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Monday, April 23, 2018

It's Testing Time; Opting Out?

This is a notice from an elementary school.  That's a lot of time for sitting for a test.

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66 comments:

ws said...

at another elementary school its 6 days (3 days each over 2 consecutive weeks) for 2 hours each day.

Much Time said...

And schools can offer the MAP tests up to THREE times a year, too.

Still, at my elementary school they implemented a policy where teachers give a pre-test at the beginning of each math unit/chapter, then spend a week or two of class teaching the unit/chapter, and then give a post-test. This pre-test/post-test takes up a lot more class time over the course of the school year than the SBAC exam.

Anonymous said...

We'll be opting out again. Principal doesn't like it. Wants the expected good score from my kid. He's got other testing outside school that needs to happen this year and in school his teachers keep us very up to date on progress. Do his private school friends take a similar test in this not graduating year e.g. 5,8? No they do not. No reason for him to SBAC so no, not taking one for the team this time. There are families who value the information from this test. Others want the kids to practice taking standardized tests. If it works for their family, great. I expect our schools to support families whether they do or do not take this test. My son will be home reading, something he gets shorted on when the library is occupied by SBAC testing for weeks on end.

One Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Very well stated, One Mom, and that's why parents should have the choice of opting out.

A.Samuelsen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A.Samuelsen said...

Here is an opt out form to use. Your child need only take the SBA tests in high school (and hopefully even that will change).

SEATTLE
PUBLIC
SCHOOLS*

Decision to Support the Whole Child Form
The unofficial form for opting out of high stakes testing*

Please clearly print the following information and return to your school’s principal and teachers.

Student’s Name _________________________________________________________
Parent/Guardian’s Name __________________________________________________
School _________________________________________ Student’s Grade Level _____

As the parent/guardian of the above named student, I have made an educated decision to support my child by opting him/her out of participating in the following, including practice and make up tests:

____ all portions of Smarter Balanced
____ WaKIDS
____ certain subtests (please name subtest – ELA, MSP science)
____ MAP
____Amplify
____ Other _____________


____ I have read and understand that:

 This form is a permanent record to document my decision about my child’s educational and emotional well-being without fear of harassment, intimidation, bullying and retaliation by Seattle Public Schools.
 Students who do not participate will receive positive reinforcement in knowing they are more than a number and will not experience unnecessary anxiety.
 Students who do not participate are free to engage in creative endeavors during the test time
 Opting out may positively impact our school by relieving the pressure on staffing and physical space.
 Teachers will not have to spend time reviewing test scores that are not reliable in measuring all students’ academic growth in the core academic areas of reading, writing, math and/or science. Instead, teachers will be able to rely on their training and professional judgment to evaluate each child as an individual with multiple strengths and challenges.
 Families will not receive unreliable results and will be better able to chart their student’s growth over time by partnering with their teachers.
 Smarter Balanced should not be used as a gatekeeper for eligibility for Highly Capable programs, as there is no proven correlation between achievement on this particular test and advanced learning abilities. Smarter Balanced was not intended for this purpose and using scores for this purpose will likely to lead to more racial and socio-economic disparity to advanced learning opportunities.


Signature of Parent/Guardian ______________________________ Date _______________________________

* This form is not published or approved by Seattle Public Schools. You are not required to use the District’s “Refusal to Participate in Assessments Form,” state the reasons for your decision, or agree to any of the assertions stated therein. Opting out is as simple as emailing your principal.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's spring again. Time for the mostly white and middle class families of Seattle (and Lake Washington, Bainbridge Island, et al) to opt their kids out of state testing.

It wouldn't be spring without it. Thanks, Melissa, for this reminder.

Albert

Melissa Westbrook said...

Albert, what makes you so smugly certain it is white and middle class families? Didn’t know that data was available.

Anonymous said...

Albert your post is intriguing--could you please share your data? Links, even? It would be helpful to know the breakdown of who is opting out where, and you seem to know. We'd (Seattle Opt Out group) like to continue to reach out to all families in all districts to inform them of their right to opt out and the challenges they may face, arming them with knowledge and tools, and we'd like to have opt out materials continue to be translated into the many languages spoken in our communities.

In the meantime, and excellent article in which opt out activists Ceresta Smith and Ruth Rodriguez are quoted:

https://thinkprogress.org/the-whitewashing-of-the-opt-out-movement-73e3e1c689b/

And a good read about the youth-led activist group the Baltimore Algebra Project, and those students who walked out in protest of the PARCC (the equivalent to the SBA in Wash.), with video featuring Kaylah Blake:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-student-walkout-20160415-story.html

But to bring it all home, here is a press release regarding the Seattle/King County NAACP teaming up with Seattle Opt Out to denounce the over-testing and use of high stakes standardized tests:

https://www.seattlekingcountynaacp.org/press-releases-and-statements/seattle-naacp-and-allies-confront-seattle-public-schools-over-high-stakes-testing

A. Samuelsen

Anonymous said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/15/opinion/opting-out-of-standardized-tests-isnt-the-answer.html

here's what's wrong with opting out.

toyota

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, what's wrong is withholding funding if there are too many opt-outs. Many parents actually trust their child's teacher to know how their child is doing.

Anonymous said...

