Monday, May 09, 2005

California: Allendale Parents Boycott State Testing

by Ken Epstein
May 4, 2005

A parent group is boycotting standardized testing at Allendale Elementary School in East Oakland to protest the involuntary transfer of seven teachers and demand the reinstatement of the After School Coordinator, who was fired for his alleged role in an earlier protest.

“…the Oakland school’s district’s community relations have totally broken down,” said Alisia Williams, spokesperson for the Allendale’s new parent organization, Allendale Fighting Back.

“We are…turning in waivers from parents opting out of the standardized testing program in order to protest
the transfers and the firing,” she said.

The Coordinator, Henry Hitz, had been in charge of Allendale’s after-school tutorial program, which operated on a contract with the ARC, a non-profit in Oakland. He is also the coordinator of a citywide parent advocacy organization, Oakland Parents Together (OPT).

Hitz was fired immediately after a one-day boycott of classes on April 8, to support the demand to retain the teachers who the district is involuntarily transferring to other sites at the end of the school year. About 85 percent of the school’s 450 students
stayed home on the day of the boycott.

In addition to opposing the involuntary transfers, the boycott focuses on what parents perceive as the misuse
of the standardized test results and the basic inequities of the testing itself. This year’s testing started at Allendale on May 3.

“We are asking parents to boycott the test to protest the fact that the school is being punished for low
test scores, but the tests are given only in English,” Williams said.

“Fifty percent of our students come from Spanish speaking homes ú they speak two languages, but neither
the students nor the school get any credit for those skills,” she continued. “Too many bad decisions, like
the transfer of good teachers are being made solely on the basic of these tests.”

According to parent estimates, parents of more than 50 students have signed waivers saying they don’t want
their children taking the test.

Maria Rendon, a parent of first and second graders at Allendale, emphasized that the test has a negative
impact on children’s self esteem.

“Many kids, second and third graders do cry in the classroom, she said. “Some are anxious in the morning
before going to school; or they don’t want to do school, or sometimes they can’t sleep the night before.”

Summing up parent concerns, Rendon said, “Some don’t like the test, and others are angry because the school
is not taking parents into consideration.”

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