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NCLB Outrages

Where are the Children?

Ohanian Comment: I urge you to follow Sandra Hammond's entreaty: Opt your children Out.

And when you do, please send a note to Encompass. And also send a note describing your experience to this Colorado mom who is working to nationalize the opt out movement.

We're all in this together. Our children need us to act. NOW.

by Sandra Hammond

The streets are lined with trees that color the walkways in both the inner cities and suburbia. Produce stands re-surface and there seems to be a renewed sense of purpose everywhere. It’s spring; but where are the children? Why are the schoolyards empty in the middle of the day? We should see children collecting things the wind has blown off trees nearby. They should be identifying, planting, categorizing and painting flowers. They should be flying kites that will be used to measure things and study weather, but they are not. They are indoors preparing for the ominous test. In California, this is what is known as The Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Assessment. Their teachers are hurried and stressed and the stacks of black and white worksheets keep coming via the district office, publishing companies and other illusive authorities. They are copied, distributed and in too many classrooms, recess will not be allowed at all, until they are completed. Notes will go home encouraging, sermonizing and dictating practices that will ensure test week goes smoothly. In addition to drawings for bikes, and dollar store toys (one ticket per day of attendance), breakfast will be served all day long during the test window. Superheroes will appear on rooftops with names like "STARMAN", leaping from building to building and delivering warnings like "I'm watchingâ€Â¦." to the small faces looking up. Attendance policies will suddenly include home visits from school site administrators working to ensure that 95% test participation occurs, otherwise the scores won’t count. Spring will pass and by the time the test frenzy ends, it will be too hot to go outside in California's central valley. Scores will materialize over summer vacation, children will be labeled by their STAR Score, sorted and fall back into lines to begin again, their eyes wide and hopeful.

For almost a decade teachers and many caring administrators have raised concerns over the negative effects high stakes testing is having on children; specifically given the perverse incentives that encourage practices that are in direct contrast to what we know young people need to thrive and to engage in learning activities . Professors and people that work tirelessly to train teachers in education theory and best practices have been writing about it. School nurses and pediatricians express alarm over the growing number of children experiencing stress, and the wider medical field is questioning the high number of students being diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed psychotropic drugs so that they can sit still longer. In fact, not long ago, author Richard Luv wrote about this in his book, Nature Deficit Disorder, and described how demanding children sit too long, disconnected from the natural world defies everything we know about how children grow and learn and is directly related to the increase in diagnosis. Many journalists create special reports that raise the eyebrows of many for a time, but then fall back into the education reform abyss. And where are the parents?

Grassroots efforts coordinated by concerned parents are growing in number and strength across the country. Parents are taking a stand against the negative messages about learning the drill and kill culture is sending to their children. They support teachers working to preserve academic freedom in designing lesson plans that encourage curiosity, exploration and critical thinking. Parents, grandparents and other child advocates are standing up and saying "Stop the Madness". I encourage you to read more about how you can get involved in this important movement as we make "OPTING OUT" our focus throughout April and May on our "Measuring Success" feature. Send us your stories, comments and follow our legislative updates for more information.

Plant seeds of hope at your child's school this spring: Opt Out.

— Sandra Hammond


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