Opt Out Responses Run the Gamut From Phyllis Schlafly To Dolores Umbridge
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In a tweet yesterday the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals says DESE will hold firm on the Opt Out policy. We can only assume this part of the tweet means that they will expect 95% participation in the SBAC test next month. The second part of the tweet says there are only two options for children who will not be testing: 1) No alternative activity – otherwise known as the punitive policy of Sit and Stare or; 2) Child stays home. In either scenario the district would have to report Level Not Determined for that student.
How very unenlightened of DESE. The state of Ohio had the presence of mind to pass a bill that “protects students from most of the punitive consequences of the Common Core exams.” Other states are more like Missouri right now.
The Connecticut state Superintendent sent out a memo advising district supers to mislead and harass parents who tried to opt their children out of testing. The memo had language that parents in Missouri are no doubt hearing from their own principals and superintendents.
If: Parent informs the district that, regardless of the law, the district is not to test the student.
Then: District is advised to get this statement of intent from the parent in writing so that the district can provide a written response. The CSDE’s legal office has provided a model letter (attached), which districts may adapt, citing all pertinent laws and regulations and asking the parent to reconsider as it is a violation of the law not to comply.
You can read more comments from CT parents about what their districts are saying/doing to them here. It is not pretty.
It is only a violation of the law for districts to withhold the test from all students in an effort to hide their lowest performing students. The law does not require the student to participate.
DESE doesn’t have a policy specifically about whether or not students must test. They only have a scoring guide that will penalize districts on accreditation points if they don’t meet the 95% participation. Districts write the policy depending on how much they need those points. A technical out for DESE and Districts which puts parents and students in the middle of a “I didn’t say that” battle. However, the tweet about only offering two options does clearly smack of a DESE policy regarding testing. And it certainly flies in direct opposition to a statement made by Michael Muenks, DESE Coordinator of Curriculum and Assessment, in a memo last February(2014)
“Local school districts have been provided communication resources by Smarter Balanced and are responsible for local communications. Local school boards set the participation policy for the statewide assessment program.“
We seem to be back to the finger pointing. Is it DESE holding firm to a policy, or districts who have the policy? Word on the grapevine is that the answer you get from DESE these days could vary hour by hour.
What it ultimately comes down to is whether or not districts and the state recognize the parents right to direct their child’s education. Eagle Forum, led by Phyllis Schlafly, has long lobbied for schools to recognize parental rights. On their website they state “We support parents’ rights to guide the education of their own children, to protect their children against immoral instruction and materials, and to home-school without oppressive government regulations.” One enlightened district in Connecticut sent out this letter to parents who wanted to opt their child out.
“Bristol Schools recently sent the following email to a parent who had informed the school that their child was opting out of Common Core SBAC test:
“This email acknowledges receipt of your request to exempt your son ****** from the SBA assessments. Although our testing schedule has not been finalized, we plan to test students during their English and Math classes. We will provide **** an alternative setting where he can work on homework or read silently, while his classmates are testing. We will also exempt him from the SBA classroom activity. If you have any additional questions, or concerns, feel free to email me. Thank you. — Bristol Central High School”
The Missouri Coalition Against Common Core has heard from some parents in Missouri who received similar notices from their school administrators who acknowledged their parental right to make this decision.
Not so the Administrators in Sikeston School District who sent this memo on SBAC testing to parents today.
They won’t consider alternative activities. They won’t even consider sit and stare. There is nothing “respectful” in telling parents “Your child WILL cooperate.” Then they add, in true Dolores Umbridge fashion, the not so veiled threat that the student’s score will “reflect his/her lack of an attempt on the questions.” In other words, don’t think we won’t be paying attention to who tried to sabotage us by not even trying to get a good score. God help the truly struggling students or the ones who have major test anxiety in that district. Big brother is watching you. And they leave themselves a wide berth to administer further punitive measures on children and parents who refuse to test by vaguely describing such students “disruption of the testing environment.”
Perhaps parents in that district should refer their administrators and school board members to Commissioner Vandeven’s comment from a couple weeks ago that indicated it would take at least 3 years for schools with lower participation to even be put on a watch list. Or maybe they can just reference MAESP’s tweet from yesterday. Let the kids opt out or stay home and call it an LND.
(NOTE: The title has been changed. See comment below. Our thanks to Don for pointing out the error.)