Why I opted my child out — of test prep

I opted my child out—not of tests, but of test prep, writes Matthew Levey on Chalkbeat.

My wife and I won’t refuse to have our children tested. Taxpayers spend $25 billion a year on K-12 education in New York City. Someone needs to check not just that the money is not wasted, but more importantly, that children’s lives are not wasted.

Tests aren’t the problem, argues Levey. It’s the time-wasting test prep.

If we instead committed to building our students’ background knowledge through a comprehensive, coherent, and sequenced curriculum that includes foreign language, arts and music, we’d make our children’s education more meaningful, and the lives of their teachers far less stressful.

And students would do fine on tests.

Until then, he and his wife have asked that their children be given  extra independent reading time instead of test prep. “Their teachers have been uniformly supportive,” Levey writes.

About Joanne


  1. I have no doubt that the writer is speaking truth for his demographic. I did not opt my children out of test prep bc that was the only time of the year that instruction was given in the nonbasic topics. After the first year of nclb and the full inclusion dumbed down content, I started afterschooling. I could see no good coming from eliminating 60% of the math content.

  2. Crimson Wife says:

    I’m not anti-test, but I don’t think that children who are at or above grade-level need to be subjected to them every single year. I’d like to see students who score at the “proficient” level get tested every other year, and students who score at the “advanced” level tested every third year.

    When I was growing up, there were standardized tests, but not every year from 2nd through 11th. We tested in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades, plus college-bound students took the PSAT and SAT in high school.

    • My ‘advanced’ child was tested every year from Gr. 3 to 8. What we found was that the district was gaming the test, and not providing the coursework needed to score in the higer proficient or the advanced designations. Each classroom is on the same page instructionally, and the focus is on inclusion — making 1s and 2s into low 3s. Enrichment and grouping by instructional need has been banned.

      What we need is a guarantee that each child progresses by one grade level per year. We don’t need the current deal of ignoring the top 35% of the class.

      • palisadesk says:

        “What we need is a guarantee that each child progresses by one grade level per year”

        That’s no solution, and is impossible in any case. The lowest quintile, even with the best teaching, will not be able to meet this requirement: indeed, those with low cognitive ability (5th-6th percentile or less) can make steady progress — IF thoroughly taught — at about .5- .6 academic year per year of school, at best.

        The top quartile or more can do significantly better, so a minimum standard that they could meet while semi-conscious does nothing to force improvement of the quality of the instructional program offered.

        Further, this measuring “a year’s progress in a year” is not so reliably done, and tends to focus mainly on the most readily measured components, like spelling, arithmetic computation, etc. Not that these should not be measured, but evaluating overall academic progress via norm-referenced tests, though possible, is not practical or affordable in most school systems. The norm-referenced data is a good benchmark but not comprehensive by any means. Results of “holistic” assessments (most state tests fall into this category) are less conclusive due to issues with both reliability (would the same test yield same/similar results to a similar demographic, or the same individuals at a different time? If graded by humans, does the test show high levels of inter-rater reliability?) and validity, i.e. does the test measure what it purports to measure?

        Test results can be both useful and informative but often are presumed to have much more accuracy in evaluation of individual students than the testing instruments can actually provide.

        Also, if we are going to “differentiate” all over the place, we should be “differentiating” expectations as well. Highly motivated or capable students should have higher minimum expectations, while those with challenges should be celebrated when they approach, or even exceed, their apparent achievement ceilings.

        “A year’s progress in a year” doesn’t cut it.