Albert is, in typical corporate ed reformer fashion, writing out the leadership of the opt-out movement in Seattle from his story. Those leaders are people of color, but you wouldn't know it from anything Albert and his cronies tell you.

George VII

Anonymous said...

Actually, Melissa, in our state, high opt-outs could drive scarce resources to schools less in need of it since those opt-outs count as not proficient in the accountability and support allocation system. So no, schools don't actually lose funding if there are too many opt-outs. Not in our state.

And no, people, I'm not going to do your homework for you. The data are there on opt-outs. And these data are replicated across the nation. White and middle class parents are the predominant opt-outers. This is not conjecture. It is supported by data.

And, yes, George. There are a very small handful of vocal anti-testing POC in our region and they are standing at the front of the line. They do not represent racially the vast majority of parents who opt out, however.

And lastly, Melissa, your statement about parents actually putting their trust in teachers is a statement of privilege. There are many poor, minority and/or non-English speaking parents who get virtually no information about their children from their (often white and inexperienced) teachers. And the information they do get is in many cases not useful because it's based on low standards and poor practice. Standardized test data at least give these parents objective data from which to compare their children to children of the privileged classes.

Alber

Melissa Westbrook said...

Albert, then your previous statement holds no water. You don’t get to make a big statement with no data and then go tell us to find it.

I can’t speak for all parents as Albert does but I volunteer in a Title One school where yes, the parents, 95% if whom are POC, do trust their teacher.

Funny how Albert makes so many issues about race when it’s really about teaching and learning issues. There is such a thing as someone trying to distract from a real issue and not allow parents their own voice.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
NNE Mom said...

5th graders are filling out forms this time of year to choose electives for middle school and our middle school says that they consider the Smarter Balanced math score for middle school math placement and that they use the Smarter Balanced ELA score as a tie breaker for students choosing a foreign language elective. If more students want to take a foreign language than there are places available, priority goes to students with a Smarter Balanced ELA score of 3 or above.

Students also need Smarter Balanced scores to qualify for Spectrum or Highly Capable status.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, they may be able to use the SBAC for Advanced Learning but I doubt you could keep a qualified kid out of higher math or language. I’ll check but that’s not likely to be district policy.

Anonymous said...

Standardized test data at least give these parents objective data from which to compare their children to children of the privileged classes.

Albert stakes his stand on shifting sand. Endless studies out there on the biases of standardized test questions and the resulting skewed results. SAT huge offender, has owned it and tried to update its test accordingly. SBA and PARCC with issues too. Some test info might be better than none for some kids or parents but laughable to call it objective.

Seattle Using SBA to filter for HCC and dole out elective access must be a monetary and process decision. Fair? No.

DistrictWatcher

NNE Mom said...

The middle school says for math placement the student must meet 2 of the following 3 criteria:
1. Teacher recommendation
2. SBA math score
3. school math placement test

So, it's not used to keep kids OUT any more than the teacher recommendations are. It's a possible road IN.

However, since it is well known that teachers, like all humans, have biases, it can be a particularly important for POC students and/or low income students who are ready for a more challenging math to have the ability to circumvent a biased teacher recommendation. Teachers as a group are statistically less likely to refer low income, ELL, Black, Hispanic and Native American students for advanced learning. They are also statistically more likely to punish Black students, disabled students and boys. So, having a way for students to show their readiness that does not rely on a potentially biased teacher recommendation is important.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa, they have used test scores for math placement for a while now, such as in ability to skip ahead. Also, they have used some sort of standardized foreign language test for placement level in high school foreign languages. Just like they use standardized testing for HCC and Spectrum eligibility. It may not always be perfectly accurate, but it's not unreasonable to use standardized tests to determine placement level.

As I understand it, the standardized tests are intended to provide some measure of school-, district-, and state-level accountability. I find it interesting that many of those who oppose charter schools do so because of the lack of accountability, yet many of these same people fully support the opt-out movement.

I find these tests a waste of time for my kids, who get high scores every time, as expected. We don't learn anything from them. The tests don't do a good job of measuring abilities at the top end, and I already have a good sense of their abilities, so I sometimes opt them out if it's not going to be too much of a hassle. Sometimes they decide they want to take them, sometimes they'd rather stay home. I'm good with either.

However, I can see how they might be useful for parents of students who are not as high achieving. Another data point is another data point, and some data points might be more valuable than others, depending on the year, the level of communication between parent and teacher, the expectations/biases a teacher might have toward a student, etc. Teachers often overlook giftedness in kids who don't fit their image of a gifted student. A student may be on a downward trend over multiple years, and a teacher may not see the big picture. Et cetera.

As well, teachers don't implement curricula with fidelity, don't always get through all the parts of the curricula they are supposed to, and often grade quite differently. Getting an "A" in one teacher's class might make be seen as a sign to parents that all is well, whereas that same A might translate to a C in another teacher's class. Grades and teacher assessments are very subjective, whereas standardized test scores are not.

There IS an element of privilege re: opt-outs. Not necessarily based on race or income, but based on parent confidence in their current understanding of their child's abilities and performance. If you are lucky enough to feel like you have a handle on things, there's less risk (personally) in opting out. If you're disconnected and/or don't trust the info you are getting from your teacher(s), however, you might find the scores more useful. In that sense, well-off white parents are probably in better position to opt out.

