Kyle and Jennifer Massey in Waco, Texas, wrote a respectful letter to their child’s principal explaining why they would not permit him to take the state STAAR tests or to engage in test prep for STAAR testing. As his parents, they care more about their child than the Legislature or Governor Perry or Pearson. They clearly, in this instance, know more than the legislators who are influenced by lobbyists to keep piling on more testing without regard to the best interests of children or our society. They want for their child what “the best and wisest parent ” wants for his own children: a full, rich, creative, liberating education, one that prepares him for life in a democracy, not endless drill and practice for tests that are prepared thousands of miles away, whose sole purpose is to rate their child, his teachers, his principal, and his school.
The Masseys write:
“This letter is to respectfully inform you that our fourth grade child XXXXXX will need to be excused
from all mandated standardized testing (e.g. STAAR test) during the remainder of the school year. This is also
to include classroom activities that are intended as STAAR test preparation, such as practice tests and test-
taking training exercises. As we are morally and ethically opposed to these school activities, we are making this
decision with recognition of our parental rights and obligations under the due process clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Texas Education Code (Title 2, Subtitle E, “Students and
Parents, Section 26, “Parental Rights and Responsibilities”).
“We maintain that it is our parental right to choose to opt our children out of school activities that are harmful to
children as stated in the Texas Education Code CHAPTER 26. PARENTAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Sec. A26.010.EXEMPTION FROM INSTRUCTION. A parent is entitled to remove the parent’s child
temporarily from a class or other school activity that conflicts with the parent’s religious or moral beliefs if the
parent presents or delivers to the teacher of the parent’s child a written statement authorizing the removal of
the child from the class or other school activity. Please consider this letter to be our written statement of
“We want our children to become critical and creative thinkers, not subservient test-takers.
We do not want XXX or his teachers shackled to a faulty testing product such as the STAAR test, or any standardized test for that matter. High-stakes standardized testing is not the education experience we want for our children, and thus we are choosing to opt XXXX out of all STAAR testing activities.
“Public education in this country has been the victim of thirty years’ worth of neoliberal hegemonic attacks in the form of political and
economic policies. These corporate attacks have negatively altered the structures, pedagogical practices, and
intended democratic goals of public education. As we reflect on the intended goals of public schools in a liberal
democracy – to prepare citizens for active civic participation, and indeed for global citizenship, for example –
we believe it is morally wrong to put children through the ordeal of standardized testing which has no benefit to
their personal education or development as citizens.
“The following summarizes some of our reasons for our belief that the practice of high stakes standardized
testing is morally wrong:
“AFFECTS SOCIO-EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING: This system of constant testing seems designed to
produce anxiety and depression. Evidence has accumulated over the last few decades of the
detrimental effect of frequent testing on students’ enjoyment of school, their
willingness to learn, other than for the purpose of passing tests or examinations, and their understanding of the process of
learning. A well-documented direct impact of testing regimes is that they induce test anxiety in young
learners and that perceived low scores negatively affect students’ self-esteem and perceptions of
themselves as learners. Any negative impact on motivation for learning is clearly highly undesirable,
particularly at a time in a young person’s life when the importance of learning to learn and lifelong
learning is widely embraced.
“KILLS CURIOSITY AND LOVE OF LEARNING: High-stakes standardized testing actually limits and
reduces the amount of QUALITY learning experiences. Rather than focusing on a child’s natural curiosity, testing emphasizes (and drills in) isolated facts limiting teacher’s ability to create
environments that stimulate a child’s imagination.
“REDUCES A CHILD’S CAPACITY FOR ATTAINING NEW KNOWLEDGE: If children cannot actively
make connections between different topics of study, they don’t remember what they learn from day to
day. Most standardized tests are still based on the recall of isolated facts and narrow skills.
“REPLACES HIGHER ORDER THINKING WITH SKILL, DRILL AND KILL: Most tests include many
topics that are not important, while many important areas are not included on standardized tests
because they cannot be measured by such tests. Teaching to the test does not produce real and
sustained gains on independent learning measures.
“NARROWS THE CURRICULUM: The loss of a rich curriculum has been documented in research and
in teacher testimony. The use of high-stakes tests is universally found to be associated with teachers
focusing on the content of the tests, administering repeated practice tests, training students in the
answers to specific questions or types of question, and adopting transmission styles of teaching. In
such circumstances teachers make little use of assessment formatively to help the learning process.
High-stakes tests are inevitably designed to be as ‘objective’ as possible, since there is a premium on
reliable marking in the interests of fairness. This has the effect of reducing what is assessed to what
can be readily and reliably marked. Generally this excludes many worthwhile outcomes of education
such as problem-solving and critical thinking.
“REDUCES SOCIALIZATION AS A CENTRAL CORE OF LEARING: The reduction of opportunities to
learn to socialize through and collaborative classroom activities reduces children’s opportunities to
develop healthy social skills. Being seated alone at a desk taking a test all day, or for a significant
portion of the day, isolates children from learning how to develop community-based problem solving
skills they will need as adults.
“WASTES VALUABLE EDUCATIONAL TIME SPENT TAKING TESTS: Texas Public Schools will
spend one of every five days or nearly 20% of the school year conducting tests. According to the
Texas Education Agency, Texas public schools will spend 34 out of the 185 day long year conducting
tests mandated by the state government. This does not include the regular testing in schools such as
six-weeks tests, quizzes, and final exams.
“VIOLATES ALL CHILDRENS’ RIGHTS TO A FREE AND APPROPRIATE EDUCATION: High-stakes
testing leads to under-serving or mis-serving all students, especially the most needy and vulnerable,
thereby violating the principle of ‘do no harm’. For example, students living in poverty, who already lack
critical access to books and free reading, are condemned to test prep instead of having opportunities
to read. Monies desperately needed for vital school resources such as clean drinking water, supplies
and roofs that don’t leak are being spent on testing materials. Texas spends $44 billion per year on
public education, of that $1 billion is spent just on testing days!
“LIMITS THE EDUCATION DECISION-MAKING POWER OF COMMUNITIES: Largely though
standardized testing, neoliberal reforms have transferred the control of schools away from the local
school boards, where control has resided since the founding of public schools, to the state and federal
levels, which create policies about which communities have little input but are mandated to implement.
States and the federal government have managed to gain control in part by adopting a discourse of
civil rights and equity, and by not imposing specific curricula on schools but, instead, leaving it to the
local school districts to implement curricular policies to achieve the test score goals, what can be
described as steering from a distance. In this way, the state and federal governments are able to take
credit for whatever perceived improvements result from their policies, and, conversely, whenever their
policies produce negative results, they can blame someone else, usually teachers. Teachers have
suffered the brunt of the blame since the publication of a Nation at Risk (1983) thirty years ago.
Consequently, the negative portrayal of public school teachers in the USA has demoralized many
There is more. Go to the link and read the letter.