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Parent Group Asks For Option To Opt Kids Out Of Testing

by Hugh McQuaid | Feb 27, 2014 6:33pm
(8) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education, Equality, Local Politics

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Terry Dickinson and Jesse Turner

A group of parents and educators want the legislature to pass a bill ensuring that parents of school children have the option of pulling their kids out of required standardized testing.

Advocates calling themselves the Parent-Teacher Save Our Schools Alliance held a press conference Thursday and called upon lawmakers to pass legislation to enable parents to opt their children out of statewide standardized tests.

Terry Dickinson, an East Haddam mother, said she has pulled her son, Charles, from the town’s public school and enrolled him in a private school because of difficulties opting him out of the tests.

“Charles is a 16-year-old boy with a dream and goals for his future. He is not a test score,” she said. “For the first time in a year, he is happy now. He has teachers who are engaged. He doesn’t have to fill in bubbles anymore.”

Dickinson and others at the press conference reported attending events in Connecticut with hundreds of other parents looking for guidance on how to remove their children from the testing process.

The pushback against standardized testing comes as many of the state’s school children will be taking a new test called the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, which is designed to assess new and controversial national education standards called the Common Core. This year school districts were given the option of taking the new test or taking the state’s traditional assessments like the Connecticut Mastery Test.

Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the state Education Department, said the law does not allow parents to opt their kids out of these assessments. She said there are state and federal requirements that children enrolled in public schools must participate in assessments at certain grades.

“These laws do not provide a provision for parents to ‘opt-out’ their children from taking state tests. These mandates have been in effect for many years and the State Department of Education, as well as all public schools, must comply,” she said.

Members of the parent-teacher organization disagreed and pointed to a December Education Department memo designed to offer school districts guidance in responding to parents who are seeking to remove their kids from a test.

The memo recommends several steps for administrators to convince parents not to pull their children from the process, beginning with referencing the state and federal laws. Eventually, if the parent insists in writing that their child will not be taking the test, the memo says the student will be counted as absent, which will hurt the district’s participation rate. But the document notes that the state has not done any follow-ups on such cases.

“There are no sanctions for opting out. That’s what we’re told,” Jesse Turner, a Central Connecticut State University professor, said. “It would be sort of like saying ‘Everybody should drive 55 [mph] but if you don’t, nothing is going to happen to you.’ We’d probably all drive 85, 90, maybe 100, I don’t know.”

With no individual consequences, some advocates are hoping parents will opt out in high numbers.

Hugh McQuaid Photo “My dream is that everybody will opt out and nobody will be given a test and teachers can really get back to educating children . . . not just preparing them for a test,” Gloria Brown, a retired Wolcott teacher, said.

If that were to happen, it would put school districts in violation of a federal law that requires that 95 percent of enrolled students take the standardized tests.

Donnelly said this year’s testing period represents a “low-stakes” environment because the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test is still being “field tested” and its results won’t count for toward formal evaluations of students and teachers.

“By participating in the field test, students also provide necessary input to ensure that future tests are a fair and accurate representation of Connecticut students’ knowledge and abilities,” she said. “Overall, the experience will better prepare students, teachers and schools for future administrations of the tests — and for reaching the new, higher Common Core standards.”

Dickinson said she was concerned about that “testing the test” process and was worried about what the state planned to do with the data collected from her son’s test results.

“These are serious concerns. They’re putting this stuff into place before it’s been thought through and I’m sorry, my son is not going your guinea pig,” she said.

State Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, co-chairman of the legislature’s Education Committee, said Wednesday that local school districts were given wide latitude to decide which test to give their students this year. School districts were given a choice between the legacy Connecticut Mastery and Connecticut Academic Performance tests, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test.

“Connecticut has a long history of local control,” Fleischmann said.

As far as the concept of standardized testing goes, Fleischmann said without it, it would be difficult to compare how one district is doing with another. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests also will help Connecticut compare its students against students in other states.

“It’s not appealing, but I think it’s necessary,” he said.

Christine Stuart contributed to this report.

