To Anna Eastman, my school board trustee: Our vote to opt out is a vote of no confidence

...when it comes to opting out, know this: our opting out is a VOTE, a VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE in our school board and the way it’s choosing to embrace, implement and expand the use of high stakes testing in our schools. We’re not avoiding a test because we’re afraid — we are withdrawing our parental consent to have our children assessed, assessed in a manner inconsistent with our beliefs.

April 17, 2015Ben Becker,,,

Dear Ms. Eastman,

I read your op-ed last month, and it was this piece, in part, that got me thinking it was time for action.

Your statement was quite troubling, because we seem to agree on so much of the problem but you offer no tangible solution other than don’t opt out, and I’m left asking: Are you using your position as trustee to influence us or the district?

WHERE WE AGREE: You sympathized with us and suggested we should reduce mock tests and narrowing curriculum. You said you were aggravated by the focus on “test-taking strategies.” You explained that you are “outraged” when your own children “spent the day sequestered in an auditorium because other kids in their building were taking a standardized test.” All these statements position yourself as a concerned parent among us.

WHERE WE DISAGREE: You suggested in your piece that we want “throw the tests out altogether” and “eliminate standards.” This is simply not true. Most of us want an accurate, annual standardized assessment to do what they’re intended to do: assess large systems — the state, the district and schools. We want to pair that with empowering teachers and principals to do what they do best: delivering well-rounded and engaging curricula and adapting to their students’ potential to maximize learning.

I just don’t understand this disconnect. Does your OpEd mean you still don’t understand our concerns? Or, are you being a good politician and attempting to tamp down the constituent discontent brought about by the policies you support?

To better understand, LET’S BE SPECIFIC:

A) Do you agree with this testing schedule? http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/102486
B) Do you agree with making the STAAR a promotion standard for all grades 3 – 8?
C) Do you agree with using Value Added Models to assess and pay based on relative student performance where teachers and principals compete for bonus dollars?

Or, if you agree with these, which specific policies do you propose to address your stated concerns?

You can’t be for all of the practices that make these assessments high stakes and then be “aggravated” and “outraged” at the resulting effects on the school environment.

IN CONCLUSION: We know that the board doesn’t elect to administer the STAAR. Though we’d love a board on our side regarding issues like STAAR’s statistical inaccuracy and appalling application to special education students, we’re happy to fight the TEA, state legislature and Congress alone.

However, when it comes to opting out, know this: our opting out is a VOTE, a VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE in our school board and the way it’s choosing to embrace, implement and expand the use of high stakes testing in our schools. We’re not avoiding a test because we’re afraid — we are withdrawing our parental consent to have our children assessed, assessed in a manner inconsistent with our beliefs.

HISD and its board can either be a part of the solution now or pick up the financial pieces later as more teachers, parents and students depart — taking their passion, engagement and Average Daily Attendance dollars with them.

 

Sincerely,

Ben Becker |HISD District I Parent of two (soon to be three)

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