An open letter to charter school parents



                Much has been written about the burgeoning Opt Out Movement regarding the standardized state tests given in public and charter schools. Most of the writing that I have seen has been written by students, parents, and public school teachers. I wanted to add my voice as a retired teacher (in both public and charter schools), because I suspect that any charter school teacher who would advocate for opting out would most likely be unemployed as soon as his/her letter was public knowledge.


                I encourage parents to investigate their opportunity to opt out of the testing program in the next school year. There are many reasons to make this choice:


-In most schools at least 13 to 17 days are dedicated to test taking, test practice and holding rallies for the PSSA tests.  These are all days of instruction that go unused.


-The results of the test are often used to determine what and how instruction will be given. Critical thinking skills are not usually part of this equation.


-Social studies, history, art and music are some of the things not tested and as a result they are not usually valued by schools.


-Test results are often used to evaluate teachers. For some teachers, their position depends on the results of the PSSA. This can and has fostered a culture of cheating within the school community.


-Test results are used to evaluate schools.  Public schools that are already lacking resources (because the state has drastically cut funding and the School Reform Commission (SRC) has not taken a strong enough stance in acquiring funding) are then labelled as ‘failing’ and threatened with closure or charter takeover.


-Parents, students and teachers are not usually part of the conversation about the value or importance of standardized testing. These groups, who would have much to say, are reduced to being the objects of a testing regimen. This follows a corporate model for education.


                There are a number of groups and places for parents to go for further information. Some of these groups are: Parents United for Public Education, Rethinking Schools, The Public School Notebook, and United Opt Out. I encourage parents to visit their websites and read their materials in order to make a reasoned and wise choice about this issue.