Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Opting Out in Seattle - It's Happening

Yesterday's media event about opting out in Seattle Schools at the NAACP headquarters was quite the happening.  All the media outlets showed up for a very lengthy press conference.  At first, I worried about how many speakers there were - community leaders, parents, and, most of all, teachers on the front lines - but each had an important story to tell.

Basically, from what I can draw from various sources, the majority of opting out is happening in high schools.  This figures as high school parents have been around longer than younger parents AND high school students are savvy and more likely to stand up to authority and say no.

My belief is that after the first year is done - and the scores come out - then next year even more parents will say no.  This is exactly what is happening in NY and NJ with thousands of kids being opted out.

Apparently, State Superintendent Randy Dorn is falling back on the old standard "change is hard" and says the test will improve with time.  

Hale and Garfield are reporting that nearly 50% of their 11th graders opted out.  It appears the numbers at Roosevelt and Franklin are quite high as well.  Garfield had so many that it suspended testing as they could not have the large numbers of non-testing students in the same room with students who were being tested.

Gerald Hankerson, head of the Seattle NAACP, put it bluntly - parents of color should opt their students out of the SBAC testing.  No matter how it's softened up, he believes that these students will fail in large numbers and believe they are failures.  He said that it is a social justice issue.  Both he and Rita Green, a long-time Rainier Beach High parent/activist and now NAACP Education Chair, believe that there have not been enough resources directed to struggling schools.  As well, they worry about the equity issues around technology access (since this is a computerized test).

Garfield teacher and education leader, Jesse Hagopian, said that this kind of lengthy testing creates a situation where "wisdom is the ability to eliminate a wrong answer," not knowing what the right answer is for the right reason (meaning, using critical thinking).

Doug Edelstein, a teacher activist at Nathan Hale High, talked about how his school has planned thoughtful and "authentic" assessments for their students and that, for 11th graders, SBAC is a waste of time.  He quoted MLK, Jr. - not for the gravity of the situations - but that yes, "it was a matter of conscience" to stand up against what you believe is wrong.

Many of the teachers spoke of things going wrong - a practice test taken instead of the real one, OSPI being unable to supply a download to one school for two days (now wasted plus two other days to take the test once it was downloaded), and the length of the testing period, from 8-12 hours.

(We are also hearing from parents who say they are being urged by their school to bring in their own mouse and/or headphones for their child.  What about the equity issues there?)

One Franklin history teacher told a heartbreaking story of an immigrant student who is very bright but still struggling with English.  The student got to the computer lab and was taking the test but could not decipher all the words.  She asked for a English/her language dictionary but was told that was only for the essay.  The last day, this girl broke down sobbing from effort saying, "I don't want to fail."

It was then noted that there is a glossary translation for the SBAC math section except that there are NO African languages available.  That is just stunning.

Another teacher said that between getting ready to test and actual testing, they probably lost a whole unit worth of teaching time.

There was also talk about the group, the New York Performance Standards Consortium, where that group of schools has opted out of state testing...since 1997.  Their assessments are devised by educators.  And, they have some of the highest graduation rates, with a diverse group of students. Their dropout rate is half of regular schools and their college acceptance rate is 91%.

Coverage by other media:


For the 11th-grade math test in Washington state, there's a version in Spanish. There's also a glossary to translate words into Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Arabic, Punjabi.

Notice anything missing? 

"They forgot the whole continent of Africa,” said Franklin High School teacher Meg Richman. “Many of our students are from Somalia and Ethiopia. And those languages are not represented in the glossary."  

The teachers gathered at the NAACP say they aren’t bothered by higher standards, though. They’re bothered that students are being held to higher standards, but schools aren’t given the money to help those kids meet those standards.  


At a Tuesday press conference to discuss the unprecedented refusal numbers, Garfield teacher Heather Robison said administering the Smarter Balanced exams "goes against my professional and moral judgment."

"For all of my students," she said, "these tests are a waste of time."

