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Weekly Update: Opting out, push back, a red, white and blue charter school and Matt Farmer breaks it down

“Opting out of standardized testing” is the phrase of the week and it’s happening around the country.

In New York:

Parents and Students Say ‘Enough’ to More Testing

It resembled a street carnival. Excited children in bright colors, holding up scarecrows and blowing bubbles, were being serenaded by the raucous sounds of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra.

But the scarecrows were christened “Bloomberg,” “Tisch” and “Cuomo.” The children held up placards that said things like “No More Testing. My Brain Is for Learning!” And sprinkled throughout the crowd were posters and cutouts of pineapples.

This was no celebration. These children and their parents, several hundred in all, were gathered in Midtown to protest the “field tests,” which are experimental tests that Pearson, the state-contracted test-maker, uses to develop future tests.

The rally was organized by a coalition of groups, including ParentVoicesNY, Time Out From Testing and Change the Stakes. Since children had the day off, the organizers had urged their parents to bring them to what they called a “field trip against field tests.”

Some children complained about the way the tests were being used. “You could be a really bad scholar and actually get a good grade on these tests,” said Jackson Zavala, a third grader whose mother kept him out of April’s standardized tests. “So they’re not judging you by your regular brains.”

Max Servetar, a sixth grader, said he barely learned anything new in April. “We spent so much time preparing for the test,” he said. “And then we do all this testing. And it stops everything.”

Max also complained about the quality of the questions. “Some questions we hadn’t even studied yet,” he said, “and my teachers couldn’t decide which answers were right for some of the questions.”

To read the article in full, go to the New York Times School Book section.

In Rochester, New York:

Boycott of State Field Tests at School #12

The School #12 PTA is urging parents to boycott next week’s state field tests.

Elementary and middle schools around the state will administer the field tests to specific grades in specific subjects. The tests do not count for anything. They are designed to help the state’s testing company, Pearson, develop future test questions.

To watch the report, go to ABC 13.

In Alameda County Florida:

School Board to vote on resolution opposing making FCAT so important

Local school officials say they are getting tired of all the testing.

The Alachua County School Board is scheduled to vote on a resolution Tuesday opposing the use of high-stakes standardized tests to hold schools accountable, a move that would widen the gap between the state and the district on the value of the FCAT tests.

Some school leaders maintain that the FCAT cannot be the end-all-be-all for student, teacher and school evaluations.

“To base everything on one high-stakes test is not in the best interest of our children,” said April Griffin, chair of the School Board.

Several other districts in the state have adopted or shown support for the resolution, including Broward, Palm Beach and Pinellas counties.

The resolution calls on Gov. Rick Scott, the state Board of Education and federal officials to develop a system for accountability that uses a variety of methods to measure student performance. It also calls for an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act, asking federal lawmakers to reduce testing mandates.

Griffin emphasized that districts want to be held accountable, but current state and federal testing mandates are not the answer.

“We want to encourage the state of Florida, the governor and the state Board of Education to come up with a different type of accountability standard,” Griffin said. “Basing everything on one day in a child’s year is not the correct way, we believe.”

To read this article in full, go to the Gainesville Sun.

In Orange County Florida:

Will Orange County School Board Be Next to Pass Resolution on High Stakes Tests?

And in two other school districts in Florida:

Pinellas, Hernando may vote on FCAT resolutions

As the stakes keep increasing in Florida’s standardized testing system, teachers have protested and parents have complained about anxious students more fearful than ever of failing.

Now, some school leaders across the state are part of the growing backlash.

In yet another signal of the broadening distaste for using the FCAT as a do-or-die measure, two Tampa Bay school districts — Pinellas and Hernando — are considering resolutions urging the state to place less emphasis on the controversial test required for graduation.

Already, at least three other school districts have taken a stand on the issue, and a handful of others are considering similar measures. Hillsborough School Board chairwoman Candy Olson said the resolution has been brought up informally but is not scheduled for a vote.

“I think the FCAT puts too much pressure on all the children,” said Cynthia Moore, chairwoman of the Hernando County School Board. “We have children doing FCAT, throwing up in the morning because they are so upset about it.”

To read this article in full, go to the Tampa Bay Times.

In Vermont:

Vermont opts out of No Child Left Behind waiver

After applying for a waiver for flexibility from the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, Vermont has changed its mind and will not pursue the application, saying the waiver and so-called flexibility are not as flexible as officials hoped they would be.

The U.S. Department of Education announced last week that it has approved waivers for another eight states. A total of 19 states have gotten waivers to date, in exchange for providing their own plans to improve student outcomes and teaching quality.

But the Vermont Board of Education voted to opt out of seeking the waiver on May 15 because the state would still be required to give annual standardized tests, officials said.

“Our main interest was in being able to assess students in a more complete way and not have the arbitrary testing and all the repercussions from that, and that’s not what they meant by waiver,’’ said Stephan Morse, chairman of the state board of education.

In a small town in Northern California, the parents  successfully pushed to opt out of charter schools…with a little humor:

And now for that red, white and blue charter school:

Public school in rural Idaho touts patriotic focus

I think that I’ve just about seen everything now in charter school “themes”.

In the How Low Can You Go category, in Oklahoma:

Students’ records put on website after appeal

Hours after the State Board of Education deliberated behind closed doors over seven students’ appeals for exemptions from high-stakes testing requirements, state officials posted the private educational records of each of those students on the state website.

All seven students were denied an exemption from the law that requires high school seniors to pass at least four of seven end-of-instruction tests to earn a diploma.

The Internet posting includes names, grade point averages, school districts, learning disabilities, test scores and other information. Addresses and phone numbers were redacted.

It prompted an outcry Wednesday from Tulsa-area educators and attorneys who said the state Department of Education’s action violates state and federal educational privacy laws.

Under a new law allowing students to appeal for an exemption from testing requirements under the Achieving Classroom Excellence – or ACE – law, students are required to sign a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act waiver to enter the appeals process.

But educators say that waiver doesn’t cover placing students’ private information on the Internet.

“This is just a violation of even common courtesy, as well as FERPA, which is federal law,” Union Superintendent Cathy Burden said. “This is exposing confidential test information, by name, of students who hadn’t anticipated such a thing. I’m just kind of appalled. We would never do this. It’s just common professionalism.”

To read this article in full, go to Tulsa World.

This week I’m going to leave you with this awesome video of Chicago parent and attorney Matt Farmer speaking at the Chicago Teachers Union Stand Strong rally.

Have a good one.

Dora

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