On Wednesday Tracy and Mary Finney of Marietta, Georgia were met by a police officer outside their children’s public school and informed they were trespassing on school property because they opposed the school’s process of testing all children.
The Finneys, whose children attend West Side Elementary School, had decided to opt their children out of Georgia’s state test, the CRCT.
According to Georgia State Department of Education Rules:
(3) REQUIREMENTS FOR GRADES 3,5, AND 8.
(a) Promotion of a student shall be determined as follows.
1. No third grade student shall be promoted to the fourth grade if the student does not achieve grade level on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test in reading and meet promotion standards and criteria established by the local board of education for the school that the student attends.
2. No fifth grade student shall be promoted to the sixth grade if the student does not achieve grade level on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test in reading and the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test in mathematics and meet promotion standards and criteria established by the local board of education for the school that the student attends.
3. No eighth grade student shall be promoted to the ninth grade if the student does not achieve grade level on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test in reading and the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test in mathematics and meet promotion standards and criteria established by the local board of education for the school that the student attends.
“We made the decision to opt our kids out of the CRCT,” Tracy Finney told Breitbart News, “because it has nothing to do with education.”
“The CRCT really boils down to money,” Finney continued. “They use the test scores to ensure Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for government funding. The CRCT is really for government funding.”
Finney said he and his wife oppose the notion of using five days of testing as a “single snapshot of the entire year.”
“If kids score low on the CRCT, potentially they are placed in lower functioning classes,” Finney said.
“On Monday morning, we wrote a letter to our principal, forwarded to the other district administrators and teachers,” he continued. “We said that we refuse to allow our kids to take this test, and that we wanted them to be provided with other things to do during the test period, so that they were not going to ‘sit and stare.'”
Finney said, however, that he received an email from the assistant superintendent of the district, “telling me he reviewed my letter and that I’m not allowed to opt my children out or refuse testing.”
Finney provided a copy of the letter from Dr. Dayton F. Hibbs, associate superintendent, which reads:
The District must deny your request that your students be exempt from participation in the CRCT or other standardized testing as well as reporting and recording of such scores. Federal and state law mandate the administration of these assessments. It is important for you to understand the potential consequences of electing not to participate in such nationally and state- required assessments. These may include but not be limited to effects on students’ on-time graduation, promotion to next grade level, placement and final subject grades. Please refer to Georgia Department of Education Rule 160-4-2-.11, as related to promotion of students in the third and fifth grades. A copy has been attached for your reference.
You also shared concerns regarding the fifth grade field trip. Fifth grade students that are absent any day during the regular testing window will not be permitted to attend the trip. This is not a punishment, but based upon necessity as the trip is scheduled to begin the day after CRCT testing is complete. Therefore, any necessary makeup testing is likely to conflict with the field trip dates.
“This communication is to inform you that our children… will not be participating in any state or federal standardized test for the remainder of the current school year,” Finney and his wife wrote back. They continued:
We do not want them taking any portion of the CRCT, or any other standardized test (ITBS, MAP, etc.), without our implicit, written permission. In addition to that, neither of our children will be forced, questioned, pressured, or coerced by any teacher or school administrator about our decision to refuse their participation in the CRCT testing, or their rights related to State Standardized Testing without the presence of at least one of their parents.
Furthermore, we ask that no record of these types of tests be part of our children’s permanent file or record, as we do not wish our children to participate in standardized achievement testing for promotion, school ratings (AYP Scoring), or teacher KEYS scores. This includes the recording of data related to our children in, or on, any SLDS database(s).
We are requesting that our children be allowed to complete alternative learning activities at school in lieu of the test, i.e.: read quietly in the library or other non-testing classroom, complete class work, or use the computer lab for work on approved learning websites such as Spelling City. The educational materials that our children complete during the testing times may be collected by a teacher and processed for grades and/or promotional considerations.
To be clear, our children must not be forced to sit in the testing rooms during these times to “sit and stare” as this, in our opinion, is tantamount to solitary confinement.
Finney said the school’s principal, Dr. Karen Smits, agreed to meet with him and his wife early Wednesday morning about their decision to opt their children out of the testing. However, when the parents approached the school for the meeting with Smits, Finney said a police officer walked out of Smits’ office and came over to meet them, informing them that they were considered to be “potentially trespassing” on school property because they were in opposition to the normal school process.
“We have been parents in the school district for 13 years,” said Finney, describing his surprise at the situation of being met by a police officer at the school door, “and now we were trespassing?”
According to Finney, he had a cordial conversation with the police officer, who then arranged for the meeting with Smits. Smits told the parents they would need to bring their children into school after the testing is over but that they would still need to take the test.
“Later on that morning, we then received an email from Dr. Smits telling us our kids would be tested through the make-up test procedure when they came to school later on,” Finney said.
He added that he replied to Smits’ email, stating he and his wife were still in opposition and that his children would not be taking the test, and that they would not be attending school that day.
“Dr. Smits then called us, and we told her, ‘Look, we love this school, and we love you as the principal,’ and that this is not against her personally or the school, but we believe it’s the system that is forcing them to act this way.”
Finney said Smits told him the school district is working on a solution to the problem that will work for the children. However, he told Breitbart News, “I told my kids that if I send you to school tomorrow and they give you a test, refuse it, and call me.”
Breitbart News attempted to contact Smits’ office but received no response.
On Wednesday evening, Finney forwarded to Breitbart News the following email from Hibbs:
Mr. & Mrs. Finney,
MCS has been working very hard to resolve this issue.
If you decide to bring your children to school after the morning testing schedule, they will be welcomed into the school. While we must offer students that miss any sections of the CRCT opportunities to retest, we will consider your recent communications as a documented refusal and your children will resume a regular academic schedule along with their peers that participated in testing earlier in the day. You were made aware of the potential outcomes of non-participation in state testing in a recent letter you received from my office.
Dr. Smits will work with you to make appropriate arrangements for the upcoming 5th grade field trip.
“This has made us very happy,” Finney said. “We will be discussing my daughter’s trip with the fifth grade when we walk them into school to sign them in. In speaking to the principal tonight, I am decently confident that she will be allowed to go.”
Finney said he and his wife continue to be concerned about the Common Core issues his children face in addition to these more immediate concerns about the state tests, and they will be addressing these as well.
Meg Norris, an organizer of United Opt-Out Georgia, told Breitbart News she is “shocked” at how the mandates to test children are being enforced in Georgia.
“It’s happening in schools all over Georgia,” Norris said. “Even children who are autistic must be tested.”
“Because of federal mandates, they are putting children through this,” she continued. “One child missed the first day of testing and the entire class was refused ice cream, leading to that child being bullied by his classmates.”
Norris explained that this year is the final year Georgia’s CRCT is to be used. Next year, the test is to be replaced by the Common Core-aligned PARCC assessment.
“They say the CRCT was aligned with Common Core,” she added, “but I don’t see any evidence of that. As far as I can tell they’re teaching using the Common Core standards, but using the old CRCT to test the children.”
Norris, a former teacher, said she taught the Common Core standards for 18 months and could see what it was doing to her students. She added that Common Core has become a major issue in the elections this year.
“I just won’t vote for any politician who supports the Common Core standards,” she said.