Common Core testing season is here bringing with it a ground swell of parents who are ready to face down the state of Ohio for their right to opt out of the tests on behalf of their children. The movement started last fall with parents and teachers who believe the tests require too much preparation and administration time, short-changing students and teachers valuable teaching and learning time. Many parents complain that the excessive focus on testing and test results puts too much pressure on their children resulting in a decreased enthusiasm for and mastery of learning. Ironically, this is the opposite of what proponents of Common Core have claimed is the goal of the movement to bring teaching objectives and educational testing goals into line nationwide.
Some teachers agree with the parent-led drive to allow them to opt their children out of the testing, saying they cannot properly teach with the hyper focus on preparing students for the tests. Since they will not receive the results until well after the end of the school year, there is no way for teachers to use the testing to identify areas of weakness and address them in order to help children succeed in the long-term. Therefore, students receive no practical benefit from the Common Core testing nor will it affect their grades so it not time well spent to maximize academic success, educators say. One Cleveland parent is adamant that the new tests cause her son a disproportionate amount of physical and emotional stress.
Although the Ohio Department of Education is not keeping track of opt out numbers, individual districts are reporting growing numbers of parent refusals to allow their children to participate in the Common Core testing. Dawn Neely-Randall, a teacher in Elyria vociferously opposes the testing but is afraid of losing her job if she follows through with refusing to allow her students to be tested. She is still on the fence, but her resolution to be true to her convictions is growing. Another teacher made waves in Elyria last week by resigning due to the schools’ overemphasis on testing.
The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) issued an advisory statement for parents considering opting out of the test which caused some ruffled feathers by implying that parents did not have the right to refuse testing for their children and that “consequences” could ensue if they pursued that course. State Superintendent Richard Ross insists that his intentions were misinterpreted as he was only attempting to explain what the law requires without making interpretations. Others have noted that while the statement is correct in saying that no state law exists to allow the opt outs, neither does one forbidding it so the language implying punitive consequences unnecessarily conveyed a threat that does not actually exist.
While it is true that third graders must prove reading proficiency and high school seniors must pass the Common Core End of Course exams before they are allowed to graduate, the interim grades have no such compelling motive attached to test results. Nevertheless, having been duly informed of the residual effects of the choice to test or not to test, most parents are surely smart enough to take that into account when deciding whether Common Core testing is will serve their children’s needs or not. Because when it comes to children, a loving parent knows better than any government agency or school board what is in the best interest of their children; and the welfare of the children comes before any concerns about any fallout for the districts of parents opting out of the Common Core bandwagon.
Opinion by Tamara Christine