Letter: Parents should refuse SBAC for their children

To the editor,

Congratulations to Region 16 for the 2015-16 full-day kindergarten plans. This is more than overdue. With 84 percent of districts in Connecticut offering full-day, it’s great to see the children in our community finally receive these same opportunities.

Kindergarten today, unfortunately, is not what my children experienced. Our littlest of learners have lost a lot of constructive play, replaced with computer diagnostics and benchmark testing. Their love for learning at this young age is being sabotaged by bureaucratic policies that do not take our youngest minds into heart — only that they are “college and career ready” starting at 5 years old. I urge parents to watch these young minds entering school, be their voice and speak up against practices and policies that have negative affects on your precious children.

What saddens me the most is the current state of all public schools under the excessive, abusive and useless standardized tests, brought in mainly by Common Core State Standards in 2010. There simply are way too many tests given to our children for “data” and “accountability” purposes. Testing isn’t teaching. Something has to give.

A strong way to fight back against “reforms” that do not benefit our children is to refuse the “big” test. The one that is supposed to show us what our kids learned during the year (or 75 percent of it). The one that is already predicting close to 70 percent of students will fail (before they even take it). The one your kids told you about, that they didn’t know half the stuff on it, and were wordy, complicated and too long. The one that requires numerous computer skills that some may not have yet developed. The one that will rate our children, our teachers and our schools, but takes no accountability for validity or reliability. This is the CCSS SBAC 2015 test to be given this spring to all third-eighth and 11th-graders (already taking PSAT’s and SAT’s). The one we chose to refuse for our child again this year.

Sadly, our entire public school system and local government control are slowly being eradicated, through unconscionable and unfunded education mandates and initiatives. We do not need “unknown” test questions to rank our children, schools and teachers. We do not need a “number” (1-4) to label our children at the end of a school year. We do not need to wait until next year to get this number without any information or time to help our kids improve these skills. We do not need to spend countless taxpayer dollars to fund this experiment. We do not need to spend valuable teaching and learning time to accommodate these one-size-fits-all, high-stakes tests.
We know how our children are learning every day, through graded tests, essays and projects (all of which we can see). Our children do not need to go through 10-hours of assessments, and be expected to perform proficiently, on material they may have not yet learned (or learned differently than the way CCSS say is correct).

As a teacher myself, I would never expose my students to an exam where 70 percent of the material I did not teach them. How can we let a third-party do that to our kids? What possible information can be used to improve our educational practices? Absolutely none.

Parent voices are rarely needed. We place our trust in professional educators who have degrees in early childhood development and learning. The ones who have experience with children and who feel the realities in the schools and classrooms every day. But unfortunately, those are not the ones calling the shots these days.

Luckily, the U.S. Constitution guarantees our parental rights under the 14th Amendment. Various U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding this matter have upheld these fundamental rights. Particularly, “The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right and the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” [Pierce v. Society of Sisters]

Although states are required to administer these tests, our children are certainly not required to take them. As parents, we are the ones ultimately responsible for the wellbeing of our children. This also includes protecting them from unnecessary educational practices.

Even though there is no language that permits parents to opt-out, there is also no statute that says we cannot. The Constitution and Supreme Court supersede all state laws. There are no consequences to us, or our children, for refusing these tests. As stated by Allan B. Taylor, the chairperson of the Connecticut State BOE, “Certainly no state law that says they can’t [refuse]. Therefore, residually, presumably they have that right … but that is the parent’s choice, the local school district’s choice. The State Department of Education will not be reaching down and sanctioning parents.”

As parents, we send our kids to school to be educated, not rated, labeled and sorted. We have the power to deny them the useless data, stop this abuse and return valuable teaching, learning and resources to the classroom. In a nutshell, both the CCSS and SBAC assessments are untested, unproven and serve no value for our children. Be your kids’ voice and refuse SBAC 2015. Sample Refusal letters on Facebook “Bringing Truth in Education to Region 16 Prospect & Beacon Falls CT.”

I stand in solidarity with countless parents across the nation who feel enough is enough and who support, trust and value our school teachers and administrators. I stand in solidarity with countless parents across the nation who refuse to compromise the quality of their children’s education. We hope the district supports our, and all, parental refusal letters they receive.

Natasha DiPiro

Beacon Falls