Mommy, My Stomach Hurts, or, El Paso ISD Was Right

The El Paso Independent School District cheating scandal – in which the superintendent and others encouraged low-performing students not to attend school on state exam days – isn’t the first such scandal. It probably isn’t even the largest. For years, my mother, a schoolteacher, has heard rumors of similar staff-student/parent conversations at Austin-area schools. It’s going on in thousands of schools across the country. But this scandal is big, it’s in Texas and we know about it.

The scandal in El Paso is the result of decades of failed policies enacted by President Bush and continued by President Obama. Sadly, we’re not seeing the scandal that is the effects on Texas children of this continued high-stakes testing culture.

As horrible as the scandal may sound, is it possible to view these actions of the superintendent and others as civil disobedience rather than criminal or unethical? Why should students have to suffer from sanctions imposed by failed policies? Why should their schools and hard-working teachers have to suffer from these policies? El Paso ISD – right or wrong – illuminates the single most effective way to stop and change the high-stakes testing regime. Granted, it is illegal for school district employees to encourage students to “skip” these high-stakes tests. To effectively undermine the policy more than it has already undermined itself, parents must adopt El Paso’s practice.

Parents should keep their kids home on state exam days. Maybe high-stakes testing can be a new bonding opportunity for parents and kids – because the kids will be at home with their family.

Parents should join El Paso’s “protest,” if you will. They should protest the impossible standards placed on schools by No Child Left Behind and other state and federal mandates. Teachers – and their despised unions – can’t do this alone. Parents must step up.

Legislators must see the failures of our current test-focused education system. If not, they must be unwilling to expend the intellectual power and political capital to correct it. They will be forced to seriously reconsider NCLB and similar policies if they throw a high-stakes testing day (or week) and No Child Shows Up.

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