Teachers at Sealth High School in Seattle have scraped the MAP.
Teachers at Sealth High School in Seattle have scraped the MAP.

The opt out movement has caught hold around the country.

In New York:

School board blasts excessive testing

The Greenville School Board on Monday railed against the excessive amount of testing that the State Board of Education is requiring for primary school students.

“We are going to have to take a bold stance. We are going to have to do something,” said School Board President Anne Mitchell. “It is not right. It is just not right.”

The board complained that while the State of New York is not providing the school district with enough funding they are also requiring that students take an excessive amount of tests.

Some of the tests are for assessment purposes so that the State of New York can keep track of how each district is performing.

The board took issue with whether the tests are actually teaching students, questioning whether there is a connection between testing and learning.

“As Superintendent I know I am required to implement the testing requirements of New York State. I do think, however, that there needs to be parental feedback to the [New York] State Education Department, including the Legislature. I hope the parents take the issue seriously because I don’t sense that the Governor is interested in what the Superintendents have to say,” said Superintendent of Schools Cheryl A. Dudley. “We see the day-to-day impact of the testing on the children and I do not see the connection between the assessment testing and children learning and their well-being.”

Dudley said she was also concerned about how the assessment testing results are being used. Dudley questioned who had the data, was the data confidential and how are companies managing the information.  

Dudley blasted the penalties that school districts face for failing to report assessment data to the State. Some parents do not want their children to be tested repeatedly during the school year and have the option to refuse the testing of their children.

To read this article in full, go to Mobile News.

From Fair Test, an excerpt:

Test Opposition Surges Across the Nation

The Seattle action may have had the highest national profile, but it was far from the only testing protest this winter.

  • In February, two student unions in Portland organized a boycott of the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) test. The Portland Public Schools student union and the Portland Student Union protested the OAKS because it wastes resources and is not an accurate measure of student achievement. “We’re hoping to send a greater message to the Department of Education about how students really do care about our education,” said Portland student organizer Alexia Garcia.  “Over the years we’ve seen increased class sizes, less community control over our schools, and a movement towards standardization. We are standing up to say the system needs to change and public education needs to be better funded.”
  • In January, 45 Providence high school students rallied at the Rhode Island State House in opposition to a new requirement that students pass the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) tests to graduate high school. The class of 2014 would be the first to have to meet this requirement. “Punishing students—particularly those who haven’t had the opportunity to receive the great education we deserve—is neither effective nor just,” said Kelvis Hernandez, a Providence Student Union member. In February, members of the Providence Student Union staged a die-in to dramatize how using NECAP as a graduation test could snuff out opportunities for as many as 40% of Rhode Island and 60% of Providence high schoolers.
  • Students in Denver are organizing a walkout and boycott of the Colorado state test, the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program, or TCAP, for March 14. Darciann Samples, a Colorado Parent, National Board Certified Teacher and opt-out organizer, shared her experiences opting her son out of testing last year and her plans to do the same this year. She offered words of encouragement to other parents: “Simply state your case, in a letter or in person, and stand firm.  The less said, I believe, the better.  Don’t give them any openings to break down your thoughts or give you doubt.  You know your child, you know what is appropriate for your child, and you have the right to ensure that your wishes are upheld.”
  • Citing the example of the Seattle teacher boycott, Chicago parent and community organizations and the Chicago Teachers Union initiated a campaign in January to support local efforts to eliminate non-state mandated testing from schools. They launched a new website, “More than a Score.” Parents circulated petitions at 37 schools on February 6 demanding fewer tests and more transparency, using the effort to educate parents and teachers. They will continue collecting signatures in person and on-line, then deliver the petitions to the Chicago Board of Education in the spring. Organizers have held regular community forums across the city (including two featuring FairTest presenters), critiquing the tests, explaining authentic assessment, and building the movement.
  • Parent groups in New York, Washington, Colorado and elsewhere have continued to organize opt-out drives, including a large and successful campaign in New York against field tests of Pearson exams last spring. Organizers of opt-out campaigns in New York and elsewhere expect that the forthcoming Common Core assessments will create an even greater explosion of standardized testing and are preparing to educate and organize parents to respond.

To read this post in full, go to Fair Test.

On Facebook, two more opt out groups: Opt Out Orlando and Texas Parents Opt Out of State Tests.

