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And a Teenager Shall Lead Them

Posted: 2003-02-01

Here are some comments by a Texas teenager who has announced her refusal to take the upcoming TAKS. Following Kimberly\'s comments are the reactions of her mom. See two news articles from San Antonio News-Express--under NCLB News on this site. Stay tuned for upcoming developments.


I was called out of class for the second time of my public school education career to talk about a standardized test?I had informed my counselor weeks ago that I was refusing to be a participant in the TAKS experiment. This action would not have been so bad if I had not involved . This action would not have been so bad if I had not involved the San Antonio Express-News; apparently this now causes ?trouble? for my Texas state ?recognized? school.

My principal basically explained the consequences of my actions and how now I will never be able to get into college and I would be working at the Mc.Flurry machine at McDonalds for the rest of my life. She went on to discuss how my actions might be a ?disruption to the learning environment? and how she and my district would have to deal with me appropriately.

My parents and I had not been planning like a Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. We had informed my counselor weeks ago that I refused to take this test but now that the press has become involved and seem to be taking our side, it seems like a much bigger issue. She tried to use intimidation, scare tactics, and played upon my worst fears trying to hopefully change my position on this issue?.

My parents had always taught me ?follow your conscience no matter what? and I could not with a good conscience support a test or a corrupt system that was about to proclaim forty-two thousand children as ?failures.? I wonder what right does the state of Texas have to tell a child that they are a failure. I believe that no child should ever be considered a failure by anyone.

I went on to talk about the certain bias TAKS seemed to hold towards those of poor economic background and minorities. She asked me the question ?Why do you care?? That was a question that was not new to me. . .being white, from an educated, upper-middle class family, who attended the best school district in San Antonio. Why should I care? I answered, ?I think it says a lot when people tell you you should not care just because an injustice does not personally affect you.?

This is true that the opinions of my family and my would have not made the front page of the newspaper if I had been coming from a disadvantaged background, and had uneducated parents who make bare minimum wage. But, being a child of privilege and coming from Middle America as well being a good student in challenging pre-advanced placement courses, attending a magnet program for students gifted in the arts, and a member of the school?s pep squad, my opinions and actions seemed to matter.

There was no doubt in any of my teachers or even my principal?s mind that I could ace the test. My principal even said I would "ace it to the max." I had no doubt myself I could "ace the test to the max" if I wanted to. But, this year I refused to. I refused to participate in anything I believe is corrupt or unfair.

I believe that my actions will have a toll on myself and my speaking out to the public could cause me to either be expelled from the magnet program I love so much or be expelled from my high school in general?but, I will expect whatever lies ahead and will let my conscience be my guide.

My parents and I have received unbounded support from our community and the nation. I received dozens of e-mails comparing me from everything from a teenage Rosa Parks, to a young Albert Einstein, and my peers often described me as a modern day Moses liberating the Texas Public Education System. My friends and family have been incredibly supportive and recently a friend said, "Kim, I would never have even thought or had the courage to what you are doing." A teacher made a comment to me one day saying "I am not allowed to encourage you but, go Kim go."

I am not the first child to boycott a state standardized and there is no doubt I will be the last. Boycotts have been happening all across the country. But, I am the first child in Texas to publically announce my refusal to take the TAKS.

I encourage parents in Texas and across the nation that know what these tests are about and what they are used for not to send their child school on testing days.

Why does our nation test? I wonder the sacrifice that the children who fail the test what will it be for? To continue to show us that the "haves" have and the "have-nots" don?t have. My state continues to support the problem through rewarding schools that do well on a test with money and while those who do poorly receive barely enough to keep their schools doors open. We watch as my district wastes their money on shrubbery to beautify my school?s campus while other schools need that money for new computers.

As a nation we have wasted billons of dollars on testing--producing them and distributing them-- when the majority of them are inaccurate, unfair, and often meaningless.

I often dreamed of my graduation day--expecting to walk across that stage and receive a diploma as my mom cried and my dad took six rolls of film of me in my cap and gown. But, that day may never come for me. I cannot support this testing craze any longer with a good conscience. I may be branded as a "failure" or as a "dropout" by the state of Texas. But, as person I believe I am a winner. But do I really need a diploma to tell me that? I am definitely going onto college but it just might be minus one Texas state diploma.

Below is how Kimberly's mom reacted to her daughter's impending test refusal.

Dear Assessment Reform Network:

My name is Cathy Marciniak and I live in San Antonio Texas. My 15 year old daughter Kimberly recently announced that after a great deal of research and consideration, and after having survived what she describes as the "hellish" 8th grade TAAS testing process, she plans to boycott the 9th grade baseline, and possibly the 11th grade exit level, TAKS test.

I should mention that my daughter, who attends the magnet school for gifted and talented fine arts as a visual arts major, has never been anything but a respectful, well-liked, successful student. She is an A student, on the pep squad, and passed every subsection of the 8th grade TAAS, three of them with perfect scores. She considers herself a college-bound student, planning to major in journalism or government and minor in fine arts.

Because I (mistakenly) believed the state propaganda that failure to receive a high school diploma would threaten her college plans, I of course did whatever any highly invested, self-respecting high achieving soccer mom would do: I went supernova.

However, by having discussions with Kim, listening carefully to her arguments and her experiences; by reading books and perusing websites from around the country; and by talking to teachers and parents here in my community; I have become convinced that my daughter's refusal to submit to the testing process is a sincere and genuine act of conscience, and her moral outrage is justified.

I also find myself wondering what worthwhile institution of higher learning would EVER deny admission to a deserving candidate on the basis of this one absurd score, why on earth no one has yet challenged Texas' high-stakes testing on the grounds that it effectively violates the equal protection clause AND the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Can we ALL be this dumb?

I support Kimberly's action completely, and am only requiring of her that she openly and honestly, without expectations or the protection of anonymity, accept the disciplinary consequences of her actions. Her principal at Lee High School is unsure of what those consequences will or should be -- Kimberly is the first student in the district's experience to consider this -- but mention has been made of expelling Kimberly from the gifted magnet school she now attends. This would be devastating to Kimberly, who loves the school, but she has said that no matter what the cost, she cannot be part of an unjust system.

A story about Kimberly and her decision to civilly disobey the state of Texas and the Northeast Independent School District will appear with her photo on the front page, or the front page of the metro section, of the San Antonio Express News on Saturday, February 1. Columnist Cary Clack has also submitted a column on Kimberly, which will appear on page 1 of the metro section on the same day.

The link to the San Antonio Express News is:

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news Search on our name, or on the name of the reporter, McNelly Torres, and Cary Clack.

You have our permission to forward these links, her story or any part of this letter.

We would love to hear from you if you have any advice or if we could contribute to what you are doing to oppose this very damaging practice.


-- Cathy


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