When Will We Finally Say Enough? Seriously.

The first time I met Ben (when I drove an hour up to Frederick the day his mother Cindy spoke in front of the local politicians about her testing refusal) I was immediately brought back to my teaching roots. Back in 1990 (a time when phones were attached to walls and we walked to school up hill in the snow…both ways) I was a special education teacher. For many years I worked in early childhood and elementary education classrooms with children with moderate to severe multiple special needs.

Spending time with Ben (albeit briefly) I was reminded of Bubba who loved to paint when we attached a paintbrush to his shoes and he’d make the most amazing murals. I was reminded of Antoine who adored rhythm and colorful patterns. He was a heck of a drummer. I remembered Monica who loved her apple sauce more than anything. I was reminded of how many gifts students like Monica, Antoine, Bubba and Ben have to offer the people around them. I learned more about life, love, and being human than I could ever teach them.

But I never was forced to stick a pencil in their hand to test them.

We had assessments galore; determining the progress they were making on objectives catered to meet THEIR needs, and the needs of their families. I was taught (and practiced) listening to parents and families above “policy”, because what was important to them became important to me. My students were learning how to use pictures to communicate when they could not speak. They were sharing their imaginative capacities though they could not write. They were learning how to develop life skills and how to make friends. None of this would ever, could ever, be measured on a standardized test. But these were the days before No Child Left Behind, or Race to the Top.  I cannot even fathom now being in a position to force any of my former students to take a test that was not in their genuine best interest simply because some policy says “I must”.

Forcing any, and all, children to endure the harmful effects of high stakes standardized testing because some state or federal mandate requires all children be tested, ironically in the name of providing equitable and quality education, is the greatest insult ever hurled upon public education and children. To force a child like Ben, whose educational needs are so far removed from that which such a test can provide simply for “compliance sake,” is just heart breaking. It reveals how deeply flawed the system of accountability is, how failed our policies are, and how compliant in the face of insanity we have become … and most of all, how enmeshed we are as a society with a turn- a- blind- eye- faith in the testing mentality. How outraged do we need to be before we put an end to corporate-driven reform?

To see just how flawed, false, and harmful it is all you need to do is read stories like these:




And we must now add Ben’s story  to growing list of horrifying tales of compliance, asburdity, and harm. Here it is (as written by his mother Cindy):

“January 29, around 4:00 p.m. I learned without a doubt the ‘Administrators’ of Frederick County Public Schools value “testing” over children.  Our children are seen as ATMs to the billions in education dollars.  It turns out, they really are just test scores.

You don’t think so?

Rock Creek School has been on notice since September 2014 that I was refusing to allow my severely developmentally delayed son to participate in the Alt-MSA.  They allowed my daughter (after I sued) to refuse the test; other children were also recognized as “refusing” the test. 

The only difference I see in those who are allowed to refuse and my other child: they are normal healthy children with the ability to speak up and fight back.

Rock Creek School went behind my back and ignored my order not to test him.   

No notice came home informing me he was being tested.  They didn’t want me to know until it was too late for me to stop them.  How’s that for professionalism and trust?

Thursday a notice came home with my son saying I needed to come in and review and sign his test portfolio.  If I didn’t have to sign off would they have notified me?  Did they seriously think I wasn’t going to get angry?

They used a severely mentally and physically disabled child who cannot speak, communicate or read, who is for the most part confined to a wheel chair.  They took him from his classroom and forced him to perform like a trained monkey to prove to Pearson Publishing, he can master their test.  It doesn’t measure his “abilities”.  The test only exists so that schools can be accountable to the federal government in measuring success of special education children.  The goals are so ridiculous it’s obvious no research went into creating this test.

My son who struggles to follow the simplest of commands, like “’and me that cup’; is expected to ‘interpret a bar graph’ or ‘define the meaning of words within a text’. 

Rock Creek School would rather put my son through the humiliating act of taking a test he was destined to fail, or be manipulated into succeeding, than respect his humanity.   They used him because they could.

They used him because they wanted to make sure all their boxes were checked and they could pat themselves on the back for having been ‘accountable’.   It’s OK it was at the expense of my son’s dignity.  He won’t know any better….

To Parents in Frederick County Public Schools and elsewhere, stop kidding yourselves; public education like we grew up in is gone.  When a school is emboldened enough to sneak behind a parents back and manipulate a handicapped child to obtain a test score…….

Is this what we’ve come to? 

Our schools are accountable to the creators of the standards and the tests – parents be damned.  

Nothing, NOTHING will change until we, the parents and teachers make it happen.  Administrators are rolling in the power and the money; or they lack the spine necessary to reclaim education.

It’s time for county wide civil disobedience.

Will you remain silent and sitting until it happens to your child?    

Unless we do something that matters to them, they will refuse to listen to us. 

Refuse the assessments – Demand to be heard!”

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

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