In Rhode Island:

R.I. adults took a standardized test, and they didn’t like it

testing_b This time it was the kids serving as proctors and the adults taking the standardized test.

In Providence, R.I. on Saturday, several dozen state legislators, city officials, professors and others sat down for several hours at a library to take a standardized test that was created from actual questions off of the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP.

Why did they do it? The Providence Student Union, a high school student advocacy

group, persuaded several dozen high-powered adults to take the test as part of their protest against a new state requirement that high school seniors must reach a certain level of proficiency on the exam to graduate — even though the test wasn’t designed for this purpose. It wasn’t even designed for the assessment of individual students.

The Providence Journal interviewed many of the adults after they took the test and it reported that most of them thought they flunked. Results will be made available Tuesday. Some said the test included “trick” questions.

The math test given to the adults was composed of actual questions kids have to answer on the NECAP, some of which are made public every year after they are no longer being used on the assessment. The students who designed the test said they chose to give the adults a math test because that is the one that is putting the most students in danger of not being able to graduate.

The Journal quoted state Rep. Larry Valencia (D-Richmond) as saying:

I was good at math. I took trig, statistics, pre-calculus. I have a degree in chemistry. I think the test is very unfair. It doesn’t represent what the average high school student should know.

State Sen. Adam Satchell was quoted as saying in a student union press release:

We’re trying to teach students twenty-­‐first century skills— how to speak, how to use technology. That’s not what this test measures.  It’s not an accurate measurement of our students.

Rhode Island state Sen. Gayle Goldin (D) took the test early and she said in an interview that she did not do well on it.


An Opt Out form for Chicago Public School students:

Suggestions on Opting Out of CPS Standardized Tests and form

And finally, a Pennsylvania parents opt out letter for her child:

Dear Dr. Lane,Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(5) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child excused from any State standardized testing because of religious and philosophical beliefs.During the time when other students are taking State standardized PSSA tests (including make-ups), I would like my child, Ayden Harbin, to be provided with real learning opportunities at his school during test time (I have my clearances and would be willing to volunteer for this at Liberty). Or, if you would prefer, I could keep Ayden at home.Dr. Lane, I am not required by law to explain my reasons for opting out. But this decision, to participate in civil disobedience, comes after much research and reflection so I will explain my thoughts in detail. I’ve chosen to copy the members of the Board of Directors and my Principal at Liberty to inform them of my decision. (In addition, my principal was directed by her superiors to tell parents that a copy must also be sent to Lisa Augustin and Tina Still, employees in the PPS Assessment Department. I have copied them here even though Chapter 4.4 clearly states that parents must send a written request to the Superintendent only. Please instruct your staff to correct this mistake.)My philosophy about education is based on the simple belief in social justice and human rights. I believe every child has the right to an education filled with rich learning experiences that encourage creativity, critical thinking, taking risks, making mistakes and having independent thought. High-stakes standardized testing like the PSSA exam is not consistent with these beliefs and consequently result in the following:

The PSSA has high-stakes for students and schools. Pittsburgh Public Schools has made and will continue to make decisions to close schools based on the results of this test. Therefore, the stakes are the highest for schools that already suffer from the inequities in our schools; high teacher and principal turnover, concentrations of students living in poverty, inadequate resources and institutionalized racism.

The PSSA has high-stakes for teachers, and soon, principals. Test-based teacher and principal evaluation systems are gaining popularity as evidenced by current state legislation. (Act 82 of 2012) Unfortunately, there is no research available to prove these evaluation systems work to improve student learning. There is evidence though that the reliance on high-stakes testing, for the purpose of evaluating teachers, has caused a narrowing of the curriculum, teaching to the test and an increase in cheating. Additionally, testing companies have admitted that these tests were not developed for the purpose of evaluation and should not be used in that way.

High-stakes tests are not a diagnostic assessment of student learning. I am not against all assessments. I do understand that teachers need ways to assess if students understand what has been taught. The PSSA exam is not this kind of assessment. In fact, results from the PSSA exam are not available to teachers until the next school year. Therefore, high-stakes standardized tests have no value to the teacher to assess student learning.

High-stakes tests cause student fear, anxiety and loss of confidence. In my home, we place a value on learning and the love of learning. We encourage our kids to learn from making mistakes. You can understand why I would be upset when my son in 2nd grade adamantly refused to answer a homework question (with 2 possible answers) because he was afraid he would get the wrong answer.

