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Why I Didn't Graduate


John Wood was ranked sixth in his class at Federal Hocking High School in Stewart, Ohio, but did not graduate. He did not drop out and he was not expelled. Because he refused to take the state's standardized tests, which, he writes in this Education Week Commentary, are biased and irrelevant, he was refused a diploma.

What are a students' rights when refusing to participate in state-mandated standardized tests? Should Wood have been refused graduation?


Any high school student who can argue like John Wood and back up his argument with the kind of evidence provided not only should get a diploma, but an award from his high school.

I would love to have a student of his caliber at my university.

Public schools are provided for students by taxpayers. School administrators clearly established the rules in this situation. The student arrogantly, irresponsibly and randomly broke a rule (based on his personal, immature evaluation of the value of standardized tests).

Such behavior does not work in families; it does not work in school; it does not work in society. At some point, this child (I cannot say man, for he has shown he hasn't yet gotten there) will learn that those who have devoted their lives to a profession know far more than he does.

I'm against standardized tests determining our children's future. Tests have their place, but these types of testing has gone above and beyond their rightful usefulness.However, even though I disagree with all the testing they are required. Therefore, I think the student should have swallowed his pride and taken the test. There are alot of students I'm sure who did not want to take the test either, yet they followed the requirements and took the test so they could graduate. Taking the test would not have hurt that student. The students I can see the test hurting or those with special needs and yet they are required to take the test and pass it. Now there is an injustice for you and violation of rights. This student is very smart and very capable of passing the test and therefore should have taken with his peers if he wanted to graduate.

As a teacher I am required to take a test to continue teaching in my field, if I disagree and don't take the test, then I don't continue to teach in my present field. I have to change fields. It is that way in many jobs, tests are required for lawyers, they have to pass the bar. The student needs to know that testing is apart of our academic society.

I applaud Mr. Woods stand against the standardized tests! How wonderful to have a student who backs up his mouth with action instead of waiting for 'someone else' to fix it. Being a 'new' teacher I was told to stop teaching what is required, at the time mythology, and do nothing for the next 6 weeks but 'intensively' teach for the reading portion of my states tests. I was teaching what our district had determined was required for that grading period, my students were enjoying it and, I felt, getting a great deal out of it. But no, the word came down from above, EVERYONE must teach nothing but the TAKS test. We went from a class where the children were getting the required information, having fun, enjoying lively discussions and were interested in the subject to a one were the children were, as a group, bored to death and totally disinterested in anything that was going on. I have long felt these tests were a bad idea and definitely should have nothing to do with graduation.

This young man is courageous for speaking out for something important to him and standing by his convictions. He clearly understands the consequences for his actions - which potentitally harm only him. As he states, if more would stand with him, change might be affected. I applaud him for his ability to see a problem, and his attempt to address it and bring about positive change. Rules are important, tests are needed measures, but neither are effective if their effectiveness cannot be questioned and validated. While he may be deemed wrong by many, however, his leadership is what this country was founded on.

I also noticed that his father is the principal of his school. Could his knowledge of the system, the laws and the problems with both be because of this?

While I don't agree with standardized testing either, I also don't agree with his attitude. Every profession (not job, but professional career) requires a test of some kind. As Pamela indicated above, lawyers have to pass the bar; doctors and nurses have state boards to pass, as do many others in the medical field; teachers have a test to pass; accountants do as well. I could go on and on. Standardized testing is a part of life. Get used to it. You will not be able to practice in any professional field if you just boycott the test.

Keep writing to your legislators, get involved in academic reform in other ways as well. But in your own interest, take the test, graduate, go to college, get your degree, and THEN do something about the fallacies in the educational system. You will do more good for education this way and still be a success in life. Right now, people will just look at you and say, "You didn't even graduate high school? No, you can't have a job/go to college here."

This was a bold step for a student to take, but it does highlight one of the major unwanted consequences of NCLB. In the search for accountability, states and districts are holding teachers and students more accountable than the policymakers and curriculum setters.
Teachers and students have the least influence, the smallest voice in the setting of standards but are being held the most accountable in the high-stakes testing world that has emerged from NCLB.
Cheers to anyone with the courage to stand up to the state and the educational elitists that do not consider a student's grades sufficient to graduate. Exit exams are devaluing the diploma and if more students refuse to take them, they will eventually be taken out of our nation's schools. Next step, sue the state for a well deserved diploma. Testing camr out of legislation. Finally the lowest man on the totem ploe is fighting back.

What a bold move, more power to you! *** Sometimes it takes a radical move to wake up or alert administration officials to a problem area. I think that students are tested to death, Especialy those who have IEP's. There are certainly areas of the accademic system that should be reevaluated as to their necessity, accuracy, and stress aggitation to students (timed tests) and teachers alike (disruption of lesson plans and teaching to the tests).
I hope that we all take a moment to consider the positive direction that this could take to help us understand student and teacher issues. A little reformation doesn't hurt, it should help us think with a wider perspective.

Living in society has certain responsbilities: following the law is one of them. I do not 'pick and choose' which laws seem fair and follow only those. I obey all laws. Since the test is state-mandated, it is the same scenario. He made a choice not to follow the law, now he must suffer the consequences. This is a problem that many of us have seen: many children think there are no consequences for their actions. They must learn otherwise if our society is to survive.

I do not believe school districts are making exceptions to these new policies of graduating students. I do believe the student has a choice. He can take classes to receive his GED and just delay his future a few months.

