Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What Senate Bill-223 gets wrong

Senate Bill 15-223, currently in the Colorado legislature, would legitimize the ability of parents and students to opt out of standardized testing by not punishing schools for low participation rates. But, as Nic Garcia of Colorado Chalkbeat wrote, most activists aren't happy about it.

Here's my take: Legalizing opt out recognizes our protest. That could be considered a good thing. But the fundamental issue with Senate Bill 15-223 is that it views opt out as an end, whereas we've always seen it as a means.

When we students protested last fall, it wasn't just to avoid taking a test. It was to stand up to a system that we believe wastes state money, preserves educational inequities, and hurts Colorado students.

Likewise, parents and students who are refusing state PARCC testing this spring hope that their refusal—their voice—will lead to actually policy change.

The goal of the opt out movement is not to get every student to opt out, it's to change the way Colorado administers and utilizes standardized testing.

Truthfully, opt out in itself isn't effective as an end. The students who opt out are mostly upper-middle class kids who would (for the most part) score well on the tests anyway. The movement also isn't spread out equally—some schools strongly discourage students from opting out by requiring a parent to sign their child out of class or refusing to administer alternative activities. This only exacerbates the socioeconomic gaps.

My concern is that the Colorado legislature views opt out as a method to placate angry parents and students. This leaves a broken standardized testing system intact.

-Jessica Piper

Like always, if you have any questions, ask me on Twitter (@jpiper303) or in the comments.

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