Soyer: Opt Out of standardized testing

BY HANNAH SOYER | APRIL 09, 2015 5:00 AM

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It’s necessary for all of us to take a moment to realize that the education system that exists right now in America is oppressive in that it favors certain races, socioeconomic classes, and backgrounds over others. A key way it does this is through standardized testing. And with the way education seems to be heading in America, this oppression may just get worse.

To combat this use of standardized testing and prevent “corporate education reform,” a movement called United Opt Out has been started. Specifically, Opt Out is a movement to stop the use of tests as ways to demonstrate that public schools are failing. A major reason standardized testing is not a valid way to measure students’ success is that it creates an achievement gap between students that is largely poverty and racially driven.

Besides standardized tests favoring those who are more skilled at test taking and thus not an accurate measure of students’ growth, buying into this idea that tests can reflect the success rate of a single school also perpetuates the notion of schools being factories to produce workers. “Corporate education reform says the reason you go to school is so you can work,” said Tim Slekar, one of the original founders of the United Opt Out movement. “So they are going to make sure schools are geared toward creating compliant, obedient workers.”

That’s a chilling thought. I am in no way discrediting the fact that people often go to school to further their education so that they can land a career that they love, but that process requires actual learning and personal growth, a process that can easily be stifled by the need to meet certain standardized requirements.

“When we say we’re going to opt out of testing,” Slekar said, “we’re saying we’re not going to participate in this system that falsely identifies teachers, curricula, and schools as the problem and redirects funds toward testing companies, when what kids need who are at the bottom end of the achievement gap are basic nutrition, basic health care, and basic access to books, things that they don’t have.” Slekar noted that these things have been proven to reduce the achievement gap.

The corporate driven viewpoint of education also completely ignores the idea that education should be a system that allows people freedom to realize their dreams. One only has to look at the history of America and the denying of education to certain groups of people to realize how dangerous this can be.

Education allows people to learn to form their opinions and worldviews, which gives them a sense of individuality. A sense of individuality can make people realize their self-worth. Standardized testing and corporate education reform strives for the exact opposite of this — it is a system that generalizes people and conglomerates them into one large group to be judged.

The solution to this begins with a heightened awareness of how the education system works and fails in America. It also involves realizing that it is legal, though often frowned upon, to opt out of standardized testing or have your children opt out of standardized testing in public grade schools.

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