Andy Goldstein addressed the school board of Palm Beach County, where he teaches, at a recent meeting:
Why My Wife and I Are Opting Out Our Daughter From Third-Grade High-Stakes Testing
Transcript of the original text:
Good evening. My name is Andy Goldstein. I’m a teacher at Omni Middle School and the proud parent of an eight-year-old daughter who attends one of our public elementary schools.
It seems like it was just yesterday when my daughter entered kindergarten. At that time, I talked about her at our August School Board meeting in 2013.
I said that my hopes and dreams for my daughter were that she would develop a lifelong love for learning that would serve her well as she learned to construct a life that would serve her and serve others as well.
I told this board that my wife and I were not particularly interested in having her be seen as a data point for others to make money from.
Now, three short years later, which seem to have gone by in the blink of an eye, she is entering third grade.
Tonight, I’m speaking as a parent, who also is a teacher.
In Florida, third grade is the beginning of high-stakes, standardized testing for our children.
What are the high-stakes?
• Our children, on the basis of one test, will receive a number, a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, which, will serve to define them.
Some students, may do well learning throughout the year, but do not test well and may receive a 1, a one being the lowest possible score.
Some may come from disadvantaged backgrounds and will receive a 1.
Some may be special needs students, who receive a 1.
These numbers work to define our students as to whom they are. “I’m a one. I’m a Failure.”
This high-stakes testing policy, mandated by state law, works to stigmatize our students and they grow up with a limiting self-concept of who they are and what they are capable of doing and becoming.
• On the basis of this one high-stakes test, some schools—those comprised of the poorest students, who need the most help—are labeled with an “F.” Failures. This stigmatizes these schools, whose faculty and staff may be working hard to meet the high needs of the surrounding neighborhood they serve. It also serves to increase the segregation at these already segregated schools. What parents, given the means to choose what community they will move into, will choose a neighborhood with a school labeled “F.”
• There is a lot of money being made on the part of testing companies, publishers, and vendors, based on this annual imposition of this high-stakes testing.
• This high-stakes testing is part of a corporate agenda, an agenda by the rich and powerful to demonize our public schools and privatize them through the rise of publicly funded, privately managed schools called charters. Our state legislature, bought and paid for by corporate interests, is cheating our children by defunding our public schools.
• “That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital,” says Noam Chomsky, an MIT professor.
• Our third graders are still babies, really. Do they really need the pressures of this high-stakes testing?
Recently, I read one account from a parent recounting the experience of her son when he was a third grader taking the FCAT. He was a good kid. He worked all year to learn. But he missed passing the FCAT by one point. He went to summer school to do more work and took it again. And again, he missed passing the test by one point. His mother was afraid to tell him, but he could tell by her reaction that he had not passed. He was crushed by the sense of failure. His mother, working on making dinner in the kitchen, called him to come down to eat. He did not respond. She had a premonition that something was the matter. She rushed up to his bedroom and found him hanging by a bedsheet. She got him down.
• Is there anyone who thinks this high-stakes testing is worth such a price?
• As a parent, I can answer with a resounding NO!
• My wife and I believe that our public schools should work to develop the whole, creative child in all of our schools, and in all of our communities of all colors and all socio-economic backgrounds.
• For these reasons, I’m announcing to you, our school board, that my wife and I do not support high-stakes testing in Florida, and will be opting out our daughter. Evidence for her learning will be through a portfolio.
• Thank you.