Seattle Times - (a pretty odd write-up considering they never put the "why" in this article)



Anonymous said...

I suspect it will flip next year, with more elementary and middle school families "refusing," and fewer high school students opting out. There are no repercussions for 11th graders opting out this year (as long as they have passing scores on EOCs and HSPE), but it is a graduation requirement for next year's 11th graders. For the classes of 2017 and 2018, if they have passing scores on the math EOCs, they only need to take the ELA SBAC and can opt out of the math portion. For 2019 and beyond, it's SBAC only (even if students passed a math EOC in middle school).


Lynn said...


As the rules are currently written, no student has to pass the SBAC to graduate. If you take it and fail, you can use SAT, AP or IB scores to meet your graduation requirement. I hope if we're in this situation again next year, high school students move onto the "failing spectacularly" tactic.

Anonymous said...

The "graduation toolkit" identifies all the different ways students can meet the requirements, broken down by graduation year.


Kristin said...

I've been talking to all kinds of elementary school parents about opting out & finding that oftentimes, even parents who are fully aware of all the problems with the test, and have even tried it out for themselves, still want their kids to take it. For instance - a parent who's opting out a high school age child but not an elementary school child. I think it's important to figure out why. There's a need we have that many parents expect this test to fulfill -- to see how our kids are doing at this very important developmental stage. I get that information from my child's teacher and from observing my child's work but am aware I'm lucky that way. We need more than just opting out -- we need an appropriate replacement that we can trust.

Anonymous said...

Will SPS be in any trouble for administering the 10th Grade SBAC ELA 6-8 weeks early?

And is it fair that they are having to take it early? Aren't students who have more time to "prep" in a better position to pass the test?

And boy are they sure are vague about SAT/ACT scores being used. Vague in that they don't give you the score you need and have some weird reference to the ELA writing. Is that another test?

So confusing!

State Testing Days
• ELA exit exams: (New for 2015) All 10th graders must take the ELA exit exam on the same days as other students in their district, either May 12–14 or May 19–21. Students who miss the opportunity will be able to sit for the
exam in the fall.

Earning a high enough score on the SAT or ACT Plus Writing for ELA.++

++ Unless a student is determined to have significant cognitive disabilities or transferred into Washington public schools in 11th or 12th grade he or she must attempt state assessments once before qualifying for alternatives in each content area (

10th grade parent

Anonymous said...

Sorry - my info was from the toolkit HIMSmom posted.

10th grade parent

Anonymous said...

I queried my 10th grader's counselor in charge of testing regarding opting out of the SBAC ELA that is being administered to the 10th grade (but they don't need to pass until 11th grade): "If a Class of 2017 student opts out of the SBAC ELA test this year and next year, is it the case that s/he would not be able graduate? Even if she received an IB diploma?"

The response: "Yes. An IB diploma will not waive her state testing requirements. She could use IB tests in place of Reading and Writing only after sitting for the State test and failing it.

Students may, however, graduate from some private schools without the state tests, if that is an option for you."

Compliance is big issue.


Concerned said...

I'm not sure when we'll see SBAC results. Can we have our children's Amplify results- first?(!)

Concerned said...

10th grade parent makes an important point about 10th graders taking exam 6-8 weeks early.

Anonymous said...

Roughly 15% opted out from my child's 3rd grade class at Lincoln.

-data point

Anonymous said...

Amplify results are provided to parents upon request. They are educational records, so parents have a right to see the results.

just ask

Anonymous said...

People seem to love to go to graduations with caps and gowns. If they suddenly cull a third of seniors and tell them they have to repeat, or same for third graders, I just don't see that being well received.

They can make up any test they want, WASL, EOC, or SBAC. In the end they have to set the passing cut score at the same level on the curve be that 95% or whatever it is to maintain diplomacy.


Anonymous said...

cull? really bad choice of words.

Stop the drama please

Some people

Anonymous said...

Hey, just because I cull out a piece of lumber at Home Depot isn't bad, I kiss it and leave it on the racks for the next person.


mirmac1 said...