While I think this boy's step was a bold one, I hope that it doesn't harm his future insofar as getting into a college or finding a job. Far too much emphasis is placed on these tests. They are but one indicator of a student's success. They are aimed at alleviating discrepancies in graduation rates among subgroups, but in order to do so without being obvious, they have devised a "one size fits all" method of "fixing" the problem. This boy may be the son of a principal, but he is representing the many students who are afraid of standing up to "laws" that are completely invasive and that cannot achieve what they supposedly intend to do. I have found that these tests continue to put content knowledge and abstract understanding at lower and lower grade levels and expect even the lower 25% of students to perform as if they have 130 IQs. The reality is that not every child is capable of accomplishing what these tests measure within a timeframe based upon their ages. All that NCLB has done is to make a few elitists think that they are accomplishing educational change. It is a politically motivated decision. Rather than address the reality that parents need to better prepare their children to enter school at age 5 or 6, NCLB puts all the responsibility on states, who pressure the local districts, who pressure the teachers, who pressure the kids. I have to wonder how many districts would opt out of these tests if they weren't participating in order to receive federal dollars. From where I sit, education hasn't improved, but these tests have fooled the lemmings into believing that it has.

Color me skeptical, but it appears to me that young John is a surrogate for his father. I could be wrong, but if I'm right, shame on Principal Wood. John is learning a valuable life lesson. The people who pay for his education make the rules. If one break the rules, one must accept the consequences. We live in a constitutional republic not a democracy. John should have learned this in 7th grade civics. There are ways to change a system which needs improvement. Ignoring the rules is not one of them.

I was heartened by John's comment that his teachers are in a position to assess when a student has achieved the competence and knowledge required to graduate. I agree. I left the classroom in the early nineties--just about when high stakes testing was arriving on the scene. Sadly, many of my teaching units and independent research projects, central to my passion for teaching biology, would find no room in the current curricula.
And regarding John's bold step: One of my all-time brightest high school students opted to forego his diploma over one P.E. requirement unfulfilled (against my advice!). He was too busy taking classes at the local college. Presently, he is a Post Doctoral fellow at the University of Edinburgh in mathematics. Life goes on.

It use to be against the law for certain people to sit wherever they pleased on a bus or to read or to own property, to vote. Some laws need to be challenged and changed - thus a democratic society. Notwithstanding, we must have them (laws) and the people must obey them to avoid anarchy. And as stated by others, testing is a necessary part of schooling. But is high stakes testing the "only" method? For as Mr. Wood accurately stated there has been no proven causal relationship between high stakes tests and college performance, critical thinking, and/or knowledge learned in the classroom - (the tests aren't designed to ascertain the latter). The fact that, for years, we(society) have been educating a certain way does not justify its continuance.
Mr. Wood took a stand (standing by one's convictions deserves respect)and should be supported if we agree with it.
What is most interesting, however is that despite Mr. Wood's lack of a HS diploma he did manage to get into college.

John's not hurting his chances for college by not graduating from high school. He can take the GED and get into college that way - and he most certainly knew this before he took his stand. His suggestion regarding the use of student portfolios to prove student readiness to graduate, if adopted by any state, would cause further harm to our already flawed public education system. Although testing has its drawbacks, it does provide a somewhat objective standard by which student ability is measured. In programs where portfolios are used, the students are judged according to their individual development; a particular student may show evidence of some development, but that doesn't mean he has reached the level of academic ability or thinking ability he needs to be a functioning member of society. He might be able to build a kayak, but that doesn't mean he can read and write. An objective, high educational standard must be established for all students, and student ability must be measured by that standard.

A diploma is a government document awarded to young people who follow the government's rules. If anyone prefers not to have one, that is their choice. I hope John learns how rules are made and how rules are changed, then works within the system.

As a veteran Vietnam war protester, I've been waiting for another generation to take on an issue and exercise its right for peaceful civil disobedience. Putting one's "neck" on the line for what one believes is the most American of endeavors. Maybe our students will succeed where their parents could not, saying "no" to a system that values a child's scores more than the child himself.

If John is 18 years of age, he is free to make decisions for himself regarding his education. In refusing to take a state standardized test required for graduation, John chose to take a stand, an act which is commendable. However, decisions have consequences. John knew his choice would result in his diploma being withheld. In our society, choices have consequences. Sometimes these consequences are unfavorable, regardless of how righteous the choice might have been. We deal with the consequences and sometimes figure out how to overcome them. In my opinion, peaceful protests are most effective. Whining and/or sueing the government or state or local school board is not the answer, and would make John's actions seem much less courageous to those of us who have had a worthwhile education and live accordingly.

As a teacher, I agree with John that student performance assessments are an excellent measure of individual student achievement, and depending on the assessment, are far superior to standardized testing in measuring a student's academic sucess and critical thinking skills. However, standardized tests do have their place in education. Are these tests infallible? Of course not. But the value of using standardized test data is indisputable. Our education system is pitiful compared to many countries with economic situations worse than our own. We do need to establish a system of accountability for teachers and students, holding them responsible for teaching and learning the state and/or national standards required. We cannot make excuses for students' shortcomings or teacher ineffectiveness anymore. Educational testing companies spend money and time correcting problems associated with standardized tests, and improvements are continually made. No one ever claimed to develop a perfect standardized test. But the tests exist and the fact is students everywhere are taking them.

I am not sure whether passing standardized tests should be required for graduation, but I do think the tests can be relevant and useful as a wide-scale measure of my effectiveness as a teacher and of how well my students are prepared for the next grade-level.

