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Boycotts



Somebody wanted to talk about boycotts, so I suggest we talk about how to do
them, what the risks are, who has done them, and how they worked out.

I'll start with a story in Mass. Please - others - lend your practical
information, advice and experience.

For the first 3 years that the MCAS was given, somebody has boycotted the
MCAS. The numbers of parents (but mostly students) has grown since then.
In Cambridge last year, 50 kids boycotted at hte high school; Brookline -
some 21 I think; and handfuls in a couple of other districts, and isolated
brave souls in a few other schools. Meanwhile, some parents of young
students kept their kids out of the 4th and 8th grade tests, while
presumably, parents supported their kids boycotting the 10th grade test as
well (that's what I heard overwhelmingly when kids talked about it - they
had gotten permission from their parents first). Two teachers at different
schools refused to administer the tests in their subject: one was suspended
for 13 days as a result.

This created quite the stir, to say the least, on many levels: the press,
the schools, the community of the schools, among different groups of
students and parents.

There was some very fine negotiation that occurred for parents and students:
to talk to their principals and teachers; to minimize conflict with parents
not wanting to boycott or against it altogether or for the MCAS; to stand up
to superintendents that decided that boycotters would be suspended and stick
to the boycott and the students and deal with the press etc.

It was difficult. A lot of work. A lot of communication. And I didn't
even participate (at least directly).

In some instances, supers and principals simply asked the boycotters to sit
and do other work in the school and not disturb the test takes. Others
required other additional projects be given to the students. Others asked
them to be suspended.

In Cambridge, and some other schools, students and parents got together and
decided they would organize a show case of alternative exams - to highlight
how they work, how you can show student understanding, how they are used in
the classroom, etc. This also took a lot of time and energy - but was very
useful and productive to many.

It did create a tense political situation for higher ups in local community
school systems: and that in many ways was a plus. People had to make
choices about what they would say, do, act etc.. Which can be an asset to
organizing, or can backfire horribly, and did for few kids. (One of the
first kids to speak against the test and boycott was picked up by the police
on charges of a bomb threat to the school - and his parents paid dearly to
get the charges dropped (which they were later - dismissed completely).

This year we expect many more will boycott. The stakes will rise for 10th
graders who must pass the MCAS English and math to get a diploma.

I'll stop there - any questions I'd be happy to answer - or - you can talk
to folks who did it directly.

In conclusion - it is powerful - and it involves risk - at least here in MA
where opting out is not "legal" per se - or rather - each superintendent or
principal can make the rules for what to do about those who don't take the
test.

Karen H.


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EMAIL;PREF;INTERNET:khartkeft@fairtest.org
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