Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] testing and sudbury valley

From: Woty <>
Date: Fri Mar 18 18:17:00 2005

One problem with forming a school in a state which requires
standardized testing testing is that the laws also tend to require
releasing test scores to parents. This is not a trivial act for a
school which is opposed on principle to institutionally sharing
information regarding academic progress with parents.

I think that the disclosure issue might be a bigger problem than
requiring students to take the tests. If the tests could be
administered in such a way that no one in the culture took them at all
seriously, it might not matter much. But any school will have some
number of parents who are ambivalent at best about the information
sharing policies, and tests could easily become important to such
parents in ways that undermine an autonomy-promoting culture. It seems
to me that getting parents on board can only be made more difficult if
the school has to inform them that their children have failed a certain
grade and much be held back by law -- even if such statements are
accompanied by explanations of why the school does not consider this

All this might be moot if a school is used only by families composed
entirely of people who wholeheartedly support the philosophy, but in
practice that is not the case anywhere, and in light of that things
have to be done to protect good cultures.


On Mar 18, 2005, at 14:05, Barbara Walker wrote:

> 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
> law.
> 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
> rules.
> *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
> time.
> Barbara
> "You can't have freedom without... whatchamacallit."
> -Ben, age 10
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Received on Fri Mar 18 2005 - 18:16:30 EST

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