court rulings of Meyer v Nebraska (1923), and Pierce v Society of Sisters (1925), I exercise my Constitutional right as a citizen of the United States of America to take complete possession of my children, and to guide their education in a manner in which I see fit. As a taxpayer, I am entitled to the provision of public education for my children as outlined in the State of Tennessee Constitution. By proxy, my children also hold certain rights; among those, that they may not be denied the right to enter the school on testing days simply based on testing refusal, that they may not be discriminated against by denying them meaningful instruction or by placing them in isolation for hours on those testing days, and they may not be punished in any way for not participating in the standardized tests.

We do not believe standardized tests are an adequate measure of the true skills of students or teachers. They also do not measure skills that are needed to be “successful” in our current society (e.g., strong oral communication skills; ability to collaborate/cooperate with others; higher-level, hands-on problem solving skills; self-motivation; tenacity; long-term planning/goal-setting; independence; etc.). Further, as a child with both autism and ADHD, we do not feel the TCAP will be of any benefit to Sissy’s mental and emotion stability. It is a complete disruption to her therapy schedule, as well as the therapy schedule of her younger brother, who receives a district issued Individualized Education Plan (IEP) through the _____ School District. We believe our children’s private and public issued therapy comes before any government sanctioned event, which was a determining factor in us choosing Tennessee Virtual Academy for this school year. The therapy they receive is invaluable to their future success as individuals much more so than any bubble test could possibly measure.

In addition, Sissy lacks both the fine motor muscle endurance and the keyboarding skills to adequately complete either a written exam or a computer simulated test. This will not only prevent her from completing the test in a timely manner, but would reflect poorly on her final grade and on the assessment her school and teachers receive as a result. She would be made to feel “ignorant” because her disability limits the amount of time her hands can function in that capacity. Sissy gets stressed and agitated when she knows she is being timed. This has been witnessed on numerous occasions by her speech and occupational therapists. Sissy also suffers from physiological stress reactions. When she becomes agitated, stressed, or even excited, she throws up. This is a scenario neither of us wants to contend with, I’m sure. The testing site is also our home church here in “our town”. I will not have the state turn her beloved place of worship, fellowship, and fun into a place of anxiety and stress.

We also do not feel her grade on a standardized test is a fair assessment of the teachers she has worked with this school year. Her teachers pay, license, or merit should not depend on MY ability to convey the concepts of each subject to Sissy in a manner such that she would learn and thrive. As an online public school, I am the main source of Sissy’s learning, not a tax payer funded school or teacher. The manner in which the materials are relayed and the amount of information Sissy has retained this year is a direct reflection on my ability to know how to convey such information to Sissy, not on a teacher she speaks with for a few minutes several times a week. It is unjust for our state legislature to tie teacher pay, license and merit to my abilities to understand and communicate with my own child.

In your email to me this week regarding Sissy’s absence from the TCAP administration test site, you made the statement:
“This is a state-mandated assessment, and it is part of your student’s final grade. Students who do not attend the TCAP may be withdrawn from Tennessee Virtual Academy.”

Again, I understand that the TCAP is under mandatory administration, meaning you have to provide the test; we do not have to take it. I understand that should you feel the need to do so, state law allows you to punish Sissy by 15-25% of her final grade as a result of MY choice in her educational path, regardless of the sentiments of the Supreme Court on the matter of parental involvement. I also understand that you could easily change the status of our family to “failure to comply”, which could result in our immediate withdrawal from Tennessee Virtual Academy. If this is the path you choose, I want you to understand this will not force our hand and we will not submit to veiled threats against our child’s education. The state law in Tennessee does not require independent homeschool students to submit to standardize testing during the third grade year. State law only requires homeschool students, who are not schooled under a church-related school program, to participate in district-wide standardize testing during grades 5, 7 and 9. Regardless of where Sissy is registered as a student, either with TNVA or as an independent homeschool student, she will NOT be taking the TCAP this year.

I only wish to be an active participant in my daughter’s education and in doing so, I exercise my right to have a say in regards to the measurement of her academic achievement and “success”.

Thank you for your time. Should you feel the need to discuss this any further, I can be reached primarily by e-mail at “here” or possibly by cell phone, schedule permitting, at “here”.

Sincerely,
Mrs. Rainshadow Noba”

I never got a response.

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September 11, 2013

I know it’s late, but that’s how I roll…

September 11, 2001:

I sat in my therapists office as he railed on about worry and fear, telling me: “don’t worry about yesterday, its in the past and you can’t change it. Don’t worry about tomorrow, it isn’t here. Focus on today only.”

I’ve often joked about how my life could have been so different if I had actually taken his advice and focused on “today only”. My young, impressionable mind could have become royally obsessed with the Towers, the airplanes, the people.

Instead, I still fear the past, I still worry about the future and I can’t relax today. Instead, it took me years to process what I’d see and heard that day. The conflicting actions of the people in my life who were supposed to help me through it. Viewing that much hate and that much love and still so much indifference all in a span of a few hours left me with a lot of confusion.

Even further down the years, I’m married to a soldier. He’s fought in the wars that started that day, as has his older brother and so many other men and women. Not all of them come home. When you look at the death counts (a phrase that shouldn’t even exist), do you just count those in the Towers, the ones in the airplanes and the ones in the Pentagon? Or do you remember that so many more have died as a result of that day? Each soldier, contractor, or civilian who has died in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan has died because of what happened September 11, 2001.

Let’s remember this, when we look at other war-torn nations and think we can help. Decades ago, we thought we could help. Today, we mark the anniversary of the day that help bit us in the ass.

Let’s remember those who lost their lives because our government focused too much on today and not enough about our future. Let’s remember those people who lost their lives because a small group of anti-Americans decided a plane would make a great weapon of mass destruction. Let’s remember the soldiers who have lost their lives taking the fight to another country, so our children can grow up without seeing bodies in the streets or living in fear of being murdered in their sleep as a message to the town.

Let’s remember.

After the Election

There are no words to describe the deep sadness and disappointment I feel right now. I believe our country has the power to be as great as it once was. I believe our nation has the ability to move past it’s former failed policies and the failures of past administrations and become the world leader it once was. I can only pray that changes are coming that will turn our nation around.

Changes that will bring more jobs to our people. Changes that will stimulate the economy from within. Changes that will decrease our dependence on foreign nations and increase our own personal strengths, both as individual citizens and as a unified nation. I pray for changes in policy that will effectively decrease our national debt and increase our ability to to be a self-reliant nation. A nation where small business is encouraged and people can once again live for “The American Dream”.

I pray for a nation we can all be proud of. A nation that we can support and love and pass to our children and our grandchildren in peace of mind. Knowing that we are not passing our problems onto them as we age, but that they might inherit a nation that once again believes in the promise of tomorrow. A nation that believes in the ability to work hard and make the life you want, not one that fears advancement and waits around for the next handout. I pray that our nation can once again be great.

Regardless of ideologies, politics or anything else, I pray for our President. May he stand up for what our country needs, not what it wants. That he may have the strength to make decisions that aren’t always popular if they are in the best interest of rebuilding our nation. That he may lead by example. Being honest, faithful, and disciplined in his own life, leading to a nation that is full of promise, hope, and dedication. That his policies will bring our nation to an image of it’s former self. And that regardless of anything else, he will remember that it was the will of the people that put him in the office of Commander in Chief, and above all else, that he will serve the people of this great nation to the best of his ability with our best interests on his heart and in his words and policies.

Amen.