If the point of the opt-outs is to fight the entire notion of standardized testing and a test-prep-driven educational system, I would think the opt-out movement would want to promote other options for holding schools accountable and measuring the degree of equity/inequity betweens schools/districts/states.

Opt-in/out

Anonymous said...

I really do concur with Opt-in/Opt-out's point that opting out of standardized testing has an element of privilege. Students whose academic paths are headed in the right direction and who don't have challenges don't need standardized testing because it doesn't benefit them. Parents can opt such kids out until they can't. For instance, since middle school math placement and 6th-grade access to world languages depend on SBAC math and LA scores, parents can opt kids out in K-4th but be sure they test in 5th. They jumped all the required hoops without much fuss.

But kids with issues learning how to take tests, who having undiagnosed or evolving learning disabilities, 2e students, etc., all benefit from data points. Many kids benefit quite simply from the very practice of taking standardized tests, which is its own distinct skill. Once students need to be taking SATs and GREs, they need to have solid test-taking skills. Parents who opt out of standardized testing I believe are more likely to put their kids in paid SAT or GRE prep courses. That's a good idea, by the way, but it's not financially viable for everyone.

Because opt-outs are recorded as failures, at schools where richer/whiter kids opt out at higher rates, it has the effect of making a good school look worse than it is when all those ratings and rankings come out. That makes it harder for non-English-speakers and others to evaluate whether a school is good. The data is skewed in a way that doesn't impact privileged people as much if at all.

Standardized testing is problematic, but opting out really does entail privilege given the structure of our current system.

-Simone

Jet City mom said...

I don’t know why a high school student would be taking a GRE test let alone a study course, tbh.
Neither of my kids took a prep class outside what was held at their high schools.
Both were first gen college.
I did get SAT prep tests at library, but I don’t think they spent much time on them.
I do not think the amount of data obtained by group administered standardized testing outweighed the stress involved in sitting for multiple tests, or the time lost from classroom activities.

Not even close.

Montlake said...

Are there statistics for the percentages of students that opt out at each school? Seems like it would be easy to check the numbers and see how privileged your average opt-out family is. Anecdotally among the opt-outers I know, privilege is high.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I would think the opt-out movement would want to promote other options for holding schools accountable and measuring the degree of equity/inequity betweens schools/districts/states."

Well, the most direct way IS to opt-out but tell me what else you think would work to focus on over-testing, poorly-written tests, etc.

"Parents who opt out of standardized testing I believe are more likely to put their kids in paid SAT or GRE prep courses."

But you said before that these are the parents who believe their kids are doing well so why put them in prep courses?

There are other ways to show student growth and if people allow one test score to sway their judgment in schools, that's their choice. But other parents have the right to stand up to big testing and over-testing. It actually serves to help ALL students in the end.

Montlake, the district doesn't ask parents for their income. You could certainly look up the average income for any given region but that still won't necessarily tell you the income of who does and does not take the test.

I find it amusing that people think there is data out there on this (Albert notwithstanding).

Montlake said...

There must be data. There's a form to fill out to opt your child out, right? Who do you send the form to? How does the teacher know which kids to send to the testing room and which ones to send to some other location? Oh, there's data out there alright. There must be some formal way to obtain it.

There's always the informal route of asking your kid. So, who else opted out?

You can guess on the privilege level just based on the school stats/location. Is there a difference in opt-out rate between a school with a FRL of 75% and one with a FRL rate of 5%? Which one has the higher opt-out rate?

Anonymous said...

Opt In/Out states: "they have used test scores for math placement for a while now, such as in ability to skip ahead."

I'm not sure who "they" are, but not all schools consider test scores for math placement. Some middle schools have a completely inflexible policy around placement; if you didn't take "6th Grade Math" in 5th grade, you are not going to take "7th Grade Math" as a sixth grader, even if you scored a "4" on the SBAC. End of story.

Personally, I don't mind standardized tests as long as they have a clear and consistent purpose, which of course is a laughable idea in this district.

Flummoxed

District Equity said...

If they don't use test scores to accelerate students in math, how do those schools accelerate students who are ready for it? Or are those schools run by people who believe not a single one of their students is bright enough? Cuz, whoa, talk about bias!!!

Outsider said...

A good test is good, and a bad test is bad. Does anyone have any actual evidence that the SBA is a bad test? Personally, I am glad for the test, assuming it's reasonably designed. It's one time the students are guaranteed to be challenged, and every data point is appreciated.

You can dump all over Albert, but I think he has a point. Sure, different families might dislike testing for different reasons. Students with learning disabilities or focus problems will find tests especially stressful. But I suspect there is also a big cohort among opt-outers whose social status and sense of entitlement is higher than what their kids' test scores would be. Families who will buy their kids' way into private college regardless, so there is no need to forgo "creative" activities or stress over how much the kids know in fifth grade.

Anonymous said...

District Equity, I am sorry to say that I believe some principals are not the least bit interested in "accelerating students who are ready for it." In fact, a few seem strongly opposed to most kinds of academic challenge. This has been my direct experience as a parent and volunteer in Seattle Public Schools.

Flummoxed

Melissa Westbrook said...

"assuming it's reasonably designed" - well, there's the downfall of many a test especially those with bias against children of color.

