I, ____________, am stating that my child, ___________ , will not be taking the state test because doing so would violate my religious beliefs. I request that my child instead to pursue alternative educational activities, such as a project or helping out in the classrooms of younger students.
The Kentucky Religious Freedom Act, passed in 2013, states: “Government shall not shall not substantially burden a person’s freedom of religion.” As a person of faith, I cannot in good conscience support high-stakes tests.
All religious traditions hold with the inherent worth and dignity of all persons. That means that students should be able to enjoy the same high-quality education, regardless of race or economic background. Testing creates chasms between “have” schools — where high test scores means students get to enjoy recess, music, art and perhaps a World language — and “have-not” schools, where students are subjected to endless test-prep and teaching to the tests instead of a well-rounded education.
Most religious traditions also support justice and equality. Testing advocates — and the billionaire testing multinationals that support them — claim that testing holds teachers, schools and districts “accountability” and that high-stakes tests will somehow improve outcomes and bring about equity. After three decades of high-stakes testing, we can find no instance where that has been true. Districts and schools have improved when there has been greater funding and an emphasis on putting children — not testing corporations — first. In fact, testing has made education worse. In some cases, the relentless struggle for better test scores means imposing double “reading” periods to reluctant readers are subjected to double drill-and-kill sessions, completely killing any chance that we could ever inspire a love of books. I would not want that for my children; thanks to the Golden Rule, I don’t want soul crushing for anyone else’s children. My religion forbids me from contributing to injustice and an expansion of inequality.
Lastly, testing traumas fall disproportionately on children of color and poor children. Year in and year out, the schools deemed “failing” are schools with majority populations of black, brown or poor kids. The structures imposed on “failing” schools are so onerous that the faculty flee to schools that let them teach. So these children who are recognized to need the most will get a constant churn of new teachers, loss of innovative programs or elective courses that might take away from constant test prep, and a concentration on the lower-level thinking skills that appear on high-stakes tests — and only reading and math. Writing, one of the most important of skills to nurture? Nah, not a multiple-choice test. Social studies? Science? And — God forbid — foreign languages, physical education, art, music or dance? Not tested, so forget about it.
As the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King pointed out, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Neither I nor my child will be participating in the injustices promoted by the high-stakes state tests.
As a reminder, the Kentucky Religious Freedom Act specifies that “A ‘burden’ shall include indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.” Needless to say, I expect that my child will not be punished in any way for exercising (his/her) religion.