School Talk

Out of Bounds: The MTA should NOT be pushing parents to #optout

It is one thing for teachers and union leaders to disapprove of annual testing and to discuss it with friends, family, and colleagues when they are not in front of students and parents. I’d imagine that a Pediatrician practice would expect the same if it employed nurses, receptionists, or med techs who opposed the vaccinating of children. Annual testing has been and likely always will be fodder for debate for people who have different views about how student skills should be measured and how teachers should be evaluated. All of that is fair game and healthy debate.

But it is totally out of bounds for any teachers’ union to use their platform (and members’ dues) to push and even try to manipulate parents (and older students) to refuse to take the very annual assessment that they publicly supported just a few short years ago.

Sadly, but also predictably, that is exactly what is happening in Massachusetts. And in predictable fashion, they hide behind the lie that they’re only doing what they think is best for kids.

Let’s get one thing very clear; union leaders are employed to do what is best for adults. Period. My own personal experience in two teachers’ unions left me with no doubt about that.
So let’s look at what the MTA is peddling on its website now that testing season is upon us: :
The claim found right in the above banner that less testing automatically means more learning is the first problem. If tests were to go away tomorrow and kids were watching movies, being given coloring pages, or left to play on their phones til the bell rang,  this assumption would fall apart. On the contrary, it’s possible that without annual measures, less learning would take place if the culture is transformed into one that doesn’t focus on student outcomes because the measure of learning is no longer part of the equation. And while the district and school itself may need to examine the value of their own diagnostic and progress monitoring assessments, the federal requirement the union is trying to convince parents to opt out of is a once a year test. That’s all.
This question is pulled right form the MTA website too:

Q. Why should I opt my child out of such tests?A. To protect your child: For many parents, opting out is the best way to reduce stress in anxious children, including those who are good students but poor test-takers and those who are still learning English.

B.To send a message and improve the educational experience for all:Opting out has become a powerful way to protest the excessive focus on standardized tests in schools throughout our state and country. The overuse of these tests consumes valuable classroom time, leads to a narrowing of the curriculum and diminishes the joy of learning.

Cue the eye-roll (and I say this as a parent whose children have sat and will sit for their annual tests and no, they don’t need to be protected from that; they need to be protected from self interested grown ups.)
Teachers’ unions have made it clear that they do not believe their members should be held responsible for the learning that does or does not go on in their classrooms. While they now claim that their newly discovered disdain for the tests is all about what’s best for kids, everyone knows that the real motivating factor is nothing more than self-interest.

Self interest and preservation is what drives teachers’ union leaders in every single decision they make because that is how the union itself was designed to operate. While many of their members are uncomfortable with their tactics and even their priorities, the leadership is about one thing: protecting the monopoly they see as theirs, and only theirs, despite the public’s overwhelming support for more options for parents and for smarter and better use of their tax dollars.

So what do we know?
We know that Americans spend $600 billion in tax dollars to educate the nation’s children in grades K through 12 and we know that Boston is the highest spending large district in the entire country.

We know that some students are being served well by the system and that others are not.

We know that low income children of color are most likely to have the lowest quality teachers.

We know that if a child isn’t reading at grade level by third grade, the trajectory of their life can change course in ways that will dramatically limit their opportunities.

We know that America is not doing well on international benchmarks.

But despite all of that, the MTA has made the calculated decision to pivot from its support of annual testing and instead follow a strategy to drive down participation so that they can, in turn, challenge the validity of state tests. In doing so, they hope to significantly weaken the basis of the educator evaluation law in Massachusetts and other states (which include student state assessment achievement and growth).

Can’t change the law. Weaken the implementation.

They will put everything they have into keeping the cap on charter schools. Their president, Barbara Madeloni, has said so.  They will likely also put everything they have into undermining state law to avoid any responsibility for student outcomes.

In an ideal world, we wait for the day when they put everything they have into actually serving Massachusetts’ kids. But in the real world, that day will never come because it flies in the face of exactly who they were created to protect.

What do you think?

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