"But I suspect there is also a big cohort among opt-outers whose social status and sense of entitlement is higher than what their kids' test scores would be."

Explain that sentence, Outsider. I'm not sure of your meaning and I certainly don't want to read into something that isn't there.

And fyi, there are very few families who can "buy" their way into private college. Buying to get in involves either family name or big, big bucks or both.

Anonymous said...

"assuming it's reasonably designed" - well, there's the downfall of many a test especially those with bias against children of color...

MW has been saying for years that advanced learning is "open to all" but now we find out that she is finally acknowledging that the tests that determine eligibility are biased.

So, to complete the logic, is advanced learning "open to all" or not?

Not Cute

Anonymous said...

@Melissa, maybe you misunderstood me, but your response wasn't to my point. I said: "I would think the opt-out movement would want to promote other options for holding schools accountable and measuring the degree of equity/inequity betweens schools/districts/states."

You responded: Well, the most direct way IS to opt-out but tell me what else you think would work to focus on over-testing, poorly-written tests, etc."

Opting out does not provide any data on how well schools are doing, objectively or relative to one another. Personally, I think "teaching to the test" is a bigger problem than annually administered standardized tests (plus a few graduation req't tests). I think holding teachers responsible for outcomes (as opposed to growth) is also problematic. To the extent that standardized tests are biased, I hope test-makers are working on that and that WA uses the best options available.

But my question was re: what other data points should, or could, be used to provide parents/guardians, community members, teachers, districts, and the state with decent info on how school's and districts are doing? Does the opt-out crowd have ideas, or do they just not feel accountability data are needed?

Opt-in/out

Anonymous said...

The opt-out crowd knows that their schools are doing well and doesn't want to hear about failing schools.

It would cost money and illustrate the inequity of our education system.

The opt-out crowd has the ability to evaluate their options and the knowledge to exercise those options.

They don't want to hear about the problems of the poor.

sunglass

Anonymous said...

You don't put your kids in SAT prep courses because your kids are doing poorly; you put them in because you want to maximize their score to get them into Stanford, UCLA, Yale, Michigan, etc. SAT prep doesn't matter for kids with less privilege since many/most other state schools don't need sky-high SATs to get in. The opt-out crowd can opt out with impunity but will tend to use prep courses to maximize those opportunities, since they know how to do that dance. (I mentioned GRE only because it's an example of a standardized test that, like the SAT, doesn't correspond success or anything really but that is still a hoop you have to jump through, and testing skills per se are needed to do well on it, as for the SAT. Obviously no high schoolers are taking the GRE.)

-Simone

Anonymous said...

If I opted my child out of all the parts of school that didn't seem like the best use of their time, they wouldn't be there much. Do parents who opt them out for testing also opt them out of field trips that are more fun than educational? Homeroom/advisory? Easy classes? Days when they have subs? Years when they have not-so-great teachers?

What is the message it it send to students when their parents opt them out? I'm not passing judgment here, but am curious how parents present it. Do kids learn that standardized tests are bad? That the way the test data are used is bad? That their time is more valuable than that of their peers that do have to take the tests? How do parents explain it to students--or do they not, and just pass it off as bonus vacation days?

The few times I have opted my own kids out it has been when they needed a break--for mental health reasons, to catch up on sleep, etc. Other times I have let/made them just deal with it--sometimes they look forward to the tests (which they typically find more interesting than regular classes), sometimes they don't (but then learn that that's just part of life, doing things you're not always excited about).

Opt-in/out

Melissa Westbrook said...

Not Cute, sorry you missed it but I have been saying for years that testshave bias. I recall my own son taking a test where he was asked what something was on a man's pair of pants - it was a cuff. How many men wear cuffed pants? Another asked what a porkchop was and he had never seen one. And that's just the surface because there are many other issues.

I think the tests have been better written since then but there are still issues.

AL is open to all but that doesn't mean the testing doesn't have issues. You mistake ability to apply with ability to get in. Two different things.

Oh Opt in/out of course we need accountability measures. There are portofolios, project presentations, teacher evaluations, etc.

And then there's "I wish I could opt out other thing." This is not about "best use of time" although that could be a small factor. It's about the test itself, it's about the time, the prep, the cost - you know cost benefit. Our state does not have a law that prevents parents from opting out and so many do.

The message that parents are giving to their own kids is that you stand up for what you believe in when you have done research and believe it is not useful AND you want to make a point about making such testing useful.

I assume most of your questions are rhetorical. But I say and I believe that every parent has a right to do what is best for their child on this type of issue.

I had to smile - you think it okay to opt-out your kids on your terms - and yet other parents can't? Hmmm.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Great interview in Eugene Weekly with Jim Garcia, who is the Chicano/Latino Student Program Coordinator at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon.

"In your experience, what has been the effect of standardized testing on Latino students and what do you suggest?

It is another layer of policy that is detrimental to Latino student schooling experiences and creates a sense of a self-fulfilling prophecy of doubt as to their worth in society. Assessment measures should be created that are responsive to the realities and diversity of Latino experiences — and all students’ life stories.

Policy makers say that the opt-out movement is primarily for white middle- and upper-class people and that other demographic groups are supportive of mandatory testing. Do you agree?

