Diary

Standardized Testing Season: OPT-OUT!

Spring is more than the onset of allergy season. It marks the onset of standardized testing in schools across the country. As of Monday, April 6, more than 276,000 students nationally have been administered at least one of the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment tests, and the testing season has just begun. In most schools, the testing period runs for about a month, from mid April to mid May, but will extend beyond that if you include practice tests.  Testing can be as long as 6-7 hours for students as young as eight years old, and much longer for older students.

It is not often that I point to President Obama and celebrities as role models on an issue, but on this one, we are in total agreement – their children OPT-OUT of standardized testing. The Obamas, Bill Gates, and many celebrities send their children to expensive private schools where students do not take high-stakes Common Core-aligned tests. Why? One reason is that these schools offer children an enriched curriculum–not constant test preparation and testing. Luckily, for those of us who are not part of the elite, there is the opt-out option.

Last year approximately 60,000 students opted-out of standardized testing in New York State. A recent article noted that over 40,000 students have opted-out in New Jersey so far this year. Karen Magee, president of the New York state teachers’ union has called for a statewide boycott of Common Core-aligned tests to protest new testing regulations and test-based evaluations of teachers. She says, “I’m a parent. My child is in 11th grade. . . Had he been a third to eighth grader, he would not be taking the test. The tests are not valid indicators. The American Statistical Association has said there is no direct link to tie these tests to student performance or teacher evaluation.”

In California, parents have the legal right to submit an “opt out” request for any and all tests and surveys for the span of a school year in a single request. The law prohibits reprisals on the student or the families. Importantly, ALL parents that use the Pacific Justice Institute opt-out form will be provided free legal representation by the Pacific Justice Institute, if their rights are violated. Do it. Opt-Out!

You can Download “Opt-Out” forms and instructions from the website below. http://www.pacificjustice.org/california-common-core-data-opt-out-form.html

The trend is nationwide and growing. Colorado state officials recently proclaimed, “Schools and districts in Colorado are in the challenging position of balancing the requirements of state law (all students must be assessed) and honoring parent requests that their students do not participate in state assessments.” They continued, “The tension has been increasing in Colorado as more parent and student voices are speaking out against participating in the new state assessments.”

While U.S. Department of Education officials have implied that there is a danger of a funding loss, no school, district or state has been sanctioned for not reaching the former 95% test participation threshold. This threat appears to be designed to bolster state and district officials who are simply trying to stop opt-outs.

Assistant Education Secretary Deborah Delisle bolstered that contention when she indicated that she expected state superintendents to pressure parents to comply. She went on to say that the DOE could consider other federal education requirements to use against schools that do not receive Title I Funds (federal grants to schools and districts serving low income, disadvantaged students). But she also acknowledged that the Department does not intend to take funding away from programs that serve children! What DOE programs do not serve children?

To further understand the issues surrounding Standardized Testing and the OPT-Out movement, see Seattle NAACP SBAC Opt-Out Press Conference at https://www. youtube.com/watch?sns=fb&v=rT3hFSuBAqc&app=desktop