I know this is shocking elsewhere in the country, but here in New Jersey, we just finished our second week of school. As the school year begins, I’m reflecting on what this year’s goals for my pro-public education advocacy should be. I know this much: my first goal is to engage, encourage, and support parents to not just refuse standardized tests like PARCC, but to refuse early and supportively (rather than confrontationally). In particular, I think we can best support our teachers, our children, and our schools by refusing early enough in the year to empower our children’s teachers to build curriculum and lesson plans around children’s needs rather than around the dictates of the testing industry.
To that end, I encourage you to submit your refusal letters early, as this strategy will only work if there are mass refusals. I sent mine yesterday, as one concrete action I could take to support the #ParentStrike movement across the country. Here is my letter, which you should feel free to copy and modify to fit your needs:
I am Sarah Blaine, the mother of _________ in Mrs. ________’s homeroom. I write to let you know that in accordance with Montclair Board of Education policy regarding test refusals, _________ will not be taking the PARCC test in 2016. I write now, at the beginning of the academic year, with the hope that enough of my fellow parents will do the same so that you, my child’s teachers, will hopefully not feel constrained to teach to the PARCC or any other standardized test. Instead, my hope is that a high number of early refusals will allow you to feel free to use your professional judgment to provide our children with the most developmentally appropriate and engaging lessons you have the power to create, instead of wasting time preparing for educationally irrelevant state-mandated tests.
__________ is thrilled so far with both of you, and I look forward to a constructive, engaging, and challenging school year for her. Please know that I am always open to conversation and suggestions as to how to best support __________’s learning both inside and outside of the classroom. Our family has not made this decision to refuse testing lightly, but rather as an attempt to express our support for a public education system in which teachers will once again be treated as the knowledgeable professionals we know that they are (I am a former public school teacher myself, and earned my M.A.T. before I began teaching in a rural community).
I am, of course, happy to speak with you further about this issue, but I trust that my wishes for ____________ will be respected, and that she will of course be, in accordance with district policy, provided with non-punitive alternatives.