There are many things about this test that just aren't right: challenging students with texts they can't read, and then saying we're evaluating kids' ability to comprehend, asking 8-year-olds to compose sophisticated essays about texts after having chosen the seemingly most correct responses which have multiple correct answers, judging children (who are all someone's babies), teachers and principals (who are working harder than they probably ever have in their entire careers), schools and districts (once proud communities of traditions in learning), and our entire field (which used to be held in high esteem, and still is in most societies around the world). In no way am I saying that this test is the answer that has been missing in our schools.
However, I'd like to make the case for opting in.
When we opt our kids out of this test, we're sending the wrong person the wrong message. If we're trying to make a positive improvement in this whole system, our message stops at the school and district. We have to send our legislators the message that this is not what our schools need. For every letter a US Senator receives, it counts as 60 letters, because for every person who takes the time to write a letter, legislators know that there are about 60 others who feel the same way, but don't take the time to write. It only takes about 60 real letters to get the attention of a Senator around an issue. Just imagine what we could all do if we sat down to write a letter.
When we opt our kids out of this test, we're teaching them a lesson we might not want to teach them. We're saying that when something in life is tough, Mommy or Daddy will write a note and fix it. It's another time we're teaching kids to not rise to challenges, to change their surroundings instead of teaching them to grow into them and conquer difficulties. What we need to say to them instead is that we believe in them and their teachers, and that this test is just a snapshot of a very thorough student life. They will do their best, and we will be proud of them for doing so.
For those of us in the trenches of the American classroom, we also need to opt in. We opt in by doing our best to teach the work of Common Core. We opt in every time we make a child excited to read a book, tell them that yes, they do have a story inside them that the world is waiting for, and that they can solve many problems in math, science, or social studies with their ideas. We opt in when we take on the attitude that we can show those on the outside that we are teachers who change lives, despite the constantly changing landscape that seems to be more and more difficult each year.
Let's all opt in! Opting in means going all in, putting all our chips on the table, teaching with our hearts, caring for every student's success. It means rising to the challenge that this test offers us, as other challenges have in the past. It means teaching kids despite these expectations that seem unrealistic. This is what teachers are made of: the ability to teach kids despite difficult odds, believing in the learning process, in ourselves, and in children. It's the only thing that will work when teaching kids today.
It's the only thing that ever really has!!