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Another Voice: Why this mom and teacher is opting out of testing

By Katie Fisk

Recently, I have read opinions and articles that have poked fun at or degraded parents who are having their children refuse (opt out of) testing. I have had people I respect question my decisions for my child to refuse testing. I have read that I am “hoodwinking parents” in an “unconscionable push.”

It has been hard to listen to and read articles that say I am teaching my child the lesson that when something gets hard, you quit or refuse. Writers and cartoonists are sending the message that when he grows up, he will be unable to work because he will not want to follow through when it gets tough. He will not be able to handle stressful situations that are not fun.

This almost made me start to question myself at times and doubt my abilities as a mom and an educator. I’m proud to say, I’m over it.

I’d like to introduce myself: I am the face of opt-out. I am a mom, an experienced teacher, a PTA president and a soccer coach. I teach Sunday school, junior church and lead our kids choir. I drive my daughter to dance and gymnastics. I suffer through coin shows and meetings with my intellectual 8-year-old son. I am not a slacker.

As the voice of the parents being criticized, let me tell you what we want. We want teachers to be able to teach, not test. We want less than 10 percent of the school year to be complete days designated to testing. We want state tests to give reasonable, diagnostic data to the teachers so they can use it to improve their instruction and help our children. We want tests that are created to be developmentally appropriate, with reading levels that are at grade level and time frames that do not make young children have to sit in seats for hours (and now, whole days) at a time. We want full disclosure, so we can see what the children are being asked to do at their grade level.

This may surprise you, but I am not against high standards. I am not against testing. I am not some vigilante jumping on a bandwagon to cause a huge uproar. I am a mom and a teacher, fighting peacefully for change.

I have heard that I am using my child as a pawn to fight my battle. Last year, my then 7-year-old son asked a reasonable question, “Mom, why doesn’t the governor ask the people who wants to take the test so that the state doesn’t waste all the money to print the tests that no one is going to take?”

My child is being taught to think, reason and stand up for things that are right. I am showing him the history of America (and truly discussing this with him) by our civil disobedience.

If you have to pick on a group of parents, choose someone worthwhile. Pick on the dad who beats his kid. Pick on the people who are able to, but refuse to feed their children. Pick on the mom swearing at her 2-year-old in the grocery store. But leave us alone. We are over you.

Katie Fisk, of Gasport, is a teacher and a mother.