I am not familiar with Ohio's tests. I do know my third graders, who live in one of the lowest income neighborhoods in Phoenix, have the ability to pass the Arizona standardized tests if I prepare them for it. I also know the test covers the standards I am required to teach. The tests are difficult, and the reading can be tedious, boring, and irrelevant to my students, but my kids take the tests and if they have been prepared well-enough, they pass them. My students do not need 6 weeks of "test-prep" to accomplish this. They need me to find curriculum that teaches the state standards for third grade, and they need me to hold high expectations for their success. My students, in turn, need to work up to their potential. Usually, they exceed my expectations. Students who believe in their own capabilities achieve greatness, no matter what test or task they face.

Clearly, John has excelled academically and has also researched his state's education policies. However, in the eyes of many politicians and policy-makers, John is still a child, and will be treated as such until he secures his place in the adult world. He will find himself in a better position to affect change with a higher education. I did see that John was accepted into college; however, I believe he may find that even if he does succeed in college, he may one day come to regret not getting his high school diploma.

I appreciate John's willingness to peacefully protest his state's graduation requirements at his own expense, but he needs to realize this type of protest will take a long time and a great number of participants before any real changes can occur. As written in one of the above comments, there are more effective ways in which he can implement changes in education--namely, graduating high school, going to college, becoming a teacher, and experiencing first-hand the roles and responsibilities educators and administrators face. With this knowledge, one day John may be the education policy-maker who proposes a better wide-scale evaluation method for student achievement and teacher effectiveness. In the meantime, I encourage his peaceful protests and hope people are inspired by his spirit. His teachers and parents surely provided the proper tools for cultivating an intelligent and morally-grounded young man.

One does NOT have to have a high school diploma to be accepted by a university. Tests are only one aspect of the total application.

I agree that certain "rules" should be in place but standardized testing is simply a money making business. Congratulations to this young man for taking a stand. If more students, parents, and teachers would demand a voice in education, we would see a drastic improvement!

Here we have a classic example of beliefs, thoughts, feelings, etc., unsupported by empirical evidence. I would submit that a more basic question than whether or not the young person made the "right" decision is whether or not the educational system knows what to do with the answers. Is it a flawed system which cannot be expected to produce outcomes of quality? Is it a system with flaws that may be "tweaked" or adjusted so as to be able to produce desirable outcomes? Is it a system which the "operators" do not understand?

How many of the commentors consider themselves "above average"? They cannot all be "right". About one-half will be above, one-half below average. How many laws will be needed to get to the point where outcomes are seen as desirable rather than not, based upon the empirical evidence? Right now, the evidence is just not there. Does the testing, high-stakes or otherwise, produce a valid result? How many data points does that constitute? One.

Counting is an enumerative process, answering the questions how many or how much. It is descriptive of the frame constructed - a given number got this question right or wrong, a given number passed or failed, etc. This takes no genius, makes no assumptions about how many will do so in the future. If you don't like the outcome, counting will do little for you but make you feel better or worse depending on the count this time vs. last. If, however, you should wish to improve the process which produces the outcome, you must use empirical evidence, collected over time - an analytical study. You collect data, and this data has limitations, but you will be able to predict what will occur in the future based on the data you collected from the past- an invaluable asset.

The fact that the young person ranked 6th in his class is a function of ranking, a numerical process which is not predictive. A student answers a question posed by a teacher; if the student anwers differently, there is a penalty. If the student answers more slowly than another student, there is a penalty, and so it goes.

Of course he can obtain a GED. But it is a declaration that he is a defective, deficient in that he didn't "really" get a diploma. He's now branded for life, classified for the purposes of future employment - he'll be passed over by those whose thinking goes the way of enumeration. So, does the system, if it is a system, screen for speed, for learning, for grades, for test scores, for color of hair or skin, for good comments by teachers...ad infinitem? Are there no good reasons for being a dropout?

All administrators should not be allowed to touch the door of a school unless they are familiar with systems and system variation, which is what is usually discussed. If you don't understand what is before you, you may be inclined to make decisions which have undesirable outcomes for many. The problem is that you won't know the difference.

John Constantine
Cave Creek, AZ

J. F. Greene, Ed.D., in his response above, thinks that John Wood's view of the value of standardized tests is "personal" and "immature." Apparently Dr. Greene is not aware that a blue-ribbon panel of the National Academy of Sciences took the exact same view. In its 1999 report, "High Stakes," the Academy's National Research Council declared that high school graduation should never be determined by a student's ability to pass any one standardized test.

John Wood's principled stand is in stark contrast to the hypocrisy and ignorance that dominates education policymaking in this country.

In the words of Sweet Honey in the Rock: "It's good news when you take on the responsibility to shape your own way. But, it's hard times when you don't do it the way they say do it."
Aung San Suukyi, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jesus, Paolo Freire and many, many others (including John Wood) have had the courage, the heart, and brains to take a stand for what they believe is right and true. All such acts have reverberations; we'll just have to wait to see what these might be. John Wood thought, acted, and gave reasons for his thoughts--that is more than many can do. And, what's more, his action has stirred up debate and questioned the utility of standardized tests. Isn't debate and free thought a sign of an enlightened society?

I have much admiration for this young man. One comment referred to his opinion as "immature". But look at the research he's done about Ohio's education system. Can any of us, even those in the field of education, honestly say that we know more about Ohio's education system than this young man? Who are we to call him immature?