One of the challenges I notice in working with Latino families is the accessibility of information about school policies and options, and the way they are disseminated. If the information is culturally biased and doesn’t reflect your culture, your opportunities for action are very diminished."

https://www.eugeneweekly.com/2018/04/19/latino-students-what-matters/

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa, I clearly said I sometimes do and sometimes don't opt out (yes, on my terms), so of course I understand every parent has a right to do so, and I never said other parents can't. That's incredibly misleading of you to suggest otherwise.

My initial comments were to call attention to my belief that there DOES seem to be an element of privilege associated with opting out, and we should acknowledge that. Those who opt out are those who, for whatever reason, don't feel like they need the test or the data it provides. I fully recognize that I am privileged in that I have the ability and resources to understand how my child measures up, so I'm comfortable losing that data point sometimes. I'm also comfortable making my child sit through the test that their peers have to take--it's like doing school "chores." But I recognize that not all parents are in my situation, and some parents may find these tests useful--for assessing their own child, for choosing a school/neighborhood, etc.

The message that parents are giving to their own kids is that you stand up for what you believe in when you have done research and believe it is not useful AND you want to make a point about making such testing useful.

Are you saying no parents find these tests useful? Are you saying that opt-out parents support tests, but only if they are "better" tests? (Interesting that the opt-out forms even include targeted things like EOCs.) Are parents pushing for more culturally responsive tests, and if so, is there work on those?

The sense I get is that many opt-out parents are opposed to the idea of standardized tests (b/c our kids aren't standardized), and that they don't want education to be driven by teaching to the test. I agree--education should be geared toward teaching the standards that are appropriate for that level. But how are parents supposed to know whether or not their child is learning those standards? As I stated earlier, relying on teachers for that information is not always going to give you an accurate sense. Like it or not, teachers are not all created equally, and some cover the required material well, some cover it poorly, and some don't manage to cover it. Some teachers fully assess each student, some don't--due to biases, time constraints, a focus on meeting grade level standards, etc. We've seen it all. Teachers are sometimes a good source of info re: students' abilities, and sometimes not so much. Multiple data points help, and this can especially be the case for students who are "different" from their peers and/or different from their teacher (e.g., in language, IQ, disability, race, background, etc.). The percentage of teachers who have pretty accurately assessed my students over the years is not as high as one would hope.

If "accountability measures" like "portofolios [sic], project presentations, teacher evaluations, etc." are sufficient for you, I'm not sure why you are so opposed to charter schools. I also have a hard time seeing how such data would give anyone a sense of the big picture. Say you live in a community and want to see how the schools are doing--do you ask for everyone's report cards, go observe student in-class presentations, ask to get copies of everyone's portfolios, etc?

Opt-in/out

Hoopless in Seattle said...

I heard an SPS teacher say that option schools are a method of "white flight." The process of making families jump hoops to get into an option school automatically leaves out any families who do not jump those hoops. The same is true of opting out of standardized testing. Whenever families are required to fill out a form and submit it in a certain way at a certain time, some families are left out. A mass protest (where an entire grade at a high school for example, stages a protest and opts out) is the exception. But otherwise, the vast majority of the parents opting out and advocating opting out are the privileged kind, the ones who have the time to contemplate their philosophy on standardized testing and fill out forms asking for special treatment for their child at school. This automatically leaves out families who do not jump those hoops.

Unknown said...

I have not submitted a form on the occasions that I have opted out my children from testing. I just sent an email to the principal. It did not seem like hoop jumping and I can see why there would be little data available.

Just another mom

Anonymous said...

Actually Simone, sunglass... most of the pro-opt-outers we hear about are HCCers, who “just know” their progeny is in the top 1%, and trust the teacher telling them they are great, just like the private doctor back in kindergarten who appealed them in. They don’t want any evidence that might point to a different narrative. HCC parents have always opposed any shred of accountability for their privilege.

Oh, their kids also deserve a full plate of extra enrichment and fulfilling entertainment while everyone else is toiling away at the test for the masses.

reader

Two Schools said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

My initial comments were to call attention to my belief that there DOES seem to be an element of privilege associated with opting out, and we should acknowledge that."

Okay, I acknowledge that (and always have). It still does not make it wrong. It makes it less equitable for others (see the news story I put up from Oregon). There are several national/state groups trying to educate parents about the choices they have around testing.

There will always be testing and parents can always check those scores. But if that's all you check, then you will never have a full picture of any school AND test scores on a single day do not reflect the community and the work they do on a daily basis.

Throwing in that charter remark, Opt-in/Out, gives me pause about what you are really here for.

Reader, I have no idea why you have such venomous speech for others. It's truly unkind and unwanted. You could make your point in other ways and going forward I urge you to do so.

Two Schools, no name calling.

Score Checker said...

@reader,

Your theory is wrong. When students opt out of testing, their score is recorded as zero. If you check the test scores at one of Seattle's HCC-only schools you will see that very few of the students could have received a score of zero.

Anonymous said...

@ reader, I don't know what you're reading, but whatever it is, it's misleading you.

"Most of the pro-opt-outers we hear about are HCCers."
And you know this how?

