Tips for Organizing at Your School
Feel alone at your school? See if you can find one or two other families who share your opposition to the tests and support each other. Most schools start with only one or two students refusing the tests but that number can grow with a little patience and persistence.
Organize among the friendly first. Hold a small meeting for friends or acquaintances to learn more. (It can be in someone’s apartment, a bar, or coffee shop — no need for a big production!) Contact us if you need someone to speak.
If you are an elementary school parent, Start talking about the issue on playgrounds or at pickup/dropoff. All school communities are different, so try to identify the main concerns with opt out at your school. Don’t try to debate anyone; just listen and note their concerns. If you are later able to hold a testing forum at your school, these concerns will be import to identify and address.
Figure out: What’s the best way to communicate with others at your school? Playground conversations? Do you have class liaisons you can go through? Parent email lists? Are your PTA officers supportive or is it better to work around them? Do you know any teachers or administrators who would be supportive?
Start as early as possible. Many parents we’ve heard from say they would have opted out but didn’t learn about it until just before the tests, when it was too late.
Focus on your goal: getting parents to opt out. Parents do not need to agree with you about about Common Core, the teachers’ unions, charter schools, or standardized testing in general in order to want to opt out.
Emphasize the main problems with high-stakes testing: These tests are a “bad scale,” promoted by politicians and business leaders, with little input from teachers and principals. (Most educators who support testing are doing so because their jobs require them to.)
Who are the opinion leaders in your community? If any of them have criticized high-stakes testing, see if you can get quotes from principals or teachers about the tests — or in support of opt out. You can then use these quotes in your organizing literature.
Middle school and high school admissions are among the biggest factors preventing parents from opting out. Share our middle and high school admissions surveys with fellow parents. If schools in your district are not on the survey, call them to find out their admissions policies for students without test scores (and then contact us so we can add them to the survey).
DO NOT focus on the anxiety that tests create. When the issue comes up, by all means give voice to these concerns. But you want to avoid starting off by talking extensively about how the tests make kids cry, are too hard, or are too long. While this emphasis resonates strongly with some parents, it turns off others, who appreciate “rigor.” These parents may support testing in general as a way to challenge their children to work hard. Focusing too much on the anxiety tests create feeds a stereotype of opt out as a movement driven by overprotective parents who coddle their children and and prevent them from facing unpleasant challenges.
- DO NOT use school forums to debate Common Core, teacher’s unions, or standardized testing in general. These issues are divisive. There are a number of parents who support Common Core, oppose the teacher’s unions, and/or agree with a need for standardized testing in general yet would opt out of the state exams. By getting involved in debates on these issues, you limit the number of opt outs.