Secondly, he writes well. He has a point, but he backs it up with his analysis and facts. This is far better than the empty rhetoric and ideological stance often taken by politicians and education leaders alike.

Thirdly, I am sure that John understood the consequences of his action. A man who researches like he did does not do this rashly. Regardless of whether one agrees with his stance, his is the true example of a youth who can boldly claim, "Give me a place to stand and I can move the world!" (As Robert Kennedy once encouraged the youth of South Africa to fight against apartheid.)

But what truly wins my admirations (and causes me great embarassment, because I am a Ph.D doing educational research) is the fact that he acted, he spoke, he wrote, and he wasn't intimidated by the fact that he was "just" a kid, was "just" one voice, was "just" a high school student with no credentials. He is a child who has succeeded im school, who came from an educated family, who in all likelihood belongs to the "have" class of our society. But he is taking a stand not for his own benefit (rather to his own immediate detriment) but for all those who "have not". What courage and compassion!

I never thought I'd be outdone in my own field by a high school student. But I am glad I was. John, my uttermost respect to you and thank you for the inspiration.

What strikes me is that John Wood is raising a crucial question (or two) and trying to answer it. What do the tests measure? Is that what's most important? What don't they measure,and is that equally or more important? Who decides what's important, and what's the rationale?

It seems rather ironic that although the formal teaching of civics and philosophy (logic and ethics, especially)has almost disappeared in many places (well, there's no standardized test, so why teach it?), some students are learning both in such powerful and authentic ways. So something as decontextualized and inauthentic as a standardized test is moving some students to develop writing skills and civic responsibility, and causing them to contribute to society perhaps sooner than we'd hoped. We have to smile about that, even while we frown at its cause.

There are two separate issues at play here. The first is the requirement that the State and the local school district administer a standardized test to determine how well schools are doing their job. That is, are the students they serve learning what the school system purports to teach? The results of these assessments are seldom reported at the individual student level; rather, they provide a group report. Further, the results are not imperiled if a student or some students decline to take the assessment.

The second issue is the requirement that an individual student has to take AND complete required courses to earn the necessary credits for graduation. The latter issue is related to whether the student gets a diploma or not. The former has little, if any bearing on getting a HS diploma. Logical, reasoning, and caring minds would appear to be very absent in the administrators managing this particular high school.

I applaud John's actions and recognize them as responsible citizenship in a time when the laws of our nation need to be critically re-evaluated. Thank you John for responsibly taking this action so that the flaws of standardized testing can be seriously discussed in a public forum.

It saddens me to see the lack of well-reasoned arguments among critics of this young man's actions. I'll present a few logical fallacies here that have no place in an "educators" thinking life.

Ad hominum attacks, aka character assasinations: To simply label someone as arrogant, irresponsible and immature, is insufficient to make critical evaluation of another's action. His actions are clearly supported by himself and others who demonstrate much more balanced well-reasoned views. Please refrain from the use of this kind of attack. It does not add to the quality of discussion.

Argument from authority or age: In this logical fallacy, an attempt is made to argue a point simple because one is older. The truth is that age alone unfortunately neither confers skill nor wisdom. One can argue that John's actions were ill-advised both for himself personally and for the good of society. After demonstrating why this is so, you mighthave a case that he did act irresponsibly.

Argument from the majority view of society: Just because the majority of lemmings follow a leader out to drown in the sea, can one conclude that their actions are sound and that they are well-led? It is depressing to see so-called "educators" provide this common form of incorrect reasoning. It would have been better if the commentator had argued why this particular rule of society is necessary for the sound functioning of a democracy. Generalizing this action to include all actions of protests clearly does not meet any test of a sound democracy. This kind of argument simply ignores an historical fact, that there was a time when this country was under the rule of England and that some courageous patriots broke English law. They seem to argue that since testing is part of the social fabric then John must also comply. A false conclusion based upon an unsupportable premise.

Another rather strange argument that was presented here seems to conclude that since other students experience harm from the test, so everyone should experience harm. I strongly disagree. No one should be harmed. If a test is indeed harmful, then the test should be removed. Saying nothing and simply complying with an injustice makes one culpable as well. The idea of standing idly while others are harmed is a idea that has been discussed by religious and moral philosphers as well as litigated in war tribunals. Please think this through again.

I do not wish to start any acrimonious discussions here. I just want to point out the difference between sound reasoning and faulty reasoning, in the hopes that it will elevate the level of discussion in this forum.

Rock on, John. You shook up the system (a little)! You don't need their silly high school diploma to get into a good college anyway.

So what do you do next, go to Disney World? Now that you have people's attention, how about digging in and fighting for some real change, and continue working to fix the system to prevent the injustices that you see.

Sadly, the attitude of J. F. Greene is all too familiar in public education. The immature and arrogant child who dares to speak out is soundly criticized and put in his place by those professionals who know far more than he does.

Get that chip off your shoulder J. F. and allow our bright young people to call a spade a spade.

We all know that NCLB and standardized testing will destroy our public education if someody doesn't say ENOUGH.

I think he deserved graduation with honors. There are some students, and most know who they are, who do not score well on high-pressure tests. The longterm proof that he was an excellent, dedicated student, as evidenced by grades from multiple subjects (if he was 6th in his class) should stand as testimonial that he was more than qualified to graduate from high school. We should not test the "under stress
capabilities" of our students. Certainly we can devise a better way to guage the learned skills of students.

Thanks to "Greg/Teacher" for saying so well what I was thinking as I read the above comments.

