Sarah Darer Littman is a journalist in Connecticut who writes frequently about education. She is a public school parent. She wrote this post in response to an email sent to all public school parents by the superintendent of schools in Greenwich:

“When I was growing up, my parents had Dorothy Law Nolte’s poem Children Learn What They Live hanging in the wall in our house.

 

A few lines:

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.


If children live with fairness, they learn justice.


If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.

 

“Last year, when Greenwich Superintendent William McKersie proposed to implement the SBAC field tests for juniors smack in the middle of AP’s, SAT’s and Junior Prom, my then junior daughter commented, “That’s just disrespectful.”

“I agreed. As wrote I in a blog post at the time, “Teenagers are human beings. They are not data points.” Furthermore, “as adults, we should be modeling balance for our kids, not cruelty and insanity. The rate of suicide for the 15-24 age group has nearly tripled since 1960. Is it any wonder when the State Board of Ed treats our already stressed out teens like lab rats instead of human beings?”

 

“Parental uproar forced Superintendent McKersie to back down in less than 24 hours last year.

 

“Apparently, that has driven him to take stronger, less truthful measures.

“On Thursday, I received the following email:

 

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“I received this email just as I was leaving to meet with my Congressman, Jim Himes, (D-CT4) to discuss education policy issues. Congressman Himes said he wanted to understand why edreform has become so polarizing. At the end of our meeting, in which I showed him data and research about how many claims of charter “success” are actually misrepresentations, I showed him this letter and explained that when public figures are disingenuous and condescending to parents and students, it tends to make people angry – even “white suburban moms,” who might have previously been active participants of the Democratic base.

 

“Upon returning home, Thursday afternoon, I sent this email to all the members of the Greenwich Board of Education:

 

 

 

“Dear Members of the Greenwich Board of Education,

 

“I would like to draw your attention to the underlined phrases in Superintendent McKersie’s email, which was sent to parents of Greenwich Public School students earlier today. I assume you are aware of this memo. Are you also aware that the information Supt. McKersie gave out to parents is patently untrue?

 

“Let me be crystal clear: There is NO legal provision to prevent parents from opting out of the SBAC field tests. If you would like confirmation of this, please watch the video below, in which State Board of Education Chairman Allen Taylor confirmed this point.

 

 

 

“I question why the superintendent, who is being paid with our taxpayer dollars, is lying to parents, and my question to you is: Did the Greenwich Board of Education condone this dissemination of false information?

 

 

“On Saturday afternoon, I received this reply from Barbara O’Neill, the Chairwomen of Greenwich Board of Education:

 

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“Perhaps the most distressing part of this was a report to the Board of Ed Thursday night by GHS Student Body President, Guillermo Perez, about a student meeting at the high school.

 

“We had a mass meeting today that got pretty heated. The juniors are not happy that they have to take SBAC. We’re trying to stay really positive, but they do get slammed with a lot of tests this year –- the SAT, the ACT and this SBAC field test is definitely not something they’re a fan of.

 

“But we’re trying to stay positive. We know it’s not necessarily the best of situations, but we did explain to them that unfortunately there is no opt out.

“It’s sort of a responsibility to the grades that come after you. Just because it doesn’t count for you doesn’t mean for them it won’t count. We want to gather this data. We want to see how does this test really affect us. How do we teach to the test, so that we can really show the state and everyone else what we’ve got.”

 

 

“So now the Powers That Be have students misleading other students. I feel like I’m living the Dystopian unit Mrs Price taught us in 10th grade honors English.

 

“I know Guillermo – he’s a bright young man and not someone who would purposely mislead his fellow students. So I emailed him, making clear I was writing in “journalist” rather than “Mom” mode, to ask him where he obtained the information on the opt-out.

 

“As for the SBAC testing, in a lunch meeting that student government’s Excomm had with Dr. McKersie and Dr. Winters, he made it very clear that there wouldn’t be an opt out. The decision comes from above them and it was communicated to us.”

 

 

“Last December, recognizing the growing strength of the opt-out movement, CT State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor sent out a memo to Superintendents giving them instructions to dissuade parents from opting out.

 

“But when confronted in a hearing in March, State Board of Ed Chairman Allen Taylor admitted there was no state law preventing parents from opting out their children.

 

 

“Why are public officials modeling to our children that being disingenuous is acceptable? I don’t lie to my kids. I don’t expect the Superintendent of schools and the principal of their school to lie to them either – or to persuade another student to do it.

” Children learn what they live. I worry about what the purveyors of our current education policy are teaching them. “