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Most Americans are quite aware of their First Amendment rights, namely their freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. One of the most often overlooked freedoms in that all-too-important amendment is the freedom to protest, and it’s something that teachers should consider when it comes to standardized testing. They can standardized protest.

That’s not to say that teachers are or should be opposed to testing. Hell – we created tests! – so we have no personal vendetta against them. We’ve been tested and will continue to be tested for years.

Additionally, there is no specific advocacy for teachers to get on top of the soapbox at the front of their classroom and rag on and rant against standardized testing. There is also not a current path for teachers to escape proctoring standardized tests over moral objections – though Rick Bobrick, a teacher in New York City, is attempting to change that.

Even if you don’t agree with Mr. Bobrick, there are several other things you can do to raise concerns and standardized protest:

-Acknowledge that standardized testing is a complex issue
Probably the best highlight of it’s complexity is the ProCon discussion on the topic. It includes several cogent arguments for standardized testing – including buy-in from many students, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders, as well as there being no true detriment if the assessments are focused on skills instead of “drill-and-kill.” Conversely, the link also shares some strong arguments in opposition to testing – namely the pressure placed on students and teachers, the subjectivity of the grading (and those doing the grading), and lost instructional time

-Learn about the statistics of standardized testing

For example, though our school districts are strapped for cash, how can they afford to pay in excess of $1.7 billion nationally on standardized tests? Note: this is based off of outdated 2012 figures, so the costs are probably higher

How much time do you lose to standardized testing? In Pennsylvania, we’re losing approximately 2-3 full days a year due to testing, and over a 2-3 week stretch of time for implementation, we’re forced to reduce our expectations on what to expect from students. How does this alleviate concerns for citizens who think teachers do nothing and we’re falling behind other nations?

Did you know that 8- and 9-year-old students students in 3rd grade will spend more time standardized testing than adults seeking to pass the Bar Exam? Note: the bar exam is also being questioned for its authenticity and value on a practical, professional level

-Tell the stories about standardized testing
Probably the best story we can use is this article from WeAreTeachers titled, “17 Things You Can Do While Actively Monitoring.” Do we think – for one second – that people will willingly accept the idea that teachers should spend time “actively monitoring” students instead of working with them, building new curriculum, grading, and all the other items that already occupy so much of our time?

-Opt your own children out
One of the most difficult choices a teacher has to make as a parent is if they decide to opt their children out of testing. Diane Ravitch, one of the foremost voices of the educational world, wrote last week about why every American should opt their students out of standardized tests because they “are pointless and meaningless.” U.S. News and World Report, which ironically is the same news organization that ranks school districts largely on their standardized test performance, has called the continued focus on standardized tests a “circus.” Joshua Katz, famous for his TED Talk on testing (and whom we interviewed this time last year) has opted his own children out for Florida’s tests and has begun the Opt Out Orlando Movement.

-See if your principal will allow you to work with (and model amazing, substitute lessons with) the students who opt out
Mike Soskil, a finalist in the Global Teacher Prize (“the Nobel Prize of education“), has been tasked with teaching the Wallenpaupack, PA elementary students who opted out of testing. What has he done in place of standardized tests? He turned his classroom into a plant cell, complete with scaled-up organelles, and has tasked them with creating and testing their own experiments from scratch. Number #2 pencils are labeled appropriately, as they should take a backseat to this type of creativity.

-Write a letter to your superintendent
School leaders from West Chester, PA and Boston, MA have taken their frustration with test addiction to the parents and are helping to change the culture of their schools. Maybe all yours needs to participate in standardized protest is to know the teachers support him/her in that regard. If not, see if they’ll allow you to hold a standardized protest event on school grounds.

-Ask for a meeting with your state legislators
When Pennsylvania’s legislators took 9 months to pass a late budget, primarily over school funding, I pointed out on several instances that they could save the Commonwealth a good amount of money if they just reduced the amount of testing and bureaucratic red tape associated with it. When I met with them, they were hearing a cost savings, an improvement in morale, and a focus on more teaching time. Standardized protests make sense and save cents. What’s not to like about that?

-Support legislators enacting change
Katz, who I mentioned earlier, teaches in Florida. The Sunshine State has a “Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship” program to compensate teachers whose students score in the top 20% of SAT and ACT scores. Katz’s response? He called the award “dumb” and has pledged to donate the money in support of candidates who don’t support such educational pandering.

-Engage in conversations with people who are in favor of standardized testing
Under no circumstances, ever, should standardized protests cut out those who are in favor of standardized testing. Ask lots of questions. Share your sincere interest. As Jordan Shapiro of Forbes notes, there are issues with all aspects of standardized testing, including opting out. This is not a “battleground” for politics, here. We’re seeking to do the best for students’ success.

-Still, know that the tide is turning, and encourage others to join the campaign to mitigate testing
The Nation recently remarked that standardized protest is “exploding,” with nearly 20% of all students in New York state foregoing at least part of their Regent test, a 4-fold increase from last year. The standardized protest is growing in other states, too.

You should at least be knowledgeable about standardized protests, because it is coming your way next. Your state, your district, and your school will soon be fired up with a few individuals who find a similar interest – reducing the high-stakes testing in favor of more teaching – and begin to express their First Amendment rights to protest. Who knows – it’s possible you’ll even be leading the crusade yourself.

Standardized Testing

Mr. Jake Miller is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, a 2017 NEA Global...

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