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(8) Comments

posted by: Linda12 | February 27, 2014  9:32pm

I’ve decided some of these legislators don’t really know what they are talking about. They get SDE talking points and repeat them ad nauseum. Yesterday, according to Andrew CCS was a curriculum.  Time for a meeting to rehash the reformy talking points.  Parents have always had the right to opt out. Without the test scores, they have nothing, absolutely nothing.

Fleischman yesterday:

That’s unlikely to happen, said state Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, a West Hartford Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s education committee. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to put a moratorium on a curriculum that’s already rolled out across the state,’’ he said.

posted by: Bluecoat | February 28, 2014  7:38am

If the author of this would just read the RTTP , Common Core Standards, and the Assessment agreements, , it is easy to find out that up to 5% of the students can opt out of the tests.
Not hard to find and just pure laziness.

Question:
How big is our data collection office within the SDE?
How much has been spent to create the SLDS- Statewide Longitudinal Data Base, where all “student level data” will be stored on every student. Thanks the the Smarter Balanced agreement with the Feds, they are now authorized to collect this data. Much of this data is personal and private, and no adult should be able to ask a child for.
Now that the Feds dismantled the 1974 Family Education Rights to Privacy Law (FERPA), what is exactly CT’s privacy law? Who is protecting our kids from the privacy invasive question that will be asked of our kids without written notification or permission? What are the names of the 3rd party companies that will now have access to our kids information? Are there any adults in the SDE or legislature that gives a crap? It is time to halt the Smarter Balanced Assessments, Period!
Many States have pulled out of either the PARCC or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests primarily for the privacy issues, what are we waiting for here in CT?

posted by: Poetic Justice | February 28, 2014  11:01am

Our children and grandchildren are more than data points. The powerful rhetoric of the reformers is inhumane and abusive. This legislation would greatly benefit the children of CT and help to ensure that future generations of students will not be subject to the pedagogical abuse we see forced into our schools under the current state and federal policies.

posted by: ABC | February 28, 2014  3:45pm

Linda12 and Poetic Justice probably herald from non-urban districts where children have options other than attending their decidedly mediocre public schools.  Even Terry Dickinson says she moved her kid to a private school.  Why?  Because she could.

Well, what if you can’t?  What if you don’t have the resources to live in the suburbs and send your kid to a private school?  Well, according to teacher unions, career-long system supts., and their lap dog politicians, - “You’re out of luck”.  “Oh, and by the way, education begins at home”.

According to Joel Klein, the revolutionary former Chancellor in NYC, those who believe that we can’t fix our public schools until we solve poverty have it backwards.  According to Klein, we will never solve poverty until we fix our public schools. 

He is exactly right.

The first way to fix our urban public ed system is to measure academic performance in such a way that we can truly analyze how much kids know and don’t know.  And the Common Core assessments aren’t your grandfather’s bubble tests anymore by the the way. They are far more effective at measuring the ability of a student to problem-solve and do critical thinking, oh and understand content as well. 

Did you ever wonder why, after we all grew up with tests that the teachers gave us - and counted for our grades, why all of a sudden tests are bad?

Well, as you might have suspected it has very little to do with the tests themselves and all to do with the fact that we parents and taxpayers are now holding teachers accountable for what kids know and don’t know…as we should have started to do a long time ago.

“My kid is more than a test score”. 

Ok.  But who the hell is saying your kid is only a test score??  This popular “battle cry” is a red herring, a crock, a canard.

Would a responsible parent say that to a doctor when their kid is in the hospital and the staff is analyzing their blood count for anemia? “My kids is more than a test score!”

The truthful blunt doctor would answer “No sh*t, Sherlock.  But if we don’t understand what’s wrong with your kid, we can’t begin to help them get healthy.”  (Some doctors do need help with their bedside manner).

Bottom line:  City parents, don’t fall for this protest.  I don’t remember the last time the teacher unions (and make no mistake, these anti-CCSS protestors ARE put up by the AFT and CEA unions) protested the poor quality of the education that we all got in public school.