Any student should be given the opportunity to 'opt out' of testing. The score was not going to be used for college admission, it was only going to be used for school data. Mr. Wood's was sixth in his graduating class, it is obvious that there is more than meets the eye in this article.

Most importantly, his father is the principal and needed to make an example out of his own son. His school and district will continue to test students and they do not want future seniors to follow in the young Mr. Woods's footsteps.

He states that the information that has been gathered has not been used to improve the school system in Ohio, this is something that I doubt that he is really privy.

In the end, his school has violated his rights and he should receive his diploma. As he will be attending college in the fall it does not seem that the diploma was really the issue.

I understand that this format of posting messages is a relaxed, informal one; however, after reading the first few comments, I am appalled at the grammatical/mechanical errors present. As educators, we should serve as examples at all times. How can we promote education yet write in substandard English?

It's about time that students have begun to take a stand against the ridiculous mandate for standardized testing. Standardized test do nothing to increase student achievement. They squelch creativity and force students to memorize rote facts and practice robotic skills. Parents and students need to fight back against the standardized test culture. Just because it is legal doesn't make it right. Slavery was legal and so was discrimination but neither of them were right. And change only came about from people standing up for what they believed in no matter what the cost. Thank you Mr. Wood.

I am concerned about the motivation of this young man. Without question, he owns the experience to pass the test, but with a future in science, he should be well aware that testing is a common practice to validate hypotheses about all students - not just elite students. Obviously, he would not have written a letter to the newspaper except to gain attention to himself (which he boasts his accomplishments) or to the upper-class social strata from which he originates. Maybe his true contribution to society and his community is to study social work to improve the time that economically-disadvantaged students spend away from school.

John Wood is obviously quite smart and has not disadvantaged himself in any way by taking this (very public) stance. However, one could argue that his plan of removing the exams and allowing all assessments to be individualized won't do much for those students who haven't mastered the basic skills of reading and writing, much less kayak-building. His definitions of bias and irrelevancy are quite odd, if not downright inaccurate, and this essay can be read as an argument against allowing parents to choose where their property tax money goes - and that's another whole can of worms.

There's nothing wrong with criticizing a test if one feels that the right efforts are not being made to bring all students up to speed. However, John provides no evidence of that here, and no evidence that his way of doing things would be any sort of improvement over standardized tests. Absolutely nothing in this article consists of substantive criticism against the tests; we merely have John's feeling that because everyone doesn't do well on them, the tests must somehow be "unfair."

This essay is thus nothing more than a complaint from someone who didn't need the test to learn the material, and who didn't gain additional benefits from the fact that Ohio can now use these tests to measure student progress and identify failing schools. Not every student is so lucky.

That was an interesting time to stand up for one's beliefs. On the cusp of completing a 12-13 year program of study and he threw away the goal, the 'coveted' High School diploma. Well that is his right. This being said I can see his point; ask any student of psychological assessment and they will tell you that no assessment is 100% reliable or without bias. This is why psychologists are given a 'degree of error' analysis in the manuals with the exams. HOWEVER, the states are required to prove that the student has met the minimum qualifications prior to graduation and if they use a statewide exam to demonstrate it then quit whinning. These students are each given several opportunities to meet the requirements (which are not exceedingly high to begin with) and there are alternative versions available (or will be) for those students who are not capable of meeting 'traditional' standards. Finally, YES there are too many interuptions in the school year to prepare for and to administer the tests but if everyone does their best along the way it is possible that the 'gods of testing' (in Texas that would be those who begat the TAKS and the SDAA)back-off at least a little. Enjoy your summer!

Thanks to Jim for bringing attention to the unfair and unconstitutional problem of under-funded schools in Ohio. The poor have enough problems to content with without literally being short-changed in school. I hope enough Ohioans are equally outraged and write to their congresspeople.

Thomas Jefferson: "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."

John took a stand for what he believes in, understanding that the negative consequences would fall upon him alone. The resulting debate about the issues he addressed is the next step of a democratic process. Questioning the man's integrity, intelligence, and right to act is neither germane nor supportable as a counterargument.

I am frankly saddened by the apparent lack of understanding by some commentors in regard to the concept of school systems, schools that excel, and schools that fail. In a closed system, the interdependent components will produce an outcome as a function of their interaction. Since they are ALL parts of the system, e.g. the schools within a school district, or all the schools within a state educational system, they CANNOT be compared individually, as without the presence of those deemed "below average", there would be none deemed "above average", since the average is the mean of all the component values. In the same manner, students should not be compared as if in a competition, teachers should not be compared as if vying for bonuses and awards, and schools should not be compared as if some are excelling while others are failing. There is a great need for an epiphany moment among those who make such decisions, for they are the ones making the laws and therefore setting the specifications for those who are expected to operate WITHIN THE SCHOOL SYSTEM. Human beings are not machine parts, with some to be classified as meeting specs while others are fit only for scrap.

As for the burden placed on schools and students by NCLB by virtue of reliance on ethereal, and unsupportable, standards of performance, the horse will not run any faster by hanging a feed bag in front of his nose. Sadly, those at the local level depend upon those in positions of authority to give them good, honest, accurate information. Much of it is simply garbage, plain and simple.

Those same persons in positions of authority will tend to make either one of two errors; either they will take no action when action is needed, or they will take action when none is needed, since they are looking at noise constantly and do not understand that the system will vary over time. Neither do they understand how to analyze what they are seeing. As I said earlier, they are simply counting.

