Risking her job and life passion, a kindergarten teacher in Florida is taking a stand against the high-stakes takeover of the public school system by refusing to administer the state-mandated standardized test to her young students.
In a letter posted to her personal Facebook page this weekend and later re-posted on the blog Opt Out Orlando, 59-year-old Susan Bowles of Gainesville, Florida explained how the FAIR assessment—which this year was revamped to be a computer-based test—is difficult to administer, unfairly tests the young students' computer abilities, and ultimately consumes hours and hours of critical classroom time.
This assessment is given one-on-one. It is recommended that both teacher and child wear headphones during this test. Someone has forgotten there are other five year olds in our care. There is no provision from the state for money for additional staff to help with the other children in the classroom while this testing is going on. A certified teacher has to give the test. If you estimate that it takes approximately 45 minutes per child to give this test and we have 18 students, the time it takes to give this test is 13 ½ instructional hours. If you look at the schedule, a rough estimate would be that it requires about one full week of instructional time to test all of the children.
Our Kindergarten teachers have been brainstorming ways to test and still instruct. The best option we have come up with is for teachers to pair up, with one teacher instructing two classes while the other teacher tests one-on-one. So now we are looking at approximately TWO WEEKS of true INSTRUCTIONAL TIME LOST. We will not be putting them in front of a movie or having extended playtime, but the reality is that with 35 students, instruction is not the same. FAIR TESTING IS DONE THREE TIMES A YEAR!
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Encouraging others who are equally frustrated with the increasing number of standardized tests to contact Republican Governor Rick Scott and voice their complaint, Bowles adds, "This is not an education problem. This is a state government problem."
Though some Alachua School Board members have expressed support for Bowles' action, district spokeswoman Jackie Johnson told the Gainesville Sun that, "Until Florida law changes, we’re under legal obligation to administer (these tests).”
Bowles says she is likely in breach of her contract by not administering the test and is "heartsick over the possibility of losing my job." However, Bowles she "cannot in good conscience" submit to losing up to six weeks of instruction. She concludes by citing as motivation a similar protest made by a friend and fellow educator "who quit teaching because she could no longer participate in cheating children out of fun, creativity and enriching learning — in the name of education."
Bowles later told the Sun that her protest is "not about one kindergarten teacher in Florida. It’s about teachers all across the country who are fed up with testing and who can’t teach their students.”