With the arrival of March, students in states throughout the country are scheduled to take tests to determine if they are keeping in step with the Common Core standards. A fair number of them, however, have been “opted out” of the assessments by their parents, leading school officials to respond in a variety of ways.
As The New York Times reports, the “opt out” movement has swept the country, with nearly every state having a grassroots-organized Facebook protest against the tests.
In New Jersey, several groups have orchestrated events during which parents can take the exam created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of the two federally funded consortia that have developed tests aligned with the Common Core standards. One event invited parents to gather at a Montclair firehouse for snacks as they watched “The Other PARCC: Parents Advocating Refusal on High Stakes Testing.”
“I’m refusing because we’re taking a stand against this deeply flawed policy,” parent Christine McGoey said, adding that local school officials are “just not listening” to parents’ concerns about the tests.
“I feel like the only thing left to do is just say no,” she said.
The concerns about the test include the fact that third and eleventh-graders must submit to a ten-hour solely computer-based test.
“I’m seeing a lot more test prep, I’m seeing that the kids are losing their opportunities to take electives and I’m seeing that subjects like, for instance, social studies aren’t being taught with the frequency they should be,” parent and blogger Sarah Blaine told NJTV News in February.
Blaine, who opted her children out of the tests, said, “I taught before No Child Left behind so I know what we can do in schools. I’ve seen that there are all sorts of other ways that we can assess kids that are meaningful.”
As the Times observes, however, while some school superintendents have “condoned or at least tolerated the opt-out movement, others have not.”
In Little Falls, New Jersey, for example, superintendent William Petrick announced his district will manage opt outs “the way we handle any other disciplinary issue.”
James Crisfield, a former superintendent in Millburn, New Jersey, said he allowed opt outs, but expressed frustration with the parent opt out movement, stating that parents did not have a right to refuse a test.
“What you have is a right to a free public education, and here’s the package we have for you,” Crisfield said. “You can’t choose to have P.E. on Tuesday and every other Thursday. You can’t choose not to take the calculus test.”
The movement gained steam in New York State last year, when 49,000 students were removed from the tests by their parents, according to the State Department of Education. Additionally, 67,000 students skipped the math portion of the test.
Ohio has also seen a growing opt out movement, reported Cleveland.com. State School Board member Sarah Fowler objected to guidance Ohio Department of Education sent to school districts – which many parents said was intimidating:
Federal and state laws require all districts and schools to test all students in specific grades and courses. There is no law that allows a parent or student to opt out of state testing and there is no state test opt-out procedure or form. If a parent withdraws his or her child’s participation in certain state tests, there may be consequences for the child, the child’s teacher, and the school and district.
“The impression parents got … was that parents are not allowed to opt students out of state tests,” Fowler said she told State Superintendent Richard Ross at the state board’s meeting.
Fowler asked Ross to alter the wording to say that opting out is allowed, but Ross declined, saying the law does not address opting out and he chose to adhere to what the law requires – “not to make interpretations.”
The opt out movement is spreading like wildfire, according to Peggy Robertson with United Opt Out National (UOO). Robertson told Breitbart Texas, “One night I helped 18 different states,” adding that she hears from people wherever high-stakes testing is taking place, including Florida, Connecticut, Tennessee, New York, California, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Though Texas is not a member of PARCC or the other federally funded Common Core consortium – Smarter Balanced (SBAC) – parents still want to opt out of existing high-stakes tests.
Are you opting your children out of the PARCC and SBAC tests?