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A New Resistance to Standardized Tests

Posted on Sep 4, 2011
Flickr / albertogp123

A fresh national movement to oppose the standardized testing of young students is afoot. The Bartleby Project aims to invalidate state test results by getting parents and their children to simply opt out of testing; if enough did so, that would make schools’ yearly progress ratings meaningless.

The campaign takes its name from the eponymous hero of Herman Melville’s short tale of even-tempered protest against soul-crushing, bureaucratic drudgery, “Bartleby the Scrivener.” Upon being asked to help examine copies of a newly prepared legal document, Bartleby mildly informs his employer: “I would prefer not to.” —ARK

Education Week Teacher:

Which means empowering parents to make bold decisions, beginning with exercising their right to pull their kids out of destructive and unnecessary standardized testing. According to Dr. Yong Zhao, it would take a 6% opt-out rate to make state standardized test results invalid; when less than 95% of any student population takes a test, the data is incomplete and not useable, under NCLB. It also means the school’s AYP rating is threatened.

Think about that, for just a minute. Schools want all kids to take tests, because not taking the test could cause negative publicity for the district. [It] Doesn’t have anything to do with the only valid purpose for testing children—to tell us what kids know, to inform further instruction. It’s all about preserving a school’s public standing, in the shame/blame game created by a reviled federal law.

... There are now national movements to encourage and support parents who opt their children out of standardized testing:

“The Bartleby Project begins by inviting 60,000,000 American students, one by one, to peacefully refuse to take standardized tests or to participate in any preparation for these tests; it asks them to act because adults chained to institutions and corporations are unable to; because these tests pervert education, are disgracefully inaccurate, impose brutal stresses without reason, and actively encourage a class system which is poisoning the future of the nation.”

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By Peggy Robertson, November 7, 2011 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Please check out our movement to encourage mass opt out at!
Peggy Robertson
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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By JaniceP, September 6, 2011 at 7:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I know a lot of people are upset about the necessity of standardized testing, but this is something that I approve.  Because for years black children were not receiving the same level of education as children attending other schools.  I met a young man that was the valedictorian at his high school but needed remedial English classes when attending college.  He was really struggling.  I believe that all American students should have the same HIGH level of education.

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By SteveL, September 5, 2011 at 9:21 pm Link to this comment

Tests, just another Bush scheme to make money.  Drop the damn things.

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By aacme88, September 5, 2011 at 5:50 am Link to this comment

Standardized testing has its place. I certainly hope my doctor has passed a standardized test in medical method and procedure. For highly technical professional training it is essential. But for elementary and secondary and nontechnical higher education it is the death of learning, designed to turn out unquestioning drones for a theocratic plutocracy.
Teaching is replaced by prepping:
-the answer is “1066”.
-The question is “When was the Battle of Hastings?”
-The meaning for us of the Battle of Hastings is,,,Huh? That’s not gonna be on the test.

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By gerard, September 4, 2011 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment

In addition, all teachers (and administrators) and teachers’ union officials who regard the tests as useless or harmful might refuse to help administer them, fortifying their refusal by widely circulating relevant facts made available to all parents.

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By Hilda, September 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm Link to this comment
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When my children were young, we decided to home school them (NOT for ideological reasons).  Here in Pennsylvania, home schooled students must take the same standardized tests as public school students in 3rd, 5th and 7th(or 9th, can’t remember) grades. We discovered a twist, though: mandatory school age here is 8 and PA home schoolers have the option of borrowing text books from the school. When my middle son, now 29, was 8 we asked to borrow the first grade books, only to realize that he already knew the material.  I went back to the school to swap the books for the second or third grade books, but was told that he could only have one set of books per year.  In their eyes he was in first grade, period.  I returned the books anyway and bought more challenging texts on my own after pointing out to the principal that my son would end up taking the third grade standardized test when he was doing fifth grade work.  It made no difference to them.  So, he and my youngest child took the required tests when they were not only two years older, but two years more advanced academically than the public school students taking the same test, rendering the results predictable but meaningless. 
Of course, this occurred in the mid-1980s, long before NCLB and high-stakes testing, but it was the attitude of thoughtless compliance with state regulations that made me scratch my head. I got the impression that the school officials didn’t put much stock in the standardized test result. I suppose that’s different now, given the new laws regarding school achievement.

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