If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there. That's not a healthy approach when you run a school system, or create legislation dealing with schools, and all the time people's lives are at stake.

I hope that there will be a talkback and/or research session dedicated to the impact of system variation on schools. And, I apologize for my long-windedness.

John Constantine
Cave Creek, AZ

John Wood's courage should be applauded. Others have expressed their fear that not having a high school diploma will dim John's future prospects. Nonsense! He is making decisions based on his values and convictions, not fears promoted by the education establishment. Mr. Wood can be considered a man; though he is chronologically young, his actions are well-considered and responsible. As long as he continues to make fearless decisions, he will never lack for opportunities to study, work, and contribute to the betterment of society. Bravo, John!

Commendable action!!!
But instead of focusing on John’s rights and his consequences, what was his message? Standardized Testing is bias, apparently quite so in Ohio. I have always disagreed with standardized testing due to the fact all individuals have certain learning styles and distinct ways of synthesizing content and knowledge. Comments from others disagreeing with John’s message don’t seem to be reading the new research that student assessment can come in many forms and has more impact. If teachers focus on teaching to the test, students are only memorizing information. i.e Rote Learning. Where does the critical thinking come into play? As educators is it not our main job to engage students in a variety of ways so they begin to think for themselves. Drill and Practice, in which is used for test teaching only bores students and eventually they forget the material. Standardized test do nothing but stress students and teachers and hamper a students intellectual growth. Democracy is based on individuals thinking for themselves and weighing the pros and cons through contemplation and action. If we continue with standardized test and teach to the test, we will end up with a generation of graduated stagnant students waiting to be told what to do. Is this what the above commentators want? A controllable body of people. If so – SAD, Very SAD.

Increased high school graduation standards.

By Lynn Olson

Florida went the other way. The FCAT is a 10th grade test. Students have 6 chanced to pass to receive a general diploma rather than a certificate of completion. If they fail they can still take the sat. With minimal results they receive a general diploma. I checked the total SAT score against every college in the US and found only three small colleges would accept them.

Many things about this issue make me sad... and no, it's not John Wood's brave stand against standardized testing. I am most saddened by the comments of fellow teachers on this subject that seemed to have caved in or given up. How can you commend the young man for taking a stand and then condemn him in your next breath for breaking the law? Just because something is "the law" does not make it totally right. There are a lot of things about standardized tests that need to be changed before they can be considered the "end all be all" in education; unfortunately, it looks like the proverbial cart will stay in front of the horse in this situation for a long time to come. Each year thousands of bright students from all over our country are labeled "unworthy" of a HS diploma because of ONE set of test scores, even though their academic records and achievements over time can prove that they are otherwise worthy. Basing 13 years of education on a 3-4 day standardized test that determines whether or not a student gets a HS diploma is just not right, especially when there are so many other factors involved in the process. Yes, there is the argument that professionals such as teachers must take tests to maintain their professional status...the key word here is "professional"...we should be held to a higher standard for our line of work than a young adult just trying to decide where his/her adult life is headed. (On a side note, just because a person can pass the NTE does not necessarily make them a teacher, let alone a good one, but I digress). Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, those with the most to gain or lose in this process -- the students and teachers -- are the ones with the least heard collective voice. John Wood is one person, and his position on standardized testing has made some commotion, as is obvious. More of us in the profession of education should stand beside him in total support. Maybe then those that make the big decisions will listen to us more closely.

Good for John. I commend him for speaking out and standing behind his words. Standardized tests are an inexpensive way of sorting and ranking. They are also a big money maker. Students whose families have money can pay for classes so their students can do well on college addmission tests. What about students that don't test well or the stress that these high stakes tests cause for some test takers? Research shows that stress can effect performance on tests. I invite our law makers to take these tests themselves. Maybe they should have to take a test every few years to keep their positions.

I have come to the conclusion that most of the comments come from people who read this piece with a predisposition that kept them from accurately assessing the merits of his arguments. Greg - you have seen fit to expose the logical fallacies that permeate some of the comments. If I may ask, why did you not see fit to use the same yardstick when it comes to young Mr. Wood?

He starts by arguing that the tests are biased, then acknowledges that they are likely not biased, and then claims they are because the state has not funded supplemental outside the classroom life experiences for low SES students. What? This one paragraph represents a virtual Shoney’s breakfast buffet of logical fallacies. Take your pick - Circular Reasoning, Questionable Cause, Appeal to Belief, etc. It is revealing that he chooses to describe socioeconomic differences as injustices, which betrays his own bias regarding this topic.

Mr. Wood then argues that the tests are irrelevant because the state has not studied any number of different outcomes. Did the state ever claim that proficiency tests would be predictors of incarceration rates or income levels? He expects the state to determine correlation relationships that the tests were not designed to establish. It is odd is that he makes this argument at the same time that Ohio is moving to a new series of graduation tests in an effort to make those tests more reflective of the body of knowledge needed by high school graduates. Since he did not take those tests, and there is no body of historical data with respect to the new tests (first administered Spring 2005), he is expecting readers to form opinions on an exam whose outcomes and value are not empirically known. He compounds his error by claiming that since his school, with help from CES, is conducting longitudinal tracking of his senior class (approximately 100 students), that certainly the state should be able to accomplish it for 100,000+ Ohio high school seniors. I think a kind characterization of this claim is that it represents a profound naiveté, given that large-scale longitudinal studies conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics generally involve less than 25,000 subjects.

