[Discuss-sudbury-model] testing and sudbury valley

From: Barbara Walker <brainfest_at_yahoo.com>
Date: Fri Mar 18 14:06:00 2005

In West Virginia, the only requirement for private
schools and home schools to be legal is a minimum
average score (I think 50% norm) on annual
standardized testing of all children. That's one
number, an average of the scores for all the students.
 For home schools, portfolio assessment by any
certified teacher is an allowable alternative. There
may be a way for a private school to use the portfolio
assessment alternative. Of course, one could argue,
this also interferes with freedom.

One option would be to discuss in a school meeting the
legal obligations of of the school, whether the school
members want the school to be legal, or pursue change
in the law, perhaps to eventually participate in an
act of civil disobedience. The school does not exist
in a vacuum. We live in this state, and we have these
laws. Part of democracy is to follow even the laws
one disagrees with, even while working to change them.
 The members of the school might decide to take the
test, rather than take on the huge task of changing
the law. I dare say the work and risk of changing the
law takes a lot more time and energy than sitting down
and filling in circles for two days.

The school could have this discussion annually. At
some point, it might be time to fight the fight.

I think free children could come up with lots of
interesting ways to fulfill the letter of the law,
without allowing it to interfere with their overall
sense of freedom and responsibility. I know a lot of
homeschooled children who see the two days of testing
as a big game, and don't care at all about their
scores. And it is just not that hard to meet the
requirements of the law. In fact, some students could
probably refuse to take the test on the grounds that
it interferes with their own beliefs, and the school
as a whole could still meet the requirements of the

I'm not sure about the automatic holding back part,
but since there are no grades, one could on paper,
hold the child back and then the next year, have them
skip a grade. Or have them graduate a year "early"
because they have met the requirements. One thing
children can learn living outside the box of the State
education system is learning how to not allow the
State's labels be their own labels.

The portfolio option is also quite doable, and for
many children enjoyable. All that is involved, on the
simplest level, is saving examples of the student's
work (even if everyone else in the world calls it
play) and showing the certified teacher (it's
generally not hard to find one who has SVS
sensibilities) that the student has learned and grown
over the year. Since healthy free children can't help
but grow and learn, this is not that hard to show. :)
 When I did it with my unschooled children, I kept
short notes to show the wide range of discussion
topics we covered, as my son learned mostly by reading
and talking with whoever would listen. You could say
that having to keep these notes is interference, but
it wasn't enough interference for me to feel the need
to spend a lot of time and energy hiring a lawyer and
going after the law, with one possible outcome being
worse laws.

There is also a third option for homeschools, which is
"an alternative method agreed upon between the parents
and the superintendent." I learned in college that
the rules always had exceptions, and the way to go
about breaking a rule is to ask up the hierarchy for
permission to meet the spirit of the rule in some
other way. If you can convince someone with authority
to sign a paper saying you meet the requirements of
the law in *this* way, you have no worries.

Having worked in a bureaucracy, I can tell you that
CYA is the name of the game. In a way, there isn't
really anyone in power who honestly cares
about the overall health of the students; they believe
that the rules were made to insure that, and their job
is to care about whether the rules are being followed.
 This is a grossly oversimplified statement, as I'm
sure there are people who care. Those are the ones
you can find to help you make the exceptions to the

*Unless* you have the people power to go after a real
change in the laws. But that has to be done with what
I call a hundred year attitude. Whenever I am asking
the State to make a change in the law that requires a
paradigm shift, I recall that it took a hundred years
of the Women's Suffrage Act being introduced to the US
congress before women were finally allowed to vote.
It is going to take a long time to convince lawmakers
that standardized testing as a method of assessing
children, rather than a way to hold schools
accountable, is wrong. Even as a way to hold schools
accountable, it is a poor method.

By the way, I'm new here. I live in Morgantown, West
Virginia, and have had an SVS dream for a long, long


"You can't have freedom without... whatchamacallit."
-Ben, age 10

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Received on Fri Mar 18 2005 - 14:05:10 EST

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