An Autism Connection

Saturday, April 26, 2014

United Opt Out

The focus of this blog was not to be political, even though I am personally very political and have become an education activist of sorts. I am a part of my school district's union, and am an active member. I participate in demonstrations and marches, and am planning to attend 2 marches in support of education in June here in Seattle, and in Washington DC in July. I belong to the Badass Teachers Association (BATS)

 and numerous other organizations fighting so called education reform. I follow many blogs, evenly split between blogs that are similar to mine, and then blogs that are very activist in nature, like Diane Ravitche's blog, or Jersey Jazzman in New Jersey, to name a couple. All are enlightening and help me do my job. I am against the common core. I am against Teach for America. I am against charters and vouchers. In short, I am against anything that threatens public education and the lives of children, as well as my livelihood and chosen profession. No, this blog was not to be any of that at all, although sometimes it will creep in, like today, and I have seen it creep into other blogs as well, as teachers become overwhelmed with the new mandates and what it is doing to the children they care for each day. This creeps into their blogs as they share their frustrations. All are well received, as everyone one of us is impacted by reforms to one degree or another. We try to keep it all separate but sometimes you can't help it, it seeps out and we vent. This is my version.

I was outraged when I read the story of Ethan Rediske in Florida (read a newspaper story about this HERE).
 He was a student who was blind and had severe brain damage and was in hospice. Yet his parents had to sign letters asking for a waiver from the tests even as he lay dying. It was finally granted, and then the next day he died.

Then, I am sitting in an IEP meeting with our full team last month (March) . I have been very pleased with the progress of this particular student and the meeting has gone well so far. I have been slowly mainstreaming this student because he has done so well. However, I had some concerns because his anxiety levels seemed to have increased. Maybe I was pushing too hard. Parents, too, had been pleased with his progress, but had also noticed an increase in anxiety at home, leading to negative behaviors. Although most of my students do alternative testing, this student was going to be taking the regular state testing the rest of the students in the building were taking. In preparation, teachers in the building  had started test prep, and it turns out that this was what was causing the added stress.

Mom starts to get upset and almost cries. The tests don't begin until the end of April, and will last for 2 weeks. Each day his anxiety would increase, and she feared that the days leading up to the actual testing would undo all the progress her child had made. I sat and listened to her and wrestled with myself and made a decision. My job is this child, and what is best for him educationally. So I went against our school district policy and told her about opting out. She had no idea that she could do it. I told her about UNITED OPT OUT, where she could get more information, and that she could write a letter. I left the decision to her and told her she didn't have to make the decision there, that she could think about it and let me know. After a couple of days, she called me back and said, yes, she wanted to opt him out, so I put it in the IEP and she wrote letters. Her child's anxiety disappeared and he is back to making excellent progress.

School and tests should not increase stress and I refuse to participate if it is going to harm a child. These children are the reason I keep teaching and I won't stand back and watch if I see something that will hurt them. Every teacher has to draw the line somewhere, and that was mine.


  1. I agree that we find that taking a test is more important then the progress that our students make on a daily basis. I don't think that one day of testing shows what a student can do. Sometimes we get pressured to focus more on what they do on tests and for a lot of our students they aren't looking at futures where test scores matter. I am not saying I don't have high expectations for my students, but it is reality that most of them won't go to college. They will still live fulfilling lives in whatever they love doing despite taking tests. Great post!

    1. Thanks! This is a controversial topic for sure, but it needs to be talked about. Some days I get so fed up. But up until someone tells me to stop, I am just going to keep on working with my students in the areas where they need help, that is based on reality, and that is decided on by an IEP team.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.