"HCCers who 'just know' their progeny is in the top 1%, and trust the teacher telling them they are great, just like the private doctor back in kindergarten who appealed them in."
Top 1%? HCC cut-off is top 2%. Or are you suggesting that all HCC parents think their kid who met the 98h percentile cut-off must naturally think their kids are at the upper upper end, even if their scores were 98th percentile? How clever of you. And parents don't think that because teachers tell them their kids are great (what teachers actually do that?)--if they think their kid is in the top 1 or 2% it's because the kid tested at the top 1 or 2 %. Often times repeatedly, as in kids who were tested by SPS annually to maintain their eligibility (as used to be necessary).

One of the ways you get into HCC in the first place is by doing well on the standardized tests. You take it, score high, and the district sends you a letter saying you might be eligible for HCC and do you want to participate in the followup testing. That's hardly opting out. Most HCC students did not get into HCC based on private achievement testing, but rather based on the district-administered standardized MAP or SBAC tests. Again, that's not HCCers opting out.

If you're talking about opting out AFTER a student is already admitted, there IS still accountability. It's called keeping up, AKA report cards. If a student isn't doing well in HCC, they leave or get counseled out. I've seen it happen. Also, the tests you're talking about are unreliable at the upper end of the range anyway, because they aren't really designed to discriminate between someone at the 99th percentile vs someone at the 95th. As you so obnoxiously--but fairly correctly--put it, the tests are designed "for the masses." They are designed to measure differences between more typical students, not those at the ends.

What I assume you're really concerned about is that a small portion of HCC students--who you would "expect" to score above grade level (level 4)--might actually score a 3 (gasp!) on one of these standardized tests. I've seen that happen, too. There can be a lot of reasons for that besides your assumption that the kid is not really HCC material. Bad day, poor teacher, curriculum mismatch, student overthinking it, anxiety, learning disability, etc. One score does not paint a full picture. That's why kids can re-test for HCC, too--because one test does not paint a full picture.

And that comment about " a full plate of extra enrichment" is just silly.

reader silliness

Two Schools said...

reader, families with a student in HCC generally have attended BOTH a neighborhood AND an HCC school. Therefore these families are very able to look around at both schools and see who is opting their students out of standardized testing and whose students are taking the standardized test. As a parent, you ask, "who else opted out with you?" and your student tells you. Or you ask, "did anyone not take the test this year? What did they do instead?" and your student tells you. As a result, many HCC families have first hand knowledge of who is opting out in the various school communities. And it tends to be families of privilege (wealthier, whiter) who are NOT and do not want to become HCC families. Also families with students who would suffer from the actual testing process (e.g. students with a disability such as anxiety).

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Yeah, yeah. Tests that “prove” genius, even if taken repeatedly, or administered privately for the purposes of obtaining a favorable admissions result for the lifetime gifted designation, are totally reliable and valid. Those other tests with averagish results ... well, those are simply for the ordinary folk and not at all meaningful for the best and brightest.

reader

Anonymous said...

"If a student isn't doing well in HCC, they leave or get counseled out. I've seen it."

Anecdotes don't cut it. Data please, because that urban legend is a joke. Lifetime designation is how it works in SPS HC. Can't wait until the new superintendent looks at how this all works.

Gettin' Real

Anonymous said...

Keeping the designation is a newer state law, passed about 5 years ago. It's not an SPS thing, and not something the new super will be able to change.

Pay Attention

Anonymous said...

WA State Law regarding exiting students:

"Districts must have an exit process and use this process to exit students.

Here are the exit codes districts must use:

• I—Student no longer qualifies for gifted program services based upon multiple objective assessment results"

http://www.k12.wa.us/HighlyCapable/default.aspx

Read More

Anonymous said...

Here is an opt out form you may use in Seattle and beyond!
If you don't believe in opting out--for whatever reason, then opt in.
We don't need to bicker about it; support one another in their choices, and try to be compassionate and understand one another's viewpoints when they differ from your own.

SEATTLE
PUBLIC
SCHOOLS*

Decision to Support the Whole Child Form
The unofficial form for opting out of high stakes testing*

Please clearly print the following information and return to your school’s principal and teachers.

Student’s Name _________________________________________________________
Parent/Guardian’s Name __________________________________________________
School _________________________________________ Student’s Grade Level _____

As the parent/guardian of the above named student, I have made an educated decision to support my child by opting him/her/them out of participating in the following, including practice and make up tests:

____ all portions of Smarter Balanced
____ WaKIDS
____ WACS
____ MAP
____Amplify
____ Other _____________


____ I have read and understand that:

This form is a permanent record to document my decision about my child’s educational and emotional well-being without fear of harassment, intimidation, bullying and retaliation by Seattle Public Schools.
Students who do not participate will receive positive reinforcement in knowing they are more than a number and will not experience unnecessary anxiety.
Students who do not participate are free to engage in creative endeavors during the test time
Opting out may positively impact our school by relieving the pressure on staffing and physical space.
Teachers will not have to spend time reviewing test scores that are not reliable in measuring all students’ academic growth in the core academic areas of reading, writing, math and/or science. Instead, teachers will be able to rely on their training and professional judgment to evaluate each child as an individual with multiple strengths and challenges.
Families will not receive unreliable results and will be better able to chart their student’s growth over time by partnering with their teachers.
Smarter Balanced should not be used as a gatekeeper for eligibility for Highly Capable programs, as there is no proven correlation between achievement on this particular test and advanced learning abilities. Smarter Balanced was not intended for this purpose and using scores for this purpose will likely to lead to more racial and socio-economic disparity to advanced learning opportunities.


