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Your kids won’t die (so you shouldn’t opt out of standardized testing).

April 27, 2015

rosieriveterdolphinWe’ve been talking of golf and weddings. It’s a beautiful time of year – mostly. If you have a child in public school, or if you are an educator, or if you live anywhere but under a rock, you’ve heard the whining. Everyone’s stressed and filled with dread. There’s fear of the unknown and, worse, failure.

It’s a beast. It’s standardized testing.

No one likes it. It’s nearly sucked the joy out of teaching. Teachers are required to meet standards and prove growth, and if they can’t, it’ll look like they can’t do their jobs. They feel the pressure, and so do the kids. An immense amount of prep goes into getting students prepared. My two had study packets over spring break. While I understand why, I hated it completely. They’re kids. It was vacation.

However. The teachers don’t have a choice. They’d rather not administer tests like these at all. Principals hate it all, too. None of them want to intentionally stress out our kids. If they could, I’m pretty sure they’d skip it altogether.

I learned something the other day. There’s a movement called Opting Out. There are numerous local, regional, and national facebook pages dedicated to the cause.  Articles are being shared with extra exclamation points, with headlines like “Don’t Subject Your Children” and “Opt-Out for Our Babies.” Templates for letters to principals, demanding an alternative, have been copied, pasted, and printed with loud, angry, Mama-backed Go Girls.

The motivation behind such a movement isn’t lost on me. Many kids aren’t good test takers in general. Kids with learning disabilities can’t sit still that long. It’s the first year for this type of test, and critics are calling for total failure. If teachers hate it, and it’s somewhat pointless, why should we have to do it? It sucks and is stupid.

Newsflash: many parts of life suck and are stupid. Like, a whole lot of them.

I don’t want to give my kids the idea that, just because something sucks and is stupid, I’ll come along and opt them out. Believe you me, if something would cause true harm to my child, I’d protect them.  This week isn’t going to crush their spirits. It’s not going to steal their joie de vivre. Life failure doesn’t directly stem from a week of testing.

Test anxiety is real. I experienced it first-hand throughout school. I’ve never performed well on standardized tests, including the SAT. My grades were excellent, and the ACT was my key to college entrance. If the SAT was all I had, let’s just say my options would’ve been limited.

It’s all in the approach. My kids were a bit nervous, but I said, “just do your best.” This isn’t the end of days, y’all. We have been very fortunate at our little school. Although the teachers would rather have a root canal without anesthesia, they’ve been positive and supportive. 5th grade made Rosie the Riveter posters of encouragement. Snacks supplied by parents. We’re doing our best to make it through the week with healthy meals and plenty of sleep.

BUT MY KID THIS AND SHE CAN’T THAT! Schools make exceptions for ADHD, dyslexia, and the like with extra time, bathroom breaks, or quiet rooms with fewer students. They’re not trying to ruin your angel.  Well, the local schools aren’t anyway. Unfortunately, the US Department of Ed doesn’t even know your kid.

Revolution doesn’t happen at this level. If all you want is a tantrum, opt out. If you’re interested in being a veritable game changer, it’ll take more than a letter to the principal. I’m sure you can Google the process. For now, hug your kids. Cheer them on. Send notes to the teachers. Kids sense negativity, and it only feeds their nerves. Instead of getting them out of it, help them through it. They’ll be better off overall, and you’ll deserve a reward. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy a glass of something bubbly, while you come up with a plan that will actually affect change. You’ve got this. Cheers!

*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA on 4/23/15. Visit

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2015 6:02 am

    I was initially atracted by the title (it’s an occupational thing), but in reading further I became confused. When I was a kid, just after electricity was invented, we used to look at these tests (Iowa Basic Tests) as a couple of days without homework and nothing more than filling in circles with a #2 pencil. Further, I do not recall any stress in my three daughters, now in their twenties who could find stress deciding what shampoo to use in the morning. What has changed? Is this another example of institutional pampering whereby we give kids everything they need, except for the practice to make a few mistakes along the way and learn that in the real world, you don’t get medals just for showing up? Just sayin……

    • Jenny permalink*
      April 28, 2015 9:50 pm

      The tests are a little different this year, but yes. They weren’t that bad. The parents are worrying about something about which they know nothing. Worrying before there’s a reason to worry.

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