And as for “inhumane and abusive”, what could be more inhumane and abusive in this country than to push a kid from grade to grade, and eventully graduate them from high school when they can barely read or write?

posted by: msconcerned | February 28, 2014  8:09pm

College applications anyone..anyone without test scores.

posted by: Bluecoat | February 28, 2014  9:00pm

ABC,
Can you provide proof that these assessments, along with the Race to the Top Program, and the Common Core State Standards have held any teachers accountable, or have successfully been implemented anywhere on this planet?
Something, anything?
The debate is on the the way these were implemented behind closed doors and then copyrighted by two private trade organization. If fact, David Coleman, the “Chief Architect” of these “internationally benchmarked” (completely untrue and no longer used as a talking point), said in a video taped presentation in 2011, that he and his helpers at Student Achieve Partners, WERE NOT QUALIFIED to write the standards.
And after 10 years of standardized tests we have doubled down on stupid.
Curious that Bill Gates just said a few weeks ago that he doesn’t know if our Ed reforms will work, and it make ten years to find out.
Do we really want another ten years of computerized testing?
I think parents are screaming for classical reading, writing, arithmetic to be taught in our schools. No more gimmicks.

posted by: newhavenpublic | March 1, 2014  7:38am

@ABC - Our public schools are strong.  They are under attack by privateers who wish to destroy teacher unions and profit by turning teaching into a job.  You are incorrect about the AFT and NEA being behind the opt-out groundswell sweeping the USA.  The two teacher unions have received ten million dollars from Bill and Melinda Gates to promote Common Core school standardization and testing program.

posted by: ABC | March 3, 2014  11:17am

NHPublic - Most of your schools are failing. There are a few internal turnaround attempts but the chances are not that good that even great educators giving it all they have can break out of the mediocrity that is part of the DNA of your system.

The few “performing” schools are filled with parents who are educated and very involved with their kids in and out of school. 

And yes, parents and taxpayers want to turn teaching “into a job” - a real job.  I’m glad someone came out and said what has been the truth. There are plenty of teachers who didn’t bargain for these kinds of demands when they signed up for teaching.  Up until the last decade, teaching was 6 1/2 hour days, all summer off, and no consequences for mis-education of youth.  Sounds like a pretty good gig.

I do feel sorry for those who got into a field which has been subject to so much change.  But our society demands that the teaching profession become far better, far more demanding, and far more effective.  That’s the way it goes.

And on the attitudes amongst teachers about Common Core, this from the excellent “EDUCATION-Bridgeport!” Blog…

“We’ve spoken about who was asking the questions on the poll and why. We looked at the data they gathered but didn’t want to share. Now let’s take a look at what must be the most unfortunate piece of truth coming out of the CEA survey — let’s look at who was asked.[Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 2/20/2014]

Based on the CEA’s own poll demographics, of the teachers surveyed:

•  91 percent are Caucasian or white

•  71 percent do not teach in a high-poverty school

•  68 percent have been teaching more than 10 years (19 percent have been teacher for more than 25 years)

So, based on their own poll, the CEA asked older, white teachers from wealthy districts what they think of the Common Core.

This is a big problem, perhaps completely invalidating the data. In places like Bridgeport, less than half of the district’s African American 3rd graders are reading at grade level. Only one-third of Bridgeport students can expect to graduate on time. [Connecticut State Department of Education, Performance Reports, Bridgeport 2012-2013]

In districts like Windham, six out of every 10 Latino students don’t read at grade level. [Performance Reports, Windham 2012-2013]

But the CEA dares to present data taken from white and wealthy districts as representative? Of course a Caucasian teacher from New Canaan a few years away from retirement doesn’t want to change things up.

As any resident knows, there are two Connecticut’s, and new research from a University of Washington professor bears that out — the state is home to both the wealthiest and poorest zip codes in the country.[New Geography, 1/30/2014]
Trouble is, the CEA only wants to acknowledge the existence of one Connecticut, forgetting about the teachers and students who continue to struggle unheard.”

CEA, manipulating the data.