If Mr. Wood is really interested in improving the assessment process in Ohio, he should submit a nomination to serve on the Parent/Business/Community Committee for Ohio Statewide Assessments (http://www.ode.state.oh.us/proficiency/PDF/ParBusComNomForm.pdf).

I do not have a high school diploma. I was accepted to MIT early admission, so I skipped my senior year and thus was short an English class, a social studies class and a gym class. I have a B.S. from MIT and an MA from NYU and I am a tenured instructor at a community college. I agree with those who say the tests are there for a reason, and that laws generally should be followed. However, I also feel that there are circumstances where rules should be broken.

I was miserable in high school because my talents were not ones that were in great demand, and the ones that were in demand were ones I didn't have. Leaving early, while it was, in a sense, breaking the rules, allowed me to get on with my life in a setting more conducive to my personal and academic growth. I have never once regretted not receiving a high school diploma.

John has made a decision, as I did, that some things in life are more important than that piece of paper. I think he will find that almost everything is. Rules aren't made to be broken; they are generally made to help most people. When they don't help some people, they should be bent or broken. The rule should not be the highest good; the good outcome should be.

To John Constantine
Let's get real here. You refer to empirical evidence and validity. The SAT has been proven "invalid" for years. Aside from the fact that it is "re-normed" periodically, it simply does not predict what it is suppose to predict, college achievement. Please see the big picture here and use your intelligence to help change the system. Education is run by government officials who have no idea how to improve they system. The requirement of high school tests and such has caused a tremendous amount of "teaching the test" to our students. Children are still entering Universities unprepared for the workload and this is verified by the freshmen dropout rates in school across the country. Check for the empirical evidence on that, if you wish.

My hat is off to this young man for taking a stand. More students, teachers, parents, and researchers should look into what is working as measured by actual achievement - not a multiple choice test score.

You go, John boy! To those who have made the comment that "all professions require a test" I say, yes, indeed they do, and I'm sure J. Wood has taken his share of tests in 12 years of school. He is only protesting the NCLB tests.

Thanks to this young man for taking a courageous stand on an issue which leaves many educators cowering in fear of their jobs to the powers of the federal and state governments. He is right in saying that he can't make a difference as a single voice. Perhaps others will find the courage to join him as many joined Martin Luther King, Jr. in his quest to fight injustice.


It's too bad that concerned people have apparently failed to do their "homework," looking for the authors and the real--if confused -- goals of No Child Left Behind. Taking NCLB at face value is dangerously naive.

Documentation should be given and expected concerning anything as important as the education of our children.

Can anyone document the lies about the public schools that have fueled NCLB? The truth has been written in education journals for years. Now, it's very easy to find on the internet.

What are the real goals of NCLB? How do the state departments of education set the "standards" which can make or break the schools and the students?

How does the education level of the community affect the test scores? Does natural talent (gifts from God, inherited, quirks of the brain?) make a difference in who wins and who loses?

We easily see our own part of the "elephant in the room." It's amazing what we can learn if we broaden our viewpoint -- but that ability is a natural talent, too, of course.

As someone who advocates questioning our increasing reliance on standardized tests to make critical decisions about schools and kids, I applaud John Wood's action.

If enough students rebel (and there have been other rebellions, some involving groups of students), then maybe we would be forced into examining the wisdom of using these tests. Perhaps kids can force the issue where adults have been unsuccessful.

I noted some respondents criticized the student's actions. While I would not be willing to give up something as important as my high school graduation, I admire this student for his courage. He reminds me of my parent. In their generation they were not afraid to speak out, protest and they were called rebels when they were his age. This student is alone in his protest because students today are not going to speak out against something they find unfair. They aren't willing to go against the establishment because their future would be jepordized. Hopefully this student's future will include politics because he has shown that standing up for one's beliefs should be the norm not the exception. I believe his future is very bright!

You go, John! I have the privilege of teaching an electives course; no TAKS testing for my content area. Hallelujah! Every year there are always a handful of students that question the validity of the test. Even at the middle school level, they wonder if there are other alternatives to evaluate their academic growth. You are an inspiration to many students. I will be sharing your dilemma and quest with them.

My hats off to your dad, too. What a position to be in! He deserves the "Father of the Year" award. As your principal, he could have mandated the testing in order to receive a piece of paper declaring your secondary academic success. As your father, he could have done the same. But because of his apparent love for you, he allowed you to stand for your convictions and principles and supported your decision. What a tough call for a father and principal to make! He did what was right as a principal, while doing what was right and admirable as a father.

Best wishes as you enter college this fall. I hope you continue to make a difference, there, as well.

I understand this student's stand but there are other ways to go about protesting things that you don't agree with. Instead of creating a win-win situation, he ultimately hurt himself because he did not graduate.

Yes, John should have been refused a diploma. If state mandated testing is required for a diploma, then he did not meet the requirements. However, standing up for your beliefs is admirable. Too many people just talk about the problems and never take action.

I don't know all the specifics with this situation, but Bravo John. Someone has to start the ball rolling and prove the point that one test does not make or break a student from graduating. John refused but would most likely have done fine on the test. What about all the students who don't test well but deserve a diploma and to continue their education after high school? Does anyone realize how many more drop outs we will have with this new frenzy of state test requirements for graduation????
Good luck to John.

To Susan/Teacher:

I apologize for the delay in responding to your comments, which by the way I find perfectly valid. You are preaching to the choir. I realize those in admin don't have an understanding of the system. Neither do they have an understanding of the data they collect and its limitations. Of course there is the fact of teaching to the test.

