testing10 Carolyn Leith is a parent of two children in Seattle Public Schools and a contributor to this blog. She participated in the Washington State BATS Toxic Testing Rally in Olympia on February 16th.  To follow is the speech she gave.

This is an example of what I like to call the Reality Gap. A punitive policy, based on impossible assumptions, written by people who aren’t educators.

I have a confession to make. I willingly send my children to failing schools.

It’s true. I have the letters to prove it.

According to No Child Left Behind by 2014 — last year — EVERY student in EVERY school would pass EVERY state test in reading and math. But that didn’t happen. And we knew it wouldn’t happen.

This is an example of what I like to call the Reality Gap. A punitive policy, based on impossible assumptions, written by people who aren’t educators.

On paper, based on standardized test scores, my kids’ schools are failures. But if you spent a day inside either school, you would know these labels are a lie.

For instance, my youngest attends our neighborhood school. Anyone who walks through the front door of her school is made to feel welcome and treated with respect. No matter what.

The teachers and staff live and model the school rules. The rules are simple, but powerful. They are: take care of yourself, take care of each other, and take care of our school. Over the years, these rules have created a loving and caring school community.

For instance, every Friday, 5th graders and parents pack bags of food, so 87 kids won’t be hungry over the weekend.

The school community raised money to provide turkey dinners for families in need.

Before winter break, the same school community collected 800 pounds of food and bought toys for 40 students — because it’s important to our school that every child has something to enjoy during the winter holiday.

Sadly, labeling isn’t just for schools. More and more, our society has decided ranking and sorting is OK for students too. The thinking seems to be that labeling kids failures will toughen them up. Give children the opportunity to develop some grit.

Well, let me share with you what developing grit looks and feels like.

It means walking a first grader back to the computer lab to retake the test. Granted, he has already taken the test once, but his scores were considered not valid. Why? Because he took less than 15 minutes to complete it.

All the way down the hall and up the stairs, the boy is crying and begging you not to take him to the computer lab. He is frantically negotiating with you, tears streaming down his face.


It means sitting with a second grader, who has to miss recess to complete his math worksheet. Why? Because the test is tomorrow and he has to be prepared.

Never mind the fact that the only reason this child comes to school is to play basketball during recess.

So, you do your best and plead with him to just get the last few problems done. You try reason: let’s work together and if we hurry, maybe you can squeeze in a few minutes of recess.

But it’s too late. He has already checked out. Sure, he can’t leave physically, but he refuses to make eye contact with you or to look at his math sheet. He also refuses to pick up his pencil, or acknowledge your existence.

For the rest of the year, he constantly “forgets” to bring his glasses to school.

I’m ashamed to say both of these examples are true. I could have done better, but chose not to.

After the second instance, I had the uncomfortable realization that I was OK with being part of the Empire. I may have identified with the Rebel Alliance as a kid, but as an adult I acted like a storm trooper.

That’s when I decided I would rather feel the pain of standing up to the testing madness than live with any more regrets.

I invite you to do the same.

Opt your kids out of the state tests. All of them.

You will be pressured not to. Do it anyway.

Refusing the tests means we no longer accept destructive labels – for our schools or our children.

But what about accountability?

As a parent and voter, I’m all for accountability.

That’s why I’m appalled lawmakers would consider judging teachers based on test scores — during the same legislative session where they’re supposed to do right by McCleary.

I’m furious lawmakers think smaller class size is a luxury and are considering – with a straight face – the idea of suspending I-1351.

What, exactly, do our representatives here in Olympia, think fully funded public schools look like?

If lawmakers want better schools, they should pay for them.

It’s really that simple.

Carolyn Leith