I was also upset to learn from a science teacher that her students, when asked to write a hypothesis, hesitated to write it until they knew it would be ‘correct’. Even though she explains to them that famous scientists have made great discoveries precisely because their hypothesis was ‘wrong’.

Recently, a student at Pittsburgh Obama wrote in the school newspaper about high-stakes testing, “ These standardized tests have become increasingly stressful for the teachers and students. There is too much at stake on one test that you take once a year. It has gotten to the point where the tests are a disruption to learning”.

High-stakes tests cause a narrowing of the curriculum and undermine the quality of instruction. Classes and subjects that are not tested have been increasingly eliminated in PPS. At Liberty (a Spanish magnet) students previously had Spanish every day. No more. The time allocated for Spanish has been replaced by more ELA and Math because Spanish is not tested.

Liberty is fortunate though, we still have a full time art and music teacher. Some schools do not, because they have even more ELA and Math. Schools that perform poorly on the PSSA have art and music instruction once every six days and schools that perform better on the PSSA have full-time art and music instruction.

Children identified as ‘low performers’ on the high-stakes PSSA are given more frequent assessments and are subjected to drill and kill methods of instruction. Simply for the purpose of enabling them to achieve higher standardized test scores. This is not quality instruction nor is it learning.

At a community meeting at UPREP Milliones, I learned that a decision was recently made to ensure that students can pass the Keystone Algebra 1 Exam (a high-stakes test). Students at UPREP will have 2 years’ worth of instruction in Algebra 1. But, as a result, Algebra 2 (with no high-stakes test attached to it) will be taught as a double block in one semester. Cramming a years’ worth of curriculum into one semester is not a best practice for teaching and learning.

High-stakes tests cause poor school climates. The use of high-stakes testing has turned our schools into test prep centers. This increases barriers to real learning and student engagement.

Students themselves, like the Obama student I quoted above, report high levels of stress and anxiety associated with their performance on high-stakes testing.

The fear that some students or subgroups will bring down test scores contributes to a hostile and stressful school climate. This creates animosity between racial and economic groups. Students with disabilities are often vilified because they disproportionately score lower on high-stakes tests.

Since the beginning of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the focus on results of high-stakes tests, suspensions rates and expulsions have increased and graduation rates have decreased. Colleges and Universities have reported that students are less prepared for the challenges of higher education (academic and non-academic).

High-stakes tests may not accurately measure learning and achievement. Why do certain subgroups disproportionately score lower on these tests? Is it possible that the PSSA has a racial, economic and ability bias build in that is beneficial to certain subgroups of students?

Racial, economic and ability gaps in testing outcomes exist but I refuse to call it an ‘achievement gap’. Our students are achieving every day—we just don’t have a system in place to measure and celebrate these learning achievements. Parents are told that this is the EASIEST way to measure learning, not the BEST way.

The overuse and misuse of high-stakes testing has the unintended consequence of INCREASING INEQUITY and violating all children’s’ civil rights to a free and appropriate education. Inequity in Pittsburgh Public Schools has increased in the following ways:

increase in student suspensions (students being pushed-out of learning)

high turn-over of teachers and principals in low performing schools (as measured by the test results)

punitively closing schools in communities of color and low income

teaching to the test for specific students

elimination of rich curriculum for specific students

Do you know how much of our limited resources and precious time is spent on high-stakes testing in our District? A recent Bill has been introduced in the Oregon Legislative Assembly (HB 2664) related to standardized tests calling for an evaluation of the use of standardized tests in the public schools. The evaluation will include the fiscal, administrative and educational impacts of these tests with respect to the impact on instructional time, curricula, professional flexibility, administrative time and focus, and budgets.

My vision for excellent Pittsburgh Public Schools includes real equity; schools in all of our neighborhoods, small class sizes, support for whole child, rich, engaging and culturally-responsive curriculums, professionally trained, developed and experienced teachers, time for teachers to collaborate, and resources available to support the needs of students and teachers.

I will continue to advocate for educational policies and programs in Pittsburgh Public Schools that reflect my religious and philosophical beliefs based on equitable education for all children. Test-score driven educational policies, including high-stakes testing, have no place in my vision for a high quality education.