My son is in third grade this year, and boy, has it been rough! First, we dealt with an emotionally abusive teacher and the fight to have him removed from her classroom. In order to do that, I had to have him moved up a level (he was right in the middle, closer to higher levels of reading and math). So now he’s struggling because he’s in a higher level. The amount of homework his math teacher gives is enough to make me want to scream every night and now he’s failing reading, of all things, because he’s not “engaged” enough. Mind you, the boy blows through 100+ page books in a day at home.
As if 3rd grade isn’t already kicking our butts, it’s also the first year Jacob has to take standardized tests. In PA, they’re called the PSSAs. Jacob came home the first day of school stressing out because of these tests, and they don’t even take place until the end of March! I remembered my aunt talking about opting her son out of the New York standard tests, so I immediately went online to see if I could do that here in PA. Good news! If you have a religious objection to anything in the PSSAs, you can opt your child out! Better news, I don’t believe in organized religion and follow my own, so I get to make up the rules as I go along! Guess who is now religiously opposed to the PSSAs?
How do you opt your child out of the PSSAs?
If you live in PA, you can opt your child out for any religious or philosophical objection. You don’t need to tell the school what religion you are or why your religion objects to the test. I am personally opposed to putting that level of stress on an 8-year-old. I believe that standardized tests like these are driving our children to early-onset anxiety and depression disorders. To opt your child out you need to do a few things.
- Call your school and ask to see the test. You’ll have to sign a confidentiality agreement before viewing it.
- Review the test.
- Go home and type up a letter to the school superintendent informing him or her that you are religiously opposed to the test and are opting your child out.
That’s pretty much it. When I informed my son’s principal that I was planning to opt Jacob out of the PSSAs, he told me I couldn’t do that. I said “sure I can, for religious reasons!” He got all flustered, then said “oh, yes, but not for medical or other reasons.” Well, I knew that, but really, how messed up is that? Medical reasons should be just as valid a reason as philosophical reasons if you want to opt your child out of nightmare-inducing tests.
Why am I opting my child out of the PSSAs?
It’s really quite simple: I think standardized tests are ruining the education system. Teachers spend so much time teaching to the test that nothing else seems to matter anymore. Not only that, but these tests tell kids that there is only one right way to arrive at an answer. We were told that our kids could get every single answer on the test correct and still get a poor grade if they don’t arrive at the answer the way they’re expected to. Oh, and “new math” is freaking crazy. It takes my son 30 minutes to do less than 10 questions, not because he doesn’t know the answer but because it takes that long to show your work the way they expect to see it.
I also think it is insane to put that much pressure on 8-year-old children. When I expressed concerns about the amount of homework and the stress my son was feeling, I was told that “Third grade is time to toughen up.” Toughen up? They’re 8! When I was in school, I didn’t get homework like that until middle school! I am seriously “this” close to yanking my son out of the joke of a school that he’s in and going the Cyber school route. If I wasn’t a single mom providing the only income to keep a roof over our heads, I’d do it in a second. As it is, I’m trying to move the heck out of this area to get him away from the East Stroudsburg Area School District.
Well, that turned into quite a long and winding rant, didn’t it? The whole point of this article is to let parents know that you do have options here. Depending on your state, your child may not have to take the ridiculous standardized tests. If enough of us opt our kids out, maybe it will send a message to educators that we expect better from our schools than crappy standardized tests. United OptOut has a great guide and sample letters to help you with your opt out letter, in case you need it.
Do you think standardized tests are a good way to evaluate children’s educational progress? Would you opt your child out?
I can’t believe all the homework they give young kids. It is like the teachers don”t want to teach them so they lay all the work on the parents and still get paid for it. Think about all the teachers you have had in your life. How many of them stand out as a GREAT teacher? They are the ones who take the extra step to be there for you.
I have a whole different rant about homework! I am vehemently against more than the occasional sheet. I feel that adults aren’t expected to take their work home with them, so why should kids have to do it? Everyone needs a break.
We elected to homeschool our youngest because of the mess the school system is in our older neighborhood and because of teaching to the tests. We just moved to a different state so I will wait to see if we continue to homeschool. I am so sick of the great teachers being held back because of the tests and the crappy teachers still being employed even though they do more damage than good to our children and the future.
Glad you found a way around the tests for your son and also a way around the horrible teacher. They need to realize that not all children and teachers are made to be in the same class.
I completely agree, too many teachers are being held back from greatness while mediocre teachers who know how to teach to the test are getting all the kudos from schools. Something needs to change.
I had no idea that children could opt out of standardized tests. I wish I had known; my daughter is an awful test taker and does terribly. This would relieve so much pressure.
My son takes after me and I’m an awful test taker too. Already he’s less stressed because he knows he’s not taking them.
This is very interesting-I didnt know you had the option to do so! I have to check into this more because my daughter hates tests and doesn’t do well in them.
Definitely look into it if you have concerns. I’ve never done well on those sorts of tests either. Just the idea of little circles to fill in gives me anxiety, and I’m a relatively smart person I think!
I understand why they do the testing, but is it necessary 2-3 times a year?
Here, they do it once a year but it’s for two weeks straight. Two weeks of insane pressure.
Thanks for sharing your story. My son is in 5th grade and boy are we having a rough time. This is so timely because I considered finding a way to get him out of the STAR exams (Texas). You are so right about this. passing the test is all they care about
Good luck! I’m not sure what the rules are in different states, but definitely ask about it. I viewed the test today and I’ll be writing my letter this weekend.
Awww. poor thing, why would they let kids this young of age suffer? They’re supposed to enjoy learning in school, not burdened.
Exactly! My son is 8 and already telling me he wants to “drop out.” While I didn’t love school at that age, I didn’t dread it the way so many kids do today. I really think the key to helping them learn more is to do it in a way that’s also enjoyable.
RIght. It’s the teachers and school’s fault that there are subjects that must be learned by a certain grade and that now more than ever you have to be extremely knowledgeable and educated to succeed in a world where many jobs that exist today will be automated and your kid better be smarter than a robot to make a good living and provide for their offspring. Shame on them. God forbid that you have to work hard in school to get a good job. While education could be taught in more entertaining fashion, it can only be entertaining if you learn and become interested in the mysteries of the world and you seek out schooling instead of it just being a requirement. Get a grip. Make your child study as hard as they can or they’ll turn out idiots that can only get a factory job that won’t exist because robots are doing it. We need kids who can make those robots, and coddling them isn’t going to work.
I agree-sometimes it’s all the teacher talks about and nothing else matters. It’s too much pressure,
It is so wrong that testing has nearly taken over the lives of children, teachers, and schools. Testing should be a very small part of the picture. The worst part in my opinion, is that it crowds out more meaningful learning. I hope things get better for your son.
Sure, you can opt out, but keep in mind that your school needs 90% participation or they do not make Annual Year Percentage. If this happens time and time again, your school gets shut down by the state. Good luck with that.