Friday, March 21, 2014

Seattle Schools and Opting Out

I'll have to ask SPS just what happens if a student opts out of a school-wide test.  But here is what is happening in other parts of the country (and it's just wrong).

From the Washington Post's The Answer Sheet, the policy of "sit and stare."  Districts and schools are allowing students to opt out but only if they sit still for the entire duration of the test.  No reading, no homework, no headphones.  I'm surprised they don't make them just sit in a corner and face the wall.

“Sit and stare” policies are being considered or adopted in schools from New York to California as a reaction to the growing “opt out” movement in which parents have decided that they do not want their children to have to take high-stakes standardized tests. Each state has its own policy about opting out, but they don’t generally provide districts with guidance about how to enforce it, so administrators come up with their own policies.

As the number of parents opting out grows, so do the ways that school administrators are trying to persuade them not to, often out of concern that their schools will be penalized by federal education rules that require annual standardized testing by most of the students who attend each campus.

In a previous thread, I wrote about a mom in Denver who had been very specific about opting her daughter out only to later find her - a 3rd grader - sitting in an office with a test administrator and other staff.

Chalkbeat Colorado reported that this week — in the middle of state assessments — Denver Public Schools issued new guidelines for schools to handle opt-out cases after an incident in which one mom dropped her daughter off at school after a standardized test had been given but the student was not allowed to return to her regular class. The new guidelines allow students who have opted out from tests to come to school during the exam and work in another class.  

I have written about how when I opted my sons out of the WASL, they were sent to the library and either helped the librarian with tasks, read or did homework.  Apparently some administrators are playing hardball if parents ask about this option (this from a superintendent in Buffalo):

Mothers were asking for kids not taking the test at all to be able to go to the library or principal’s office (to read).  That is not something we’re going to do. We’re obligated to give every student the test per the state education commissioner.”

Meanwhile in Chicago, parents were upset to learn what was happening to their children who opted out.  This from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Furious Bucktown elementary school parents said CPS investigators yanked their children out of classrooms Thursday for individual interviews about this month’s ISAT boycott — without parental permission.

“I was absolutely furious and I really still am,” said a parent who asked not to be named whose daughter was interrogated. “It’s really scary now that I know the power they have. . . . It’s like Russia, there’s no accountabilty for the powers that be.” The parent said the investigator asked her daughter if her teacher, one of four at Drummond who CPS might punish for refusing to administer the state-mandated exams, tried to influence her not to take the test.

Her daughter is now suffering anxiety she may have mistakenly said something that could get her teacher fired. “I am so sad because I think I’m going to get him fired,” she told her mother.
Several of the children told teachers after the interrogations that several questions were followed up by: “Are you sure? Are you lying?” according to Tricia Black, a teacher at Drummond who took part in the boycott of the test, which is being phased out next year and which many parents and teachers see as gratuitous.

So it's trying to get a teacher in trouble by intimidating a young child.  

“My third-grade student was interrogated by herself in the principal’s office with the door closed. Which surprised me that you would take a child of that age and close the door to the office with someone that you don’t know . . . I don’t know if it’s legal or not, but it’s certainly unethical.”

Parents said they had no warning and only learned of the interviews when word spread Thursday on Facebook. CPS declined to say why notice wasn’t given.

It wasn’t until parents picked their children up from school, though, that they knew for sure the kids were being questioned about the ISAT, or Illinois Standards Achievement Test.

In another district a superintendent said that it was parents who were opting out, not their kids.  Meaning what?  Children should decide?

When did going to public school mean you gave up your rights as a parent to know what is being said and done to your child especially around something asked for by a parent?  


Anonymous said...

Several years ago I opted my student out of tests at HIMS.

They made APP students take both the Math MSP and the EOC tests. My student took the EOC exam and opted out of the Math MSP test. We also opted out of all MAPS testing.

I was told my student could not be in the building during testing.


Melissa Westbrook said...

But could your student come back to school for the rest of the day after testing?

Anonymous said...

Yes. I took my student to school late morning after testing was complete.


Anonymous said...

As my building's testing coordinator in another district, we made the request that students not testing not be in the building during testing, but it wasn't because we wanted to punish students--it was simply because we were utilizing all our staff to spread students out as much as we could and give every kid an optimal testing environment, so we had next to no-one left to supervise any non-testing students.

The few who did come (including one student with a disability whose parent had expressly stated that she did not want him tested) were given a place to sit and work quietly on homework, read, or otherwise pass the time. A couple volunteered to come to the office and help sharpen the vast number of pencils.

As a testing coordinator, I'm sort of stuck in the middle. On the one hand, I know that every student who doesn't test dings my building. On the other, I have a set of professional ethics as an educator to uphold--and much like the Hippocratic oath, it starts with "Do no harm."

I read this blog as much to learn from the negative exemplars as the positive. There's been far too many of the former and not many of the latter when it comes to the behavior of adults around testing. I'll be damned if I'm going to be "That Administrator" who punishes kids for their parents taking a stand on their behalf.

A Testing Coordinator

Anonymous said...

Aaaaaaaand, this is why I was going to edit before posting.

Fail me.

I only brought up the student with a disability because someone came running up to me at one point and was very worked up that I was "letting" this student play on his personal electronic device while sitting in the non-testing student area. They questioned me as to why I wasn't making this student test like everyone else, and if he wasn't going to test why was I "rewarding" him with getting to play?

