Reference

Letter to Texas Connections Academy

Note:  For legal reasons, I kept using the word "immoral" and the phrase "morally wrong."  I think better words would be "inappropriate," "unreasonable" or "ineffective."  However, since the laws are based around the morality of certain actions, it was necessary for me to use the wording I did.  It makes it sound more reactive than I would have preferred!

Ms. Lea Anne Lockard, Principal and Ms. Marsha Wilson, Homeroom Teacher
Texas Connections Academy
950 Threadneedle Street, Suite 130
Houston, TX 77079
Dear Ms. Lockard and Ms. Wilson:

I am respectfully presenting a written statement to inform you that my child will not be present at the testing site for the mandated standardized testing days this year.  Instead, she will be either at home attending to her studies or on an educational field trip.  It is my parental right to choose to “opt my child out” of curriculum or instruction that is harmful to children as stated in the Texas Education Code CHAPTER 26. PARENTAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES Sec. A26.010.EXEMPTION FROM INSTRUCTION.
(a) A parent is entitled to remove the parent ’s child temporarily from a class or other school activity that conflicts with the parent ’s religious or moral beliefs if the parent presents or delivers to the teacher of the parent ’s child a written statement authorizing the removal of the child from the class or other school activity.”
I believe it is morally wrong to put children through the ordeal of pointless testing and that the practice of high stakes standardized testing is also morally wrong. 

Standardized testing AFFECTS CHILDRENS’ SOCIO-EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING..  My child has been forced to take extra math and language classes for an entire school year to ensure that she receives a high enough grade on this year’s test.  This has been demoralizing to her, as well as greatly and negatively impacting her self-esteem.   In fact, until she did poorly on the TAKS test last year, my child believed herself to be a creative and smart child.  She now frequently characterizes herself as “stupid” and believes she will not be able to attend college.  Her fear of failing the tests is so acute that she actually became physically ill before attending a math camp that was supposed to give her more confidence going into the test.

Such standardized tests REDUCE A CHILD’S CAPACITY FOR ATTAINING NEW KNOWLEDGE;  If children cannot actively make connections between different topics of study, they don’t remember what they learn from day to day. Most standardized tests are still based on the recall of isolated facts and narrow skills.  Where is the related and learning and interconnectedness that, according to research, allows high level comprehension and much longer retention of learning?  The resources required to prepare students for standardized tests usurp the ability of teachers to instruct in a method that facilities deep, lifelong learning.

Mandated state testing NARROWS THE CURRICULUM.   The loss of a rich curriculum has been documented in research, in the media, and in teacher testimony. Forget art and music (in spite of the decades of research that correlates student overall school achievement to participation in these experiences). State-wide testing generally focuses on math and reading with a peripheral glance at science and social studies. And with these critical subjects, teachers are forced to focus only on those test-taking strategies that reflect the way material is presented on the tests.  My child has not been allowed to select any electives this year due to being forced to take PACE classes instead.

Standardized testing systems WASTE VALUABLE EDUCATIONAL TIME SPENT PREPARING FOR TESTS.  According to the Texas Education Agency, Texas public schools will spend 34 out of the 185 day long year conducting tests mandated by the state government. This does not include the regular testing in schools such as six-weeks tests, quizzes, and final exams. (State Board of Education Member Bill Ratliff, Sept 12, 2011).  This is both outrageous and immoral.  My child is in school acquire a free public education, as is her right.  There is no evidence that the preparation for these tests or taking the tests does anything to enhance her general or specific knowledge base.  There is also no evidence that such tests improve schools.  

Standardized tests VIOLATE ALL CHILDRENS’ RIGHTS TO A FREE AND APPROPRIATE EDUCATION: High stakes testing leads to under-serving or mis-serving all students, especially the most needy and vulnerable, thereby violating the principle of “do no harm.”  Monies desperately needed for vital school resources such as clean drinking water, supplies and roofs that don’t leak are being spent on testing materials. Texas spends $44 billion per year on public education, of that $1 billion is spent just on testing days. (Ratliff, 09/12/11) Texas Education Agency spent $88 million on Pearson standardized test products, such as TAKS tests, in fiscal year 2010 for testing grades 3-11 with plans to spend $470 million over the next 5 years. Pearson is part of a London-based media conglomerate, Pearson PLC. Our needed tax dollars for Texas schoolchildren go to a private business. (Egan (2010) Retrieved from http://austinnovation.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/pearson-taks/)  As a person who has a serious calling to be an advocate for children, I cannot support testing which makes it harder for children to grow to successful adults, but instead supports a bureaucracy based profit center which many educators do not agree with nor support.

Parental rights are broadly protected by United States Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” Furthermore, the Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own.” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten "liberties" protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (262 U.S. 399). The immorality of high stakes testing in the public schools, as stated earlier, constitute an unreasonable state interference in the operation of public schools.

The right to opt out of standardized testing ought to be an option for every child’s parent or guardian — the right to say, without being pressured or penalized by a state or local authority, “Do not subject my child to any test that doesn’t provide useful, same-day or next-day information about performance.”

With consideration of the Texas Education Code, Chapter 26, and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, I would appreciate your cooperation in securing my right as a parent to opt my child out of standardized testing.

Thank you,
/s/

Dreena Melea Tischler,




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