Today is Leap Day. Every four years, except for a millennium, Earth adds an extra day to its calendar. Apparently, it takes 365.25 days for Earth to revolve around the sun. To make up for that .25, we get an extra day every four years. It is also Superman’s birthday. I remember four years ago, when my son attended a Delaware charter school, a classmate of his had a birthday on Leap Day. He was turning two that year since he only had two birthdays. The things kids believe!
My first Leap Year was 1972. I was two, so I don’t remember anything. In 1976, I was in Kindergarten in Syracuse, New York with Mr. McKinney. I wanted to be a detective when I was older. 1980 brought us the Lake Placid Winter Olympics when the USA beat Russia. I didn’t watch the final game because I was salivating over my Wacky Pack stickers. I wanted to be a doctor when I was older. In 1984, I was most likely not doing what I was supposed to be doing: homework, studying, chores. What can I say, I was a rebellious young teenager! My dreams of becoming a doctor went up in smoke when I saw an elderly man have a heart attack in Stop & Shop one day. 1988 was my Senior year of high school. It was a good year, but also full of angst wondering what the future was going to hold. I was going to major in business. In 1992, I was in my final year at community college looking forward to transferring to Cabrini College in the fall. I was going to finish college by 1994 with an English/Communications degree. In 1996, I had just moved to Sweden. Literally. I had sold most of my comic book collection and lived in a small town outside of Stockholm called Tullinge. I didn’t work the first couple months I lived there. There was no leap year in 2000 because it was a millennium year, but I was working at Chase Mortgage doing loss mitigation work. 2004’s Leap Day was definitely full of curiosity. My wife was due with our son in a month and I couldn’t wait to see him! Still at Chase. In 2008, I was unemployed on Leap Day. Luckily, it didn’t last long. 2012, the last Leap Day before this one, I was working two jobs and rarely had time for anything outside of work. I was at my current job and also working as a paraprofessional at Campus Community School. Which brings us to 2016 and today.
My point behind all of this, nobody knows for sure what they want to do with their life. Some do, those who have exceptional drive and motivation. Not everyone has that. But our Governor and the Delaware DOE seem to think every child should know what they are going to do when they are “career ready”. If not, the test scores will determine that and they will make sure you are put on a fast track to that career. It isn’t right. People need the freedom to stretch their own wings and figure things out for themselves.
The official Smarter Balanced Assessment Year 2 window opens up on March 9th. While this doesn’t mean every single student in every single grade will start the Smarter Balanced that day, I would highly recommend opting your child out of the test prior to that. Just write a letter indicating you don’t want your child taking the test and you wish for them to receive academic instruction while their peers are taking it. Make a copy, give it to the principal or head of school, have a witness with you, and be proud of your decision. It is that easy.
As opposed to your child sitting for days on end taking a test that truly has no bearing on his or her unique capabilities and academic strengths or weaknesses. It is a flawed test meant for the sole purpose of giving the government and non-profits data about your child. The algorithms built into the test allow for that data to pass freely into the federal governments hands. Your child is now part of a tracking system that will allow the government and companies to determine what kind of “career path” your child will embark on. And the rest of their elementary or secondary education will be spent guiding them towards that path.
Remember those personality tests or career path tests you may have taken years ago? And then you take it a few days later and your answers may be different? You could go from being a lawyer to an accountant based on a couple different answers. But imagine if you weren’t able to give a different answer? And the rest of your life went by what answers you gave when you were in 3rd grade? That is the future of high-stakes assessment. They may get rid of the false labeling of schools and teachers. They may even shorten the test, or even break it up into smaller segments embedded into personalized learning modules brought to you by Schoology. Your child’s data is going out from those systems as well. And our state’s highest officials know this. Our Governor knows this. And guess what? They don’t care.
If you want to feed the beast, then let your child take the test. If you think, “Hey, it’s the 21st Century. It’s about time our schools become more technologically advanced. Who cares about data,” then let your child take the test. If you do care about these things, opt your child out now. Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were 8 years old? Or even 11 years old? Or even 15? Are you what you thought you would be? I imagine the answer is no. So why would you let the government decide what your child should be? Opt-out now. Do it today. Your child’s future DOES depend on it.
Until our legislators craft a law indicating absolutely NO data goes out from these computer systems and programs, including the very computer code that captures and sends out this data, opt your child out of anything done on a computer at a school. If they have to do research, let them do it from home. This is a major change and the schools will pitch a fit. Ask to see your child’s data file. Chances are they won’t be able to provide it. Ask the state. FOIA the information if they say no or can’t do it. Do not stop until you are able to track down every kilobyte of data that has left school computers and into the welcome hands of the state and federal government and the companies they serve. Schools don’t own your child. The government doesn’t either. Nobody does. They are your child, and you have been given a mission on this earth to protect them from harm. This is harmful, and disturbing, and toxic. Protect your child.