Mickelsen Nails It: Don’t Blame Teens or Parents for a Teacher-Driven Opt-Out Movement

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 1.12.05 PM The opt-out movement against standardized testing in public schools has hit the gilded streets of Southwest Minneapolis. Parent activist Lynnell Mickelsen has seen first hand that it isn’t a grassroots movement from concerned parents, but an effort of school staff to sabotage Minnesota’s soft drive for public school accountability. As Mickelsen wrote in a commentary for the Star-Tribune, her friend’s daughter recently came home with an opt-out form received from her high school teacher.
According to the girl, her 10th-grade English teacher had handed out the forms to everyone in class and had urged them to get their parents to sign it. The teacher said that if enough students opted out of the Minnesota Comprehensive Exams, eventually the state would stop giving them. He also said he’d conduct regular classes for everyone opting out, leaving the impression that those who took the test would fall behind.
The high school student pleaded with her parents to let her opt out. They initially rejected the idea but were eventually worn down by the teenager. She prevailed. Mickelsen sees that story for what it is.
We can’t blame students for wanting to get out of a task they don’t like. That’s the nature of being teens. We can’t blame well-to-do parents for luxuriating their children with permissiveness. That is the nature of being privileged parents.
But, the teachers though…
There are two more ways of getting rid of the [achievement] gap.
  •  Option No. 1: We can change our schools to better fit the needs of students in the 21st century.
  •  Option No. 2: We can stop collecting the incriminating data. No evidence. No gap. No need to change a thing.
I can see why the teachers unions like Option No. 2, since this group is notoriously resistant to change. So let’s stop pretending this is all about the terrors of testing and the loss of childhood and creativity, etc., because… Historically, teachers have never had a problem with so-called “high-stakes” or “high-stress” testing. Hell, this is the profession that invented the dreaded final exam and surprise pop-quiz. Nor is standardized testing something new. The SAT exams were introduced in 1926. The Iowa Basic Skills Test, which even I, an ancient crone, took back in my elementary days, was first administered in 1935.
Chris Stewart is Director of Outreach and External Affairs. An earlier version of this post appeared on his personal blog, Citizen Stewart.
Chris Stewart
Chris Stewart is the Chief Executive Officer of brightbeam. He was named CEO in April 2019, after formerly serving as chief executive of Wayfinder Foundation. He is a lifelong activist and 20-year supporter of nonprofit and education-related causes. In the past, Stewart has served as the director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, ...

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