All I could say is that his parent felt it was not in his best interest to take this test at this time, and I felt no desire to punish him for it. He had no access to testing materials, so there's no violation of state testing rules. It's not class time, so there's no violation of school rules. Therefore, the kid can play.

So you see, it wasn't about mentioning a student with a disability just to mention them...there was actually a point to bringing them up.

A Testing Coordinator

Sonya said...

I've been doing research. Smarter Balanced Assessments have not been taken, yet. There are about 23 states that will test on the same day.

The tests were to be given last week, but, due to computer glitches, tests will be given on March 25th. The next time the test is given...will be on our children!

PARCC has been given and schools have found wild fluctuations.

This is insane. Many parents are unaware, at this time. However, once students begin testing, I am sure CC, SBA etc. will mount into a giant fire-breathing dragon.

A Testing Coordinator, What are school ramnifications...if children don't test?

mirmac1 said...

Thank you Testing Coordinator for your perspective.

as far as I'm concerned, no worries. I didn't read anything into your first post.

Opted my child outa MAP from day one. I've struggled over "punishing" her school by opting her out of MSP. Y'see, some kids' anxiety simply is not worth it in my book. High stakes for some is nothing for me with respect to my student...

Anonymous said...

A Testing Coordinator, PARCC doesn't begin field testing until March 24.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my question was meant for Sonya.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

Testing Coordinator - a rock and a hard place for you and thank you for have the grace you do about it.

You are absolutely right about pointing out the good and the bad.

The more you learn about Common Core, the more you will find troubling. Washington State is just behind but when we catch up, I'm sure parents will rise up here just as they are doing in many other states.

Anonymous said...

I'm really interested to see how this opt-out plays out. Mostly to play devil's advocate, as I have had students opt-out of curriculum before (FLASH/sex-ed, part of which is state mandated in the HIV/AIDS thing), and it's kind of a slippery slope. I think other teachers I know have had students try to opt-out of evolution in their classes. I'm wondering how the testing opt-out will play into the bigger picture of other pieces of curriculum becoming 'voluntary.' Kid keeps failing math? opt them out and keep up the GPA.

I know I'm going a bit overboard and I really am against testing, but where we are at now seemed totally laughable not too long ago…

Glad I left

Anonymous said...

Opting out of class lessons typically relates to material of a controversial nature, and family values play a large part in what is considered controversial. A parent ultimately has a right to direct their child's education, and I think most parents exercise that right with restraint when it comes to opting out of school lessons. Opting out of math seems a bit of a stretch.

I for one am grateful we live in a state that allows parents to opt out of various facets of the school program. A parent can opt out on an individual basis without censoring the education of others.


seattle citizen said...

"I was told my student could not be in the building during testing." They can't do that....can they? They are legally required to provide public education (for a set number of days) and excused absences are at the parent's behest. I smell lawsuit. They MUST, I'm sure take your student into the building EVERY DAY.

Anonymous said...

I had the same thoughts as seattle citizen - opting out of testing doesn't mean they can kick the student out of the building. I suppose a school can use their discretion to provide an excused absence if the parent chooses to keep their child at home. The school needs to provide a place for them to be during testing, just as they provide supervision for students that don't go on field trips, or a place to be when they opt out of classroom lessons.

It doesn't surprise me that a parent was told that, and I understand the burden it may place on a school, but the school still needs to find a way to deal with it.


Anonymous said...

What downsides are there, of opting a kid out of the MSP? Especially for kids who don't test well, what is the point.


Anonymous said...

Are homeschool parents required to show growth each year by any test method?

Many are serviced within the public school system, through support teachers, etc.

Granted, to get a diploma, they must demonstrate proficiency, but what about the individual years prior to that?

My understanding is a parent could opt a child out of math (or any other subject) and teach them at home, and then have the child attend public school for the rest of the day.

--enough already

homeschooler said...

In Washington State, students can homeschool for a portion of the day and be enrolled in a public school for a portion of the day. Homeschooled students are still required to test annually, but it doesn't need to be the MSP. They can request to take the MSP in order to fulfill the testing requirement, but they can also have a certificated professional assess the student.

Part time attendance

RCW28A.200.010 (3)...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. That's about it.

Anonymous said...

homeschooler said,

Thanks for the info.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

You can opt of of math in middle school, then either take an extra elective or be off campus during that open period. You can't do your independent study work on campus, even if the reason you're doing it is because the school doesn't have an appropriate math class for you. You're just out of luck.

In high school you can do the same. Those who are opting out because they are exceptionally advanced, however, should note that this may have implications for later college applications. For example, at Garfield to be valedictorian you have to have been a F/T student on the GHS campus for all 4 years. I'm not sure how p/t students fit into the class rankings, but would be good to check first how that's handled if that's a concern to you.


Anonymous said...

Emma, for most kids there's probably not a downside to opting out of the MSP. In certain cases, however, there can be negative ramifications. For example, the district just decided to use a combination of 5th grade math MAP and 4th grade math MSP scores in determining 6th grade math placement. The problem is that they typically make these changes retroactively, so you never know what your MSP or MAP score might be used for in the future. We had no idea that that 4th grade MSP score would be important a year-and-a half later.


Anonymous said...

HIMS mom, thank you. Most families do not know this. For students with special needs, 4th grade is actually the time to be opted out. Unless the school is exceptionally savvy about accommodations, the cons really outweigh the pros

Sped Parent