Why I opted out of the PSSA circus

Wasserman high-stakes-testing
Credit: Boston Globe

On  December 13, 2012, the School District of Philadelphia recommended 37 schools for closure. There were impassioned pleas and hard-worked proposals. There were well-written reports of community input. There was anger. There were tears. There were rallies, chants and marches. There was organization, mobilization and  solidarity. And then the School Reform Commission voted to close 23 schools.  They voted against our children. Against their safety. Against their education. Against their future. So what do we do now as parents and a concerned community? How do we impact this bureaucracy that is called the School District of Philadelphia? How do we impede this assault on our children’s future?

We rebel. We no longer accept what is handed to us. We “do not go gentle into that  good night”.1 We fight “against the dying of the light”.1 Our children need us to continue to stand and fight for them. We need to protect them because the School Reform Commission has chosen to abandon them. We need to pick up all our marbles and refuse to play if we can’t play together.  But, how do we?

We  opt out of the PSSA.

I  have chosen to exercise my option to have my daughter excused from the state’s  two-week long, one-size-fits-all assessment of her ability. According to Pennsylvania code, parents have the right to opt out of state standardized  tests. Most of us do not know this since the explanation about the PSSAs and our rights under it is not distributed to parents. The school district, however, must honor the request of parents who wish to opt out according to religious reasons. I am not alone. Across the country, an increasing number of parents have joined a national opt out movement. Seattle, Pittsburgh, New York City. Parents are standing against the corrupting and corrupted role testing has become in our children’s lives and in our schools.

There  are many reasons why I chose to opt out – the first of which starts with what’s best for my daughter and her education. I have chosen to allow her work from the start of the year until this point define her ability. I believe in quality assessments that help understand children’s needs and improve instruction designed for them. I believe in assessments that help parents gain greater insight into a school’s quality and its approach towards education. But the PSSAs, especially now, are none of these. The PSSAs are not a tool to measure intelligence. It doesn’t measure creativity. It does not measure a child’s value as a person. My daughter’s education will not improve as a result of what happens on this test. In fact, depending on how she does, my child will most  likely receive an even more standardized and reduced level of education.

As  a parent, I cannot support the ridiculous stress our children feel about the all or nothing nature of this test. The PSSAs will consume hours of time that would be better spent on, frankly, anything else.

And finally, as someone who bore witness to the terrible injustice of last month’s school closings vote, I choose civil disobedience today. I choose to change my child’s future and to take my child’s education back from those who show so little regard for education today. I choose to disrupt the monied forces behind the tests – the test makers, test preppers, and test assessors – who make billions labeling and sorting our schools as “failures.”

I  choose to deny this Governor the fruit of his efforts to starve our schools and our children of a vital education. This administration has starved our schools then they use the tests to take away our crumbs. No thank you.

I choose not to participate in the circus that is the PSSA.

It  is my legal right and it is your right as a parent. I choose to be heard. It  is our time to stand and be counted. We have been deprived of our rights for far too long. Let’s join this national movement on behalf of our children.

“Dear Principal: Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22, Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(5) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child excused from state standardized testing because of religious and philosophical beliefs.”

It’s time to exercise our parental rights.

1Dylan  Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” from The Poems of Dylan Thomas. Copyright 1939, 1946 by New Directions Publishing  Corporation.

Tomika Anglin is a parent at Greenfield Elementary School and is a member of the Parents United Leadership Collective.

Today’s must watch video: Chicago Teacher Union’s Karen Lewis on corporate ed reform

What is behind the attacks on public education and what do they mean for us as parents? Watch Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union break down the corporate ed reform movement and how teachers and parents need to build alliances to fight back and save our schools. Lewis spoke on Saturday to the New York Collective of Radical Educators as their keynote speaker.

“I do this work because I love teaching and learning. I am passionate about teaching and learning. And what’s happening in public schools [today] is neither teaching nor learning.” ~Karen Lewis

Public ed heroes of the day: Unsung heroes against mass school closings

Photos via philly.com, Joseph Dworetzky, Research for Action, Media Mobilizing Project
Photos via philly.com, Joseph Dworetzky, Research for Action, Media Mobilizing Project

History is not made only by those with titles and power. It is defined and understood through the heroic actions of many. During the school closings process, PCAPS, the Notebook, and parents at schools like Taylor and McCloskey who successfully staved off their proposed closings, rallied to the cause with plenty of action. Here are a few other public ed heroes we wanted to celebrate:Continue reading “Public ed heroes of the day: Unsung heroes against mass school closings”

Where do we go from here?

Hundreds of Philadelphians gathered on March 7th to oppose school closings. (Photo by Bill Hangley. Used with permission)

10septAfter last week’s vote in the School Reform Commission, which closed down 23 schools in Philadelphia creating education deserts in communities already suffering from public disinvestment, I went home, turned out the lights and buried my head under the covers. The past week has felt like a collective sense of mourning for our schools and a sobering realization of the scale of struggle Philadelphians face as we fight for public schools and for our communities.

Public education under attack is nothing new in Philadelphia. But the crisis this time around is far greater than even the 2001-2002 state takeover of the Philadelphia public schools, which mobilized thousands of people to take collective action. Back then, the state’s attempt to privatize the public schools was clearly defined as Harrisburg vs. Philadelphia, right-wing Republican privatizers vs. a moder politically moderate public, the for-profit Edison Schools Inc. vs. the public interest.Continue reading “Where do we go from here?”

“Caring for Public Schools, Caring for Democracy”


Against a backdrop of unprecedented school closings and public ed disinvestment in Philadelphia, journalist and author Barbara Miner will be in town Thursday to share wisdom and hope for our schools’ future from her new book “Lessons from the Heartland: A turbulent half century of public education in an iconic American city.” The event and book signing is hosted by the Media Mobilizing Project, Parents United for Public Education, TAG-Philly, and the Philadelphia Student Union.Continue reading ““Caring for Public Schools, Caring for Democracy””