Signature of Parent/Guardian ______________________________ Date _______________________________

* This form is not published or approved by Seattle Public Schools. You are not required to use the District’s “Refusal to Participate in Assessments Form,” state the reasons for your decision, or agree to any of the assertions stated therein. Opting out is as simple as emailing your principal, or telling them verbally.

AS

Anonymous said...

And for the record, OSPI, which trumps any district requirements, does not require parents to use a form to opt out of high stakes standardized tests. On page 6, at the bottom of the page, there is a paragraph indicating what an admin is to do "if a parent refuses to put their refusal [opt out] in writing." So a verbal opt out is legal/permitted/okay/fine, NO FORM IS REQUIRED.

See this document:

http://www.swweducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/2010-Washington-OSPI-High-Stakes-Test-Refusal-Manual.pdf

Finally, if you compare and contrast the form that is listed on the final page of the above linked OSPI doc with the opt out form on the Seattle Opt Out fb page, it is clear the punitive tone the State assumes (which SPS follows in their online form). The form we (thanks CL) provide is student-centered and proactive when it comes to trusting children and teachers and parents.

AS

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, I think most tests are flawed in terms of bias. And I agree that sometimes kids should be exited from AL but the district has to enforce that. As for that "lifetime designation" - a bit of hyperbole there, no?

Also to note, the state has no law against opting out, unlike other states. So yes, parents have a legal right to do so should they choose to.

Anonymous said...

@ Gettin' Real, do you seriously think a parent would rather have their child struggle and get bad grades in HCC than leave HCC? That's just bizarre.

I don't have the data on how many leave or get counseled out, but I know it's not an urban legend because: (a) I've seen it; (b) the district has an exit policy, as required; (c) many HCC middle school students opt for a non-HCC high school (another form of leaving); (d) it flat out doesn't make sense that a parent would keep a student In HCC if they weren't a good fit, since the real benefits are in acceleration and being with kids you can relate to.

If you're so into data on this issue, how about providing data that there are a lot of kids still in HCC who should have been counseled out? Are there many who are HCC, and who are also not 2e, who are struggling? How would you measure that (i.e., what data would you request)?

I think you're trying to create the sense that there's a problem where there really isn't.

Reader silliness

Sandy said...

Tests can be biased. Tests are biased. Teachers can be biased. Teachers are biased. There is plenty of evidence of this bias, both in tests and in teachers. AA students are more likely to be recommended for AL by an AA teacher. Boys are more likely to be recommended for AL than girls. First-born children are more likely to be recommended for AL than later-born children.

There is a great, recent write-up on unconscious bias in the classroom and what to do about it here:
http://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/unconscious-bias-in-the-classroom-report.pdf

So, how do we most reliably measure a student's academic growth in the core academic areas of reading, writing, math and/or science?

Because teachers can be biased and tests can be biased, it is not as simple as just saying everyone should rely on the teacher's assessment or everyone should rely on the test's assessment. A blindly-graded test can be less biased than a teacher. (Maybe it asks above grade level questions when the teacher wouldn't, for example.) Or a teacher can test in a way that does not disadvantage a student based on socioeconomic status or other demographic by selecting an appropriate assessment for the student.

That's why students benefit from options. Opting out or opting in should both be available. And who should make the call? Parents. Our schools should listen to parents. Children are different and parents know them best.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa, re: your comment that my charter school accountability comment "gives [you] pause about what [I am] really here for," I'm not sure what you're suggesting--maybe that my acknowledgment of a perceived inconsistency in your positions on accountability for public vs. charter makes you think I must be a pro-charter troll?

If it makes you feel better, I'm opposed to publicly funded charter schools--for accountability reasons. I similarly feel that public schools need to be accountable to the public, and I believe standardized tests--while not perfect--are one such tool. The idea that teachers' assessments, student portfolios, and the like could serve to provide that accountability to the wider community is, in my opinion, absurd. Teachers are biased, their assessments are relative, and they often don't have the time/energy/interest to really assess each student carefully. I don't believe there's evidence that report cards provide more accurate information that standardized tests. Neither is perfect, but they can be complementary.

In all our many years of public education for two kids, I've received bland, not-that-helpful info from most teachers; detailed and informative feedback from a couple; and feedback that revealed a complete lack of knowledge about my kids' abilities from another couple. Teachers have consistently missed, or not bothered to report, all sorts of issues that they should have noticed so we could seek early intervention--things that ultimately came to light due to dropping standardized test scores and student self-report. Don't get me wrong, there are some great teachers out there. But in our experience, most meet but don't exceed expectations.

In closing, I'll state yet again that I believe parents should have the ability to opt their students out, and I know the law. I'd prefer to see each child tested a few times--to provide a fuller picture both for the parent/child AND for school/district/state--so if it were up to me each student would get a certain number of opt-out passes to use K-12 (or maybe it would be that they needed to take it at least once in elementary school, once in middle school, once in high school). But clearly it's not up to me.

Opt-in/out

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm not inconsistent about my positions on accountability but you can keep saying that if it pleases you.