I surely do not argue for high stakes testing, as is present in Arizona. And I AM working to improve the system, particularly as regards the problem of dropouts. So, be assured not all who aask for empirical evidence have nefarious motives. Be well.

John Constantine
Cave Creek Arizona

As a teacher, I am appalled at the number of grammatical errors contained in the responses from the teachers, Pamela and Donna.

Way to go John! When will our legislators learn that one size does not fit all?

This has been a very interesting debate. The fact remains that the debate is fueled by deeply flawed logic on the part of John Wood. He claims that the test are biased because they show that schools in lower socioeconomic areas have lower composite scores, then admits that this is due to the socioeconomic injustices that these schools and students face. This is not bias -- it doesn't even come close to the definition of bias. If anything, these tests show that this kind of socioeconomic segregation has a real, negative, and long-term effect on student learning. Perhaps the focus should be on improving equality between districts instead of criticizing the instrument that revealed the inequality.

He goes on to claim that the tests are irrelevant because the state of Ohio doesn't track long-term statistics and show correlations between test scores and future achievement. How does that make the test irrelevant? The state may be throwing away a chance to improve its educational system, but his claim of irrelevance is itself irrelevant.

John Wood claims that individual teachers are better judges of who has attained the standards and who has not. I disagree. It's difficult to track 150+ students well enough to know that each and every one has achieved mastery on each and every curricular goal. Good for him that he attended a high school with enough staff and resources to allow seniors the sort of experience he had. I would bet that his experience is rather rare and that most urban Ohio schools could only dream of giving students such an experience. It's also true that these assessment systems now exist because so many students were graduating from high school in the past in spite of the fact that they could not read nor perform functional mathematics.

I applaud anyone who stands up for his or her beliefs, but John Wood's beliefs are not well-grounded. They are a knee-jerk reaction to headlines.

Mr. Woods is a perfect example of a consciencious objector! If more students took this approach and more politicians were required to monitor tests then state mandated testing would be voted out. At a time when teachers and districts are required by the state to develop programming and curriculums based on "scientific data" so then should states collect data on state testing. Hocking Schools and similiar districts should be commended for going the extra mile in requiring senior cap stone experiences for graduation. What better example of one's academic learning.

This highlights the exact nature of failure in this country...usually not because of thinking outside the box, but not following administrative/burecratic policies that look ok on the surface but are without reasonable logical basis underneath more than, "look, we (admins) are keeping on eye on them (students/teachers)." As for the socio-economic issue, he is correct that the correlation could overlap tests scores almost one for one...so what is the point of having tests in the first place? Just place the average community income on the report card and grade districts that way! I know that is a bit extreme, but I am just trying to make a point...policy makers are often not educators, rather people that are trying to front to the public that they care about education (which is also a lie if you look at funding...follow the money and it will show true interests).

As for the student, he is the kind of person I wish we could turn out in schools...someone who not only has an opinion but is willing to stand up for it and deal with the consequences. It's terrible that society chooses to punish those people instead of reward them.

Go John!!! Your action is a step in the right direction to get this country to wake up and smell the coffee. We need to stop haveing politicians tell us how to teach, we need to take advice from teachers and students.I have written a 30 page paper in college about why high stakes testing hurt the future of America(and got a A on it). If anyone wants to know why it is bad just ask any student or teacher in VA about SOL's and they will tell u underneith all the politcal hipe and catchy phrase is a sytem that makes learning worse then ever before, hence why I will not be teaching in VA when I get out of college because of SOLs. I only wish I had the courage John did in highschool to go against the politicians.

I also applaud Mr. Woods for his stand. However, every action and word has a consequence, some are good and some are bad. You break a rule, you get punished. You don't follow the guidelines for graduation, you don't graduate. It is a very simple process. If you don't like it you fight it, but that won't take away from the original punishment which occurred under the old rules.

Another way to look at it is this: Woods had taken advantage of public education. Part of the use of public funds for personal use is the compliance with the guidelines for such use. Woods didn't follow the guidelines so he didn't get the end reward.

I think the new waste of money- the OGT, is just as stupid as a standerized test is to graduate. The OGT, as told told by students of different skill levels, is so simple it is able to be passed by a 6-grader. But if it is why dont you finish it quikly? Because that is giving in to unneccesary power. Like someone saying "I bet you cant crumple that piece of paper up" It is a waste of time. I applaud John Wood.

Staging a protest or temper tantrum (depending on your point of view) may garner temporary results, but not have long-lasting effect. Mr. Woods would do better, I think, to TAKE THE TESTS, get his doctoral degree(s) and fight for this thing from the inside, followingf the rules. I have completed my Bachelors, Masters, am in the middle of my second Masters, on my way to my Doctorate and I have had to take PLENTY of standardized tests. I may not agree with the content of them, but I did well. The key word is FOCUS - Mr. Woods, what is your goal here? Will this choice of behavior get you to where you need to be? You will not even be in a position to come up with an alternative type of exam because of your lack of education. THINK!

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Recent Comments

  • Venus Shannon, Secondary Teacher: Staging a protest or temper tantrum (depending on your point read more
  • Adam Schneider: I think the new waste of money- the OGT, is read more
  • Jamie Woodward/educator: I also applaud Mr. Woods for his stand. However, every read more
  • Marcea/Education Student: Go John!!! Your action is a step in the right read more
  • Kfitton - Teacher: This highlights the exact nature of failure in this country...usually read more




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