A Precarious Position as a Teacher/A Mother of a Child in NY Public Education

I am sitting here next to my 5-year old son, and I am reflecting on my week at school.  I keep thinking back to Friday, when my some of my 8th graders asked me about the "Opt Out" option of our state test.

In a month, here in Long Island, New York, our students are subjected and technically required to take the state tests in math and English from 3rd to 8th grade.  Every year, these kids sit through 4 hours of math testing and four hours of English testing.  FOUR HOURS for each TEST!?!?! Many students become exhausted and give up; others become frustrated and lose faith in their testing skills.  In the classroom, too much time is taken away from the love of learning and classroom energy because of these arduous exams.

Somewhere along the lines, whether it was driven by bureaucrats or monetary reasons, the value of our state test lost its meaning and purpose.  Aren't standardized tests meant to test the progress of our students? To see who is falling behind? What questions or skills are the students struggling with? Not anymore. Now it is about the dollar and the political pendulum. Who gains power and who gains money.  Yes, this a very sad story, because the students are the ones who suffer from the power struggle; hence, a loophole was found: the Opt Out option.

 "Opting Out" allows parents to opt their child out of the state test. Legally, a child does not have to take the test if their parents do not want them to, and it has no bearing on their grades, testing score or placement.  Two years ago is was a taboo and faux pas. School districts discouraged it because of its effects on the district; however, thanks to social media, it caught fire. Last year, 40%-60% of students in certain districts "opted" out. This year, the majorities of districts are planning to opt out.  This shows that parents care about their child's education over the meaning of a standardized test, and this puts a big smile on my face.

I remember back when I was 10.  I was petrified of the state tests, and I stressed out.  I was not a test taker, and I normally did not do well because I stressed and panicked.  My standardized test scores were not reflective of my academic scores.  How can a child be measured by a number? And with that, I completely sympathize with these parents.

All in all, reflecting back on this week, of course I am not suppose to sway my students one way or another because I teach English in the NY public school system. We do not talk about it, nor mention it. Nevertheless, many of my students will "opt out" based on their family decision. I ask myself, if my child was taking the test this year, what would I do? Would I opt him out? Yes I would. Definitely. Absolutely. End of story. I want my child to love school, love his experience in education, and not think his worth is because of test score.


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