Video of the news conference is on YouTube

Anonymous said...

Thornton Creek Elementary is over 50% opt out. The parents held a very informative Night session with fabulous speakers well versed on the issues. Information is power.
- Engaged Parent from TC

Josh Hayes said...

Lynn writes:

"As the rules are currently written, no student has to pass the SBAC to graduate. If you take it and fail, you can use SAT, AP or IB scores to meet your graduation requirement."

This is quite true, but I urge people to note the requirement: the student MUST take the SBAC and FAIL to have these other options available to them. This year I taught a class to seniors in a similar position with respect to the Biology EOC, and there are alternatives to passing that EOC but students were not eligible to use those alternatives unless they had both taken and failed the EOC in the first place.

My point is, students cannot simply opt out and then apply these alternative criteria, as of this moment. OSPI is fierce about this: students without an EOC score simply were not eligible to use those alternatives (ACT, COE). I am certain they will at least attempt to hold a similar line for the SBAC: you can't use alternatives until you've tried it, which seems to vitiate the utility of opting out from that perspective.

I hasten to add that I think this is a terrible idea, but it does seem to be policy at this time. Maybe someone in a position to speak authoritatively on the matter can do so.

Patrick said...

Can the students take the EOC and deliberately throw the test and then use an alternative for the graduation requirement?

Anonymous said...

@ Patrick, I would think yes. But if one is already spending the time to take the state test, I would think it's in the student's best interests to try to pass. If you intentionally tank the test at the end of your junior year, that greatly increases the importance of scoring well on the relevant AP, IB and/or SAT exams as a senior, since most kids won't already have passing scores on those alternative assessments at that point. It seems to me that approach would make those later exams even more "high stakes." Not only would there be added pressure to do well, but you'd have to add in concerns about getting sick and missing a once-a-year exam, logistical/timeline challenges re: how to get spring AP scores back and counted in time for graduation, etc. If it were me, I'd want to try to get the graduation requirements out of the way ahead of time.


Anonymous said...

"Gerald Hankerson, head of the Seattle NAACP, put it bluntly - parents of color should opt their students out of the SBAC testing. No matter how it's softened up, he believes that these students will fail in large numbers and believe they are failures. "

Very defeatist attitude, I would not subscribe to this subjective propaganda. This so insulting to everyone.

Broken Record

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have info about 6th grade testing at JAMS? What is the implication if a student opts out? Is there any benefit to the school or student if that student takes the test? Is it going to be 8 to 12 hr. of testing?

Anonymous said...

@ Broken Record: He might have been looking at the following national SBAC results for last year for African American Children in 4th and 8th grade. It was terrible for everyone, but especially kids of color, lower SES, Special Ed, and ELL.

#1 Fourth Grade Math COMMON CORE SBAC

Demographic & % at goal according to the Common Core SBAC Test 2014 (National Data)

Girls 36%
Boys 39%

African American 15%
Latino 21%
White 43%

Special Education 13%
ELL 10%
Free Lunch 22%

#2 Fourth Grade Writing/English Language Arts Scores COMMON CORE SBAC

Demographic-% at goal according to the Common Core SBAC Test 2014 (National Data)

Girls 46%
Boys 36%

African American 24%
Latino 25%
White 48%

Special Education 16%
ELL 10%
Free Lunch 27%

#3 Eighth Grade Math Scores COMMON CORE SBAC
Demographic % at goal according to the Common Core SBAC Test 2014 (National Data)

Girls 32%
Boys 33%

African American 16%
Latino 19%
White 40%

Special Education 8%
ELL 5%
Free Lunch 20%

#4 Eight Grade Writing/English Language Arts Scores COMMON CORE SBAC
Demographic -% at goal according to the Common Core SBAC Test 2014 (National Data)
Girls 49%
Boys 34%

African American 23%
Latino 29%
White 49%

Special Education 9%
ELL 5%
Free Lunch 29%


The Rams said...

Less than 10% of Ingraham students are taking SBAC. Students will receive class instruction, instead.

