The U.S. Education Department has been warning states that they could be sanctioned if their public schools can’t force at least 95 percent of their students to take mandated standardized tests for “accountability” purposes. The warnings became necessary because of a growing testing “opt out” movement around the country that stemmed from the Obama administration’s push to use standardized test scores to evaluate students and teachers in unprecedented ways, using methods that assessment experts say are not valid for that purpose. Education officials say that parents can’t pick and choose the exams that their children take and that these tests are important for “accountability” purposes. Education activists say parents have the right to allow their children to refuse to take a test that they believe is poorly designed and whose scores are being misused.
The original Opt-Out Movement
Every three years, America compares its educational student outcomes to 70 other countries. Other countries like Finland. Yes, I know what you’re going to say about that Nordic social-democratic mono-culture known for revising its once failing K-12 educational system to one that we and many other countries look to for insights and innovation. When in fact, one of the secrets to Finland’s success is Equity. There are no private schools in Finland (k-12 or even higher education). Finnish parents have choice of schools but the options are all the same. In other words, Finnish parents can’t and don’t Opt-Out of its public education system.
America’s K-12 public education system plays out like our economic model, where the marketplace creates, sustains and determines which students and schools will survive. A market where parents can make the choice to place their children in private, selective enrollment, charter or home schools. One in 10 U.S. students in grades preK-12 attends a private school, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education. Surprised it’s not a higher share? Here are few more figures for you to consider…5.1% of K-12 students attends a charter school and 3% of school aged children are homeschooled.
I know this is only the second blog I’ve written, but I struggle with the conclusions. I feel like I should have some amazing close with resounding words of action. So here I go.
The problems we face in our education system are weaved in an intricate blanket of racism, classism, sexism, and xenophobia. If we as a nation are serious about educating all students, which means figuring out how to solve the persistent problem of low performing students and schools, then our solutions can’t include “opting out”. Especially when “opting out” is only available to a small percentage of the American population because of high cost of attendance, location, strict admittance requirements tied to proven academic success or hoop jumping abilities. The only real option we are left with is to fix the schools we have – NOT create alternatives that hide the roots of low performance and gloss over the issue of equity.