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A few common sense reasons not to opt out of tests

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others thinking and writing about public education.

There is a movement happening in Colorado in which parents are encouraging their children to opt out of the PARCC test.

As a Colorado educator with more than 12 years of experience teaching, I must challenge parents to consider what opting out truly means for our state’s schools and students.

Take a moment and think back to when you moved out of your house, or went to college, or started a new job. Remember the feeling you had? Was it uncomfortable and confusing? Was it frightening that you did not know the outcome?

You were experiencing what most people do when they try something new. But did you ever consider “opting out” from those experiences? More likely, you challenged yourself to see what you were capable of achieving.

Today, Colorado parents and students are making the decision to opt out of participating in PARCC.

This new assessment has had much controversy surrounding it. But parents, before you opt out, think about this new movement in education and how it impacts your child. Think about the school your child goes to. Do you know how the school is supported or how it functions? What are the expectations the school has for your child? What are the expectations you have for the school?

Many children do chores as part of their daily tasks within the home. How would you approach it if your child one day decided to opt out of completing their chores? How would you know that your child is meeting the expectations you have created for him or her?

This is the same issue for students in the educational system. How do you effectively measure your child’s success against students across the nation and know if the school is meeting your expectations? With tests.

A student is more than a score. A student is flesh and blood and the future of our nation. But we will never know if a student is being challenged enough if we opt out of participation in the state assessment.

Recently, I was asked by my students, “Mr. Rivera, what are your thoughts about PARCC?”

I responded to this question by asking my students what they knew about the test. These students knew many of the myths of PARCC. Their questions included: “Will colleges see my results?” and “Will the test determine if I graduate?” and “Will my score be on my transcript?” I answered back with a resonating, “No!”

After listening to my students share their worries about these myths, I clarified a few important points. I discussed funding and its connection to their own school. I shared that many researchers say that it takes three to five years to see what works and what does not. I informed my students they are powerful stakeholders. I emphasized how by opting out, the gap between their school and other schools widens. I stressed to them that they are more than just a score, but we, their educators, need to know if we are guiding them to master standards and academic content, and the test helps us to know this.

Now, do I believe we are over-testing our students? Yes!

Do I believe that education is more than quantitative data? Yes!

Do I believe that our expectations for our students are challenging and valuable? Yes!

But opting out from participating in an assessment that needs all the feedback it can get is not the best way to solve some of the real problems surrounding testing. Opting out from an assessment that helps to show if a school is meeting expectations and providing a quality education is not the best decision.

Parents, I challenge you to educate yourself by researching both sides of the issue. I challenge you to read material from the media through a skeptical lens. I challenge you to truly understand what “opting out” entails when it comes to the school your child attends.

Editor’s note: This First Person is one of a series on testing during the legislative session. Read earlier submissions here and here

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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