Anonymous said...

Opt Out, if you look at the State Report Card data over the years (including WASL, MSP, HSPE, and EOC), you will find, unfortunately, that the 15-20% achievement gaps between African-American students and White student has remained virtually unchanged. The Smarter Balanced Field Test results have simply mirrored these gaps, although at much lower overall achievement percentages.

The NAACP has threatened and even brought suits against the state in the past in regard to testing and achievement gaps and no court has found merit in these suits. The NAACP has been unable to demonstrate bias in the testing program that resulted in the achievement gaps. Because states have been able to demonstrate rigorous processes for bias and fairness review of the testing programs, the courts have concluded that the tests are not biased against any particular group. The achievement gap in and of itself is not proof of testing bias/discrimination.

On the other hand, civil rights advocates have been able to use test data/achievement gaps in successful litigation against states and districts to demonstrate bias in funding and/or education program delivery. In other words, the NAACP has been successful in California and other states litigating against school funding models being biased against minority students and used testing data as criteria for bias.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Once the 4th and 8th graders who are ELL, Latino, and African American are identified as failing the SBAC in disproportionate numbers, what is the district doing to remedy the situation?

Taking or not taking the SBAC is not the violation of civil rights. If the district does not have a plan, extra help, and funding to close the huge achievement gap identified by their chosen vehicle, the SBAC, then they will be guilty of gross civil rights violations in short order.


Anonymous said...

swk--apologies if you've already addressed this. Who scores the written response portions of the SBAC? The Seattle Schools info I found says it will "most likely" be scored by humans and the consortium "plans to involve teachers."


Anonymous said...

TC, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is the state's testing contractor to deliver the SBAC assessments. I do believe that AIR has a subcontractor to score the written responses to the SBAC assessments, but I can't remember who this subcontractor is. I can't speak to whom AIR and their subcontractor might use to do the actual scoring, although they will be scored by humans and not by artificial intelligence (AI).

--- swk

Kristin said...

Can anybody verify what tami said - that you don't have to pass the state tests if you're in some private schools? And which ones count or don't? That's messed up!

Anonymous said...

You don't have to take any of the tests if you are in private school or home schooled. No SBAC. No EOC. No HSPE. My eldest graduated from private high school and there were no tests like this.


Anonymous said...

State tests are for public schooled students. Private school students are not required to take the state standardized tests. Some private schools do administer standardized tests, however, such as the ITBS. In high school, students are taking the SAT, ACT, etc.

From OSPI's FAQs on state testing:

Q: Are private- and home-school students required to take state tests?

A: Private- and home-school students are exempt from state testing, but some private- and home-school students do choose to take the exams and are welcome to do so. Students who want a diploma from a Washington public high school must complete all state and local graduation requirements.

Private schooled students are getting their diploma from their school, not the state.


Anonymous said...

Per WA law, homeschooled children do need to take a standardized test annually. Parents have a choice as to which one.

- seafarer

Anonymous said...

parent, just to be clear, public school students get their diplomas from their schools as well. The state itself does not issue diplomas.

Private school students have to meet the state minimum credit requirements but not the state testing requirements. They are, by state law, exempt from the testing requirements.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

I apologize, I made a mistake in regards to the annual testing requirement. Here's the relevant subsection from RCW 28A.200.010:
(c) Ensure that a standardized achievement test approved by the state board of education is administered annually to the child by a qualified individual or that an annual assessment of the student's academic progress is written by a certificated person who is currently working in the field of education. The state board of education shall not require these children to meet the student learning goals, master the essential academic learning requirements, to take the assessments, or to obtain a certificate of academic achievement or a certificate of individual achievement pursuant to RCW 28A.655.061 and 28A.155.045. The standardized test administered or the annual academic progress assessment written shall be made a part of the child's permanent records. If, as a result of the annual test or assessment, it is determined that the child is not making reasonable progress consistent with his or her age or stage of development, the parent shall make a good faith effort to remedy any deficiency.

