The whole mess really began in 2001 when the U.S. Department of Education dangled an enormous sum of money in front of states. States could receive that money if they participated in the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) program that required states to administer high stakes testing in their schools. Arizona had already created their own state AIMS program in 1999 (which tested only grades 3, 5, 8, and 10). But, with AIMS already in place, our state simply transformed it into a federal program to satisfy NCLB requirements –testing grades 3 through 8, and 10. The No Child Left Behind/ AIMS program was far from perfect and our state wanted to jump ship. In 2010, Arizona had another carrot dangled in front of them: a $250 million Race to the Top Grant (RTT). This was the grant that bound us to the Common Core Standards, obligated us to link up to the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (national student data base), and required a yearly high-stakes exam (the AzMerit) which now tested even more grades (3 through 11.) The $250 million dollar carrot also included a No Child Left Behind waiver. We bought into it, hook, line, and sinker and got rid of the NCLB/AIMS octopus –and we pulled up a sea monster!
Reasons why parents should opt their children out of taking the AZMerit test:
1. Protest the collection of personally identifiable information & keep data down to a minimum:
The AzMerit was created and will be graded by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). AIR is a behavioral research company that can easily gather sensitive, personal information on your family via psychoanalysis on the answers your child gives on the test (such as political views, religious views, family values, etc.) When our state accepted Common Core, we agreed to link our state student database (AZDash) with the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (a national database). In this database, your child will be personally identified. Your child’s records stored for their entire lives. This national student database will be linked with the U.S. Department of Labor’s database too. This has never been done before in United States history. What is even worse is that the Arizona Department of Education can give access to your child’s personal information to all the businesses and organizations that helped in the creation and implementation of Common Core. This is due to the recent changes that President Obama made to FERPA laws (student privacy laws). FERPA was also changed so that biometric information can be collected on your child.
(“Biometric record,” as used in the definition for “personally identifiable information,” means a record of one or more measurable biological or behavioral characteristics that can be used for automated recognition of an individual. Examples include fingerprints; retina and iris patterns; voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial characteristics; and handwriting);
Your child has a guaranteed Constitutional right to keep all personal information private. If your child takes the AZMerit, you have (by default) continued to forfeit that 4th Amendment right.
The White House hosted a “Datapalooza” (this is what they really called it!) in 2012 describing information that they would like to gather on your child. If you don’t believe it, then hear it straight from the White House’s mouth:
(All of this information will be collected under the guise that they are wanting to help your child succeed and learn better from over 2,000 miles away in D.C. (click here to view the youtube video on how they want to so-called “help”.) However, we know better! Your child’s personal teacher is the only one that can really help your child learn.
2. The AzMerit is surrounded by too much secrecy!
Parents, teachers, principals, and even most administrators are NOT allowed to see the test –EVER! School officials are required to sign a document that they promise to never look at the test questions (before, during, or even after). If they view any of the questions, they are at risk of losing their jobs. Several teachers have already lost their teaching licenses due to viewing the questions while their students were taking the test. This requirement has actually been in place for the past 10 years. The Arizona Department of Education cites financial reasons primarily for this secrecy, however, parents and teachers were allowed to view every test that existed prior to this past decade. Parents have a constitutional right to view anything that their child will be viewing in their class –even tests.
3. Protest high-stakes testing!
High stakes testing has many negative consequences. Some of these are:
- The loss of valuable learning time due to teachers preparing students for the test;
- Puts unnecessary pressure and stress on students and teachers;
- Reduces the importance of other educational enriching activities such as music, art, P.E. and even history;
- Undermines American ideas of free thinking, creativity, experimentation, freedom of expression and diversity in education;
- Has the potential to increase bullying in schools and suicide rates (as seen in China, Japan, and South Korea)
- Students who do well in class, but are terrible test takers, can be held back a grade or not allowed to graduate.
- Teachers and schools are graded unfairly. The scores have little to do with how well the teacher teaches. In truth, test scores reveal one thing: family income. High stakes testing drives out good teachers.
4. Protest the fact that our children are being used as Guinea Pigs.
The AzMerit is an untested test on the questionable Common Core standards. David Myers (CEO of the company that created our test) believes “in the use of experimental designs in education settings.” The creators of Common Core have ignored decades of actual research evidence on how children learn and bypass successful learner-centered innovations in the field of education. There have been over 500 Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals that have voiced their concerns about the Common Core Standards and related exams.
5. Protest the big money making machine & loss of local control of schools.
Testing companies are making millions of dollars off of the national high-stakes requirement that is placed on our schools. These companies have a regular lobbying presence in Washington D.C. Arizona has paid roughly $5,000 per AzMerit test question –and we don’t even own the questions! We are just “renting” them. The AzMerit will cost our state approximately $19 million dollars in just 2015. That is a lot of money that could have gone to the classroom.
The U.S. Department of Education is also very happy with this situation. It is a win for them: they gain even more control over our schools. When a school is not performing well on the high-stakes test, they can require teachers to be moved, schools to be shut down, and if needed, the school to be converted into a charter. Parents have even less rights at charter schools than they would have at a traditional public school. This is due to the fact that charters are businesses. The federal government can use the charter as a puppet (through mandates) and parents don’t have the say like they do at a normal public school: there is no school board to complain to and charters can place immense pressure on parents students to leave. The federal government is also very happy with all of the extra data collection that is taking place due to states participating in Race To the Top (RTT). How much access does the federal government have to personal student data right now? No one knows for sure. However, we do know that Pres. Obama has recently weakened student privacy laws (FERPA laws) with the simple stroke of a pen (via executive order). It is obvious that FERPA laws can easily be changed again and again without the public even being aware. We need to remember that history repeats itself and how Nazi Germany had children reporting on their parents so that the government could identify those who resisted Nazi ideals. Americans who remember growing up in communist countries are the most alarmed by our current education situation –and they have good reason.
“We have to break through our kinda private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families.” – Melissa Harris-Perry.