Why We Opt-Out: CT Black & Latino Parents Discuss SBAC

A room full of parents, students, educators, and community members listened to a panel at Trinity College discuss problems with SBAC and test prep in urban public schools.

April 07, 2016

Although much of the media coverage surrounding parents opting their children out of state tests has focused on white, suburban parents, these families are not alone in taking a stand against tests they see as having no value for their children or schools.

At a panel discussion last week at Trinity College, Black and Latino parents shared their own stories of opting their children out of SBAC and talked about the lost instructional time and excessive test prep students and schools are facing.

New Britain parent and Manchester teacher Violet Jiménez Sims said that, since SBAC has been introduced, students at her daughters' school are getting shorter lunch periods and less recess time—and subjects other than English and math are getting squeezed out.

"The time my daughter's teacher has to teach science and social studies was greatly reduced," Sims said.

New Britain parent and Manchester educator Violet Jiménez Sims talked about the effect of SBAC on students and teachers at her daughters' school.

After seeing learning time lost to SBAC and test scores unable to inform instruction for teachers, Sims decided to opt her daughters out of the test. Sims said that, instead of taking the SBAC, her daughters worked on independent projects. "My youngest daughter, who wasn't getting any science in the classroom, was dying to do some science."

Hartford mother Shonta' Browdy said students and teachers at her daughter's school experienced a lot of stress because of SBAC, and teachers had to cut out projects they'd done in previous years.

As a substitute teacher, Browdy's concerns about SBAC mounted after administering the test.

"What I've seen is students just pressing anything to get through the test," Browdy said. "At schools in Hartford where I've worked it's not a true measurement. If students are done with the test, they can go onto a fun educational site, so they try to get done quickly. As a test administrator I can't do or say anything. I can't tell them not to do that."

Panel moderator and Director of Urban Educational Initiatives at Trinity College Robert Cotto, with panelists Hartford parent Leticia Cotto, Hartford parent Shonta' Browdy, Trinity student Sean Jaquez, New Britain parent Violet Jiménez Sims, and Trinity Director of Admissions Anthony Berry.

Leticia Cotto, a Hartford parent, found the overemphasis on test prep that urban students were subjected to concerning.

"I saw brainwashing happening with my daughter and other students," Cotto said. "They were doing test prep all day long. You don't find that intensive test prep when you look at private schools and suburban schools. That is not a quality education when you talk about civil rights for children in urban neighborhoods."

Many politicians at the state and national level have called education "the civil rights issue of our time," but the parents on the panel didn't consider such rhetoric to be sincere.

"That argument is so bogus on so many levels," Sims said. "In terms of equity—when you look at what is happening in our urban districts, we're getting an extremely narrow curriculum because of the pressure on teachers to focus on tested subjects."

Sims added, "Gates' and Obama's kids don't take these tests. It's not equity if you wouldn't put your own kids through it—that's hypocrisy."

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