- seafarer

Po3 said...

I also have been wondering what the remediation plan is, which will include the need for resources, which takes money.

Every news story I hear is "Two-thirds of students are not expected to to pass this years SBAC."

And all Dorn says is "change is hard."

But what is the boots on the ground plan?

This feels like one huge experiment - on the backs of our kids and teachers, while profits funnel into the pockets of test providers.

Greenwoody said...

Just because a court does not find bias does not mean the tests are bias-free. Further, we should not be dismissing civil rights concerns as cavalierly as swk does. Education reformers keep saying that "education is the new civil rights movement" - yet when actual civil rights activists speak up, they get ignored, or criticized, or attacked.

Maybe rather than this constant dismissiveness, ed reformers can actually stop for a second, listen to the NAACP, and address their concerns rather than telling them they're wrong? Those attitudes are deeply offensive.

Anonymous said...

Following just ask's advice, I contacted my kids' ex-school today to request my daughter's 4th-grade Amplify results from the fall. Received them and found that her percentages differed greatly from her MAP ones which have been high. Can someone explain the differential? Thanks.

- minter

Eric M said...

@ minter.

Yes, I can explain.

The tests produce random results. They're nearly meaningless.

Anonymous said...

The Amplify results are reported on a straight percent basis (number correct/total number of questions), whereas the MAP results are reported on a percentile basis. Very different things. The MAP reports a scale score that then gets converted to a percentile based on test norming data. If your child is in the 85th %ile on the MAP, they scored better than 85% of students in the norm group. If a student scored 85% on the Ampify, it means they correctly answered 85% of the questions. Who knows where they fall in comparison to other students. Our Amplify results showed the school average (around 50%), as well as the class average, on each test.

just ask

Anonymous said...

@TC and @SWK - on another thread commenters have reported that the writing reviewers of the SBAC have minimal experience, are temp employees, use a rubric to score essays, and work in cubicles. In another words, important decisions are being made about student scores, student performance, and teacher competence by poorly qualified individuals. Nice. - NP

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, the poster on the other thread was referring to graders of the Georgia state test and thinking that it could be a similar population grading the SBAC. - NP

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info just ask and the laugh Eric M.

- minter

Anonymous said...

I'm truly sorry, Greenwoody, that you have once again missed the point of my comment. But since you continuously refer to me as an education reformer and read all of my comments through that narrow lens, I guess that's to be expected. Any attempt to convince you otherwise I'm sure is futile. I don't comment here for you, however; I attempt to provide helpful information to those with an open mind.

But to your point, how about listening to these civil rights activists:

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
American Civil Liberties Union
League of United Latin American Citizens
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund National Council of La Raza
National Urban League
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
United Negro College Fund

What do these groups/activists have in common? They all signed a letter to Congress demanding that annual testing be included in the reauthorization of ESEA.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Swk, my understanding was the reauthorization of this bill included provision to allow the NCLB be more flexible when it came to how state and federal dollars get allocated. It wasn't necessarily a wringing endorsement to standardized testing by all those signing to urge for the bill approval. There were a lot of compromises and hashing out in this very political bill. Headstart gets funded under this bill too.


Anonymous said...

voter, to be clear about a couple of things: (1) ESEA hasn't yet be reauthorized. Your comments seem to infer that this is occurred, given the past tense you use. The House has a bill that has little chance of even getting a full House floor vote. The Senate committtee just released its bipartisan bill that will be marked-up (be amended) on 4/14. It still has a long way to go.

(2) The letter/statement to which I referred above is dated January 11, 2015. These were principles these civil and disability rights groups released when both the Senate and the House first made noise about reauthorization. This letter is not an endorsement of either the Senate or House bill but rather a set of principles these groups would like to see included in reauthorization. And one of those principles is annual testing.

--- swk

seattle citizen said...

It's ironic that the leaders of groups that claim some authority in representing oppressed peoples would support a tool, these now nationalized tests, that abet oppression.

seattle citizen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.