But I'm not going to agree that testing is the only/best way for accountability.

I'm a little baffled by "see each child tested a few times - they are via MAP.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa, it doesn't "please me" at all. It's more accurate to say it baffles me.

It seems somewhat inconsistent to me that many of those who oppose charter schools profess to do so because of their lack of accountability, yet many of these same people fully support the opt-out movement, when these statewide tests are primarily done as an accountability tool--and when other publicly available accountability tools seem to be lacking. Your suggestion that "portofolios [sic], project presentations, teacher evaluations, etc." are sufficient accountability for public schools, then, begs the question of why anything more is needed for charters. It was a fair question.

But I'm not going to agree that testing is the only/best way for accountability. Who asked you to? Certainly not me. I was very clear that I don't think the tests are perfect, and that there's value (for parents and teachers) in having a variety of data points--such as teacher evaluations in combination with some standardized testing. I also noted that, in terms of public accountability, teacher data doesn't really cut it. If you don't have a kid in a particular grade or school or district but want to consider your school options or see how your tax dollars are working, there should be some basic performance data available. Portfolios, report cards, and even MAP test data aren't going to provide that to the general public, or to state education officials.

Now for the hard part:

I have enjoyed reading this blog for years and often find it the only (or first) source of information. I deeply appreciate your time and hard work on behalf of the community. But I have to say, your patience seems to be wearing thin. I fully get that it's not fun to feel attacked, and I know that many posters are quite rude and cross the line. However, I've always had a general sense that you were honest and genuinely open to conversation and divergent viewpoints, even if you were a bit biased one way or the other. However, the fact that my comments about a position that strikes me as contradictory leads you to first question my motives and then completely distort my perspective is both surprising and disappointing. It seems you're getting defensive and trying to make me out to be the bad guy, rather than engaging with an on-point issue that was brought up. (I know, I know... You don't care, and if don't like the blog I can stop reading. I will keep reading, though--but with increased clarity re: how the narrative here is often controlled.)

Opt-in/out

Melissa Westbrook said...

Opt-in-out, my thoughts on accountability with charters - which you keep dragging into this discussion and I ask you to stop - is more around their use of public dollars, abiding by public disclosure rules, inability to easily close them even in the face of real issues, etc. It's not about their test scores.

You are the one hijacking this thread and yes, I get testy when that happens.

I never said you were a bad guy; I'm disagreeing with you. I'm not being rude; I'm being blunt.

If that offends you or you cannot take being challenged on your points, yes, you can stop reading.

Anonymous said...

I can certainly take being challenged on my points, which I believe is important for productive conversation here. We were not necessarily even disagreeing, had you not misrepresented my comments (which is not "bluntness"). You also never asked me to stop, so please don't suggest I persisted despite your request not to. I persisted because you seemed unwilling to respond to an on-topic question re: accountability an opting out. Thank you for the clarifying comments re: your take on charter school accountability, but you have still not addressed the spirit of the question re: what sort of data the public can/should use for public school accountability if not statewide standardized tests. On a pro-opt-out thread, this is pertinent.

Opt-in/out

Anonymous said...

@ Opt-in/out, you've articulated my own similar thoughts quite well. Thank you.

Upthread, One Mom asserted that private school students are not taking standardized tests. That is not true as many if not most private schools administer the ERB/CTPs. My kids have taken them every year beginning in 2nd grade, and I've never known a private school parent to opt out. The results provide parents and teachers a useful view (both snapshot and longitudinal) of how a child's mastery compares to classmates, to the national private school cohort, and to the national suburban public school cohort. Imperfect, yes. Test design always merits careful review, and there are legitimate concerns over linking results to teacher evaluations, but standardized tests are the best means of assessing skills across different populations.

FNH

Anonymous said...

Somewhat off topic, but I have been following this thread with interest and thinking of all the different reasons to opt one's child in or out of these tests. Then my middle schooler asked me this morning if he could opt out of taking the SBAC. And honestly, I feel weird about it because this has been probably the least academically challenging or engaging school year of his life. Part of me wants him to do SOMETHING that makes him write and think in a given amount of time, and it seems like as flawed as these tests are, at least they are taken somewhat seriously at my kid's school. Am I crazy?

Underwhelmed

Melissa Westbrook said...

Opt-in, talking in circles is wasting time. You made your points. My policy on hijacking threads is known; generally I delete those comments and perhaps I should do that. I’m not going to remind every single person every time.

And I did cite other ways to show academic promise.

Moving on.

Anonymous said...

My kids went to private school K-8 and didn't take a standardized test until 8th grade. Part of the reason we chose private was to avoid all the pointless testing.

HP

Anonymous said...

People disagree over it being pointless, but for either viewpoint the prospect of our kids spending six hours per year for testing didn't factor one bit in choosing private v public, honestly. And, as it turns out, public or private often does not make any difference with regard to taking standardized tests. The better private schools administer them too for at least some grade years, and most require standardized tests for admission.

I found the results illuminating, even acknowledging a testing "bias" that worked against one of my children whose lower school years were spent entirely in the French system. Knowing we would eventually transition to an Int'l system, the tests helped identify weaknesses needing to be addressed, between very different curricula and benchmarks.

FNH