"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Follow-Up on Lee County, FL Board Consideration of Opting Out Entire County from State Tests

from News-Press.com:

If the Lee County school board opts out of state-mandated testing, it will be the first district in Florida to do so. But the legality of that defiance remains unclear.

Members almost brought it to a vote Tuesday evening at the school board meeting — prompting audience applause at the very suggestion — but it was tabled for further legal consideration.

Florida statutes broadly require all school boards to be in compliance with the state board of education's rules and laws. Those who do not follow the law could stop receiving funding from the state or be deemed ineligible for grants.

The statutes, however, do not specify penalties for students or districts who do not take the tests.
Sandra Stotsky, an education researcher who has testified in multiple Common Core lawsuits across the country, said she wasn't sure how the district could continue to receive funding if it rejects state-mandated tests.

"It's really going to be a free-for-all," Stotsky said. "The school board may just thumb its nose at the state Department of Education."

Lee board member Cathleen Morgan said she did not think opting out was realistic.

"This is not theoretical, there is a dollar and cents piece," she said. "I don't think it's a realistic option, but if the board wants to look at it, I won't object."

While the district might not be able to refuse the tests, there are many things the district can do within the scope of the law, said Bob Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest, an education organization based in Boston.

The school board can publicize the process to "opt out" children from testing, advocate that teachers create student portfolios as alternative forms of assessment and end all optional testing, he said.
Much of the protest movement is a type of civil disobedience, he said.

"The testing issue cuts across all normal ideological and political lines," he said. "It's about people standing up and saying enough is enough to laws and policies that they see as damaging."

Board member Don Armstrong, a longtime opponent of Common Core and testing, said he was confident the board will bring the decision to a vote at the Aug. 25 meeting.

"We have a great opportunity to do this," Armstrong said. "Let's bring this to a vote, get our legislators together, and tell them this is what we're going to do. This is our county, so let's stand up and take it back."

Lori Fayhee, the leader of the 500-member advocacy group Teaching Not Testing, said the groundswell is a long time coming.

"It's crazy to me that Florida citizens have gone along with this for 17 years," she said. "Right now we're dealing with kids who are crying and hating school, and that, to me, is criminal."

As Lee schools seek a road map for testing, Schaeffer advised to look to Texas, "where it all begins and ends."

Though the origins of testing are often tied to Texas-native George W. Bush and No Child Left Behind, Texas was ground zero for the anti-testing movement in America, he said.

Led by the Texas Association of School Administrators, 881 of the 1,265 Texas school districts have signed resolutions within the past few years demanding the Legislature to reduce mandatory testing.

Gov. Rick Perry passed SB 1557 in 2011, which selected 23 pilot school districts to try alternative forms of assessments. As the program succeeded, the state invited other districts to join. The consortium now includes 74 districts.

The Florida Department of Education did not respond to request for comment.

How to opt out

At the beginning of the school year:
  • 1. Write a letter to the principal to be kept in your child's file.
  • 2. Write a letter to the teacher requesting a portfolio be created throughout the year as an alternative assessment.
During testing, you have three options:
A. Refuse the test on test day
  • 1. This means that you would send your child to school like usual, but he or she would not complete the test.
  • 2. Send a note to school with your child on each testing day that states that your child is refusing the test.
  • 3. Instruct your child not to touch the test.
  • 4. Tell your child not to sign the Testing Rules Acknowledgment. Your child may be required to sit and stare throughout each testing period, or your child may be removed from the testing site for refusing to sign.
B. Request alternative learning activities at school in lieu of the test
  • 1. Ask that your child be allowed to read quietly or go to another room during the test, such as the library or a non-testing classroom. Not every school will do this, in which case your child may be required to sit and stare.
  • 2. If they refuse to provide alternative learning activities, ask if you may send in materials for your child.
  • 3. Request this by email with reasonable advance notice. Request a response from the school and keep it on file. This is evidence that the school refuses to provide alternative activities.
C. Keep your child home on test days and make-up days
  • 1. Notify your school that your child will be absent because you are refusing the test. Request a response from the school and keep it on file.
  • 2. If the school threatens truancy, you may want to refer to the state statute: 984.151 Truancy petition; prosecution; disposition.
Sources: FairTest, Don Armstrong's reelection campaign website

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