Senate Bill 355, the Student/Teacher Protection Act, was born of years of frustration and activism. One teacher and one mom who had had enough joined forces to write SB 355. Supporting this effort are other parents who want to see their children and teachers protected. I am that teacher.
After seeing the effects of testing and bad standards on my students and their learning environment, I left the classroom to give students a voice. After two years and over 200 speeches given throughout the Southeast, I met a mom who was just as angry and just as loud. Together we turned to Senator William Ligon and Representative David Stover for help. Both men are champions for education in Georgia. They understand our concerns and see the toxic environments being created in Georgia’s classrooms. When testing is “high stakes” anxiety rapidly becomes damaging to young brains. High stakes means teacher jobs, promotions, and pay are at risk when students do poorly on the test. For students, high stakes mean they may not be promoted to the next grade based on results from one test.
When testing is truly about the children and used as a measurement tool for academic progress, it can be positive. When a test is statistically valid and reliable, research shows it can reveal the 7-14% influence a teacher has over students’ test outcomes. This is not what the Georgia Milestones test does for education.
The Georgia Milestones are neither valid nor reliable, yet they are being counted as 50% of a teacher’s evaluation. An invalid and unreliable test is similar to the doctor checking a patient’s temperature with a non-calibrated thermometer. This should make Georgia taxpayers question why tax dollars are being spent on this tool.
In addition to an invalid and unreliable test, the Georgia Milestones test is causing damage to Georgia’s students. The numbers of students being seen by medical and psychological practitioners for anxiety related illnesses and behaviors have exploded. This anxiety has been linked back to the pressure schools are putting on children to pass the Georgia Milestones.
If similar anxiety related issues were originating from a child’s home, these children would be referred to another agency such as the Division of Family and Children Services (DFACS). DFACS would then be required to investigate. If one state agency recognizes these complaints, it is curious why another state agency, such as the school, will not. Anxiety related problems are indeed resulting from the pressure students and teachers feel due to the high stakes nature of these tests. It is for that reason the Georgia legislature needs to enact law to ensure healthy learning environments.
Parents are the resident experts of their own children, and they must be supported in the decision to remove their children from toxic, anxiety inducing environments, including the testing environment, when it becomes overwhelming to the child.
Offering this parental assurance would align with reasons many parents vote for local and parental control of education. The opportunity to refuse these tests is critical as parents need to defend our children from further federal encroachment into our schools. It is the duty of our state elected officials to protect the rights of students and parents, not their reelection funds. Georgia’s legislators should pave the path for teaching and learning to again be a joy to Georgia’s teachers and students.
Protecting teachers and students does not fit Governor Deal’s plan for privatizing education. Efforts to protect teachers and students could fall prey to the same obstructionists who have torn apart the Atlanta Public Schools and have created the Opportunity School District. Politicians in favor of the Opportunity School District do not protect our children or make education better for all. They desire money rather than a foundational public education for all of Georgia’s students.
I encourage parents to protect their students from toxic testing by exercising their parental rights and refusing Milestones tests this spring. Call your representatives and demand protection of parental rights as well as valid and reliable tests for measuring true academic progress. Testing is not the enemy. The enemies are bad testing, toxic testing, and invalid testing. Teachers are not “driving instruction” with these tests. Politicians are driving out good teachers and driving our kids to hate school.
Meg Norris submitted this bio: Meg Norris is a doctoral candidate in education and is a certified Georgia teacher. She founded Opt Out Georgia where she and an amazing team of moms help parents interested in exercising their parental rights to refuse test participation.