As an educator with over 13 years of experience, my feelings about the opt-out movement are mixed. I understand the motives and concerns of the proponents of the movement—yes, we test too much, don’t always get the data back with enough time to adapt instruction and the image of children taking tests does not fit with the engaged, hands-on classroom we prefer seeing.
However, this movement raises a number of questions worth asking.
What happens when schools lose funding because there were high numbers of students who opted out of standardized tests? What will communities do when these funds are no longer available? What if schools cannot get an accurate measurement of what is, and is not, working? What happens if we do not have data to show what children are, and are not, being served by the schools they attend?
The opt-out movement doesn’t propose a good alternative to testing.
With the adoption of new standards, instruction within the classroom is shifting. I believe these shifts are good for students. The new standards are of a higher caliber and require students to challenge themselves. The new standards require me, as an educator, to research effective practices and strategies in order to bring deeper ways of thinking and learning to my students. It is no longer business as usual in our schools, and with the new standards come new tests to measure students’ mastery of them.
However, it is these tests that spur the opt-out movement and hinder the positive impact of the new standards. In this career that I have put all of my passion and energy into, I am required daily to make sure my students are challenged and excelling to the best of their ability.
Teachers want students to excel beyond what they imagined they could do, but this becomes difficult when students opt out. When children do so, we cannot measure their mastery of the standards and adjust our practice as teachers. We cannot know if we are truly challenging them. We cannot know if our students are measuring up with other students across the state or the nation.
In the end, this is a battle that will continue. As I have heard it said, “Everyone has an opinion or thought about the education system because everyone has been in school one time in their life.”