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The Opt Out Update: From the Northwest to the “anti-testing tsunami” in New York to Pennsylvania where the hallways and classroom walls are covered with brown paper for three weeks

opt out 4

Update to the update, April 17, 2015:

Jessie Rothenberg, age 8, holds a sign while sitting on her father's shoulders while protesting Gov. Cuomo's education policies in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in March.

Jessie Rothenberg, age 8, holds a sign while sitting on her father’s shoulders while protesting Gov. Cuomo’s education policies in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in March.Thousands of students opt out of state mandated English Language Arts exam as families from Brooklyn to Buffalo boycott tests

Thousands of students opt out of state mandated English Language Arts exam as families from Brooklyn to Buffalo boycott tests

It’s an anti-testing tsunami.

Thousands of families across the Empire State said no to standardized testing, boycotting the state-mandated English Language Arts exams which began Tuesday.

While accurate figures were hard to come by, testing opponents, parents groups, and school officials from Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, to Buffalo all agreed the number is likely to far exceed the 60,000 students who refused to take the test last year.

“From what I’m hearing from other superintendents, it could be at least 300,000 students across the state that opted out,” said William Cala, superintendent of Fairport Central School District near Rochester.

Rachel Cohen, mother of a fifth-grader at Public School 261, said she thinks at least 66% of the 817 students in her Boerum Hill school refused to take the English Language Arts test — the first of the exams administered to third-through eighth-graders across New York State this week.

“Essentially I see no diagnostic educational benefit to my child,” she said. “I see no compelling evidence this is a fair and accurate way to assess children or teachers. All this emphasis on testing actually interferes with meaningful learning and assessment.”

Other parents whose kids opted-out echoed Cohen’s complaints that teachers are being forced to “teach to the test” to preserve their jobs — and their kids were being short-changed as a result.

“We’re not against assessment, we believe in meaningful assessment,” said Jody Alperin, whose children are in the second and fifth grade at PS 10 in South Park Slope, Brooklyn. “Test results should not be punitive.”

To read the article in full, go to The Daily News.

There is a lot of opt out activity occurring around the country during this Common Core testing season which begins in earnest in April and continues to June. Practice tests were administered in March taking two to three weeks to for all students to take in each public school here in Seattle and around the country. It’s an inordinate amount of testing which is one of many reasons parents are opting their students out of the Common Core testing.

Starting in Seattle, 200 students and counting have opted out of the Common Core Standards’ SBAC test at Garfield High School and because of the number of students who are opting out, the teachers will not be required to administer the test. More students will be in class learning than those in the computer lab taking a standardized test.

Two other high schools in Seattle, Nathan Hale and Ingraham High Schools, have reported 100+ students at each school opting out of the SBAC.

Pathfinder K-8 has reported 50 students are opting out of the SBAC.

These numbers have been totaled by Seattle Opt Out Facebook page and are based on reporting provided by parents and teachers directly to the group or on the Seattle Schools Community Forum.

This is the list so far with comments from the parents.

Some of the comments were:

“It was easy”
“We received no pushback” (Elementary)
“The school didn’t try to persuade us either way”
“Our son’s teacher let him call us since they were doing practice tests and he
knew we were going to opt him out. It was great”
“Our school has had tech issues”
“Special education teaching time has been severely impacted in our school”
“Wireless access firmware and driveware were incompatible—a mess.”
“No pushback” (High school)
“Kids want instruction time”
“Other 10th graders are encouraging opting out”
“Running Start parents are opting out”
“The 8th graders are very bored; the onus is being placed on students when
it shouldn’t be”
“Parents thought of taking all the opted out students to coffee shops but were
worried about truancy issues”
“Parents made activity packets for the kids”
“Parents took time off work and organized activities for 3rd graders, who liked it, and parents felt that it was enriching. They had reading time, did origami, illustrated comic books, talked about kids in foster care and made them ‘kid kits,’
read an essay on a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, dialogued about how struggle is important to becoming strong in ourselves.”

If you want to report your school numbers, you can go to the Seattle Opt Out Facebook page and post or message or send an email to seattled@icloud.com with your numbers.

Update:April 19,2015:

This just in from the Tri-Cities, WA and reported by Robert Valiant:

A Tri-Cities newscaster reported that fewer than 100 (out of approximately 1000) took the high school test at the 3 Kennewick, WA high schools last week. At least another 120 refused the tests in the lower grades.

Now, in other parts of the country:

Let’s start where all of the parents should opt their students out of the test:

Computer glitch halts Common Core testing in Nevada

Nevada’s students haven’t been able to take computerized standardized tests since Tuesday morning because of technical problems.

According to the Nevada Department of Education, a spike in students taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) this morning in Nevada, Montana and North Dakota exceeded the data capacity of Measured Progress, a third-party vendor contracted by the states to provide the test. (Please note “a third-party vendor”provides the test. More money flowing from hand to hand in the failed implementation of this test.)

All testing in the three states has been stopped until Measured Progress can increase its data capacity, according to an email sent to state superintendents today by state deputy superintendent Steve Canavero.

Students who were taking the test at the time of the problem were able to finish their test, but teachers could not start new tests. About 13,000 tests were completed this morning before the errors started occurring, according to the department.

“We hope to have the tests up and running tomorrow,” said department spokeswoman Judy Osgood.

The SBAC requires an Internet connection and a computer powerful enough to take the test.

This year marks the first time the tests have been rolled out in Nevada. Though they have previously been field-tested by state students, the assessments are now officially being taken by students in third through eighth grades.

They replaced the older CRT state tests and are designed to assess students’ mastery of Nevada’s new Common Core reading and math standards.

The SBAC was developed by UCLA and is offered to any state that pays a yearly admission fee. Nevada pays upward of $1 million a year to be able to administer the test, and is one of 18 states on the SBAC governing board.

The test is one of two Common Core assessments currently offered in the United States, the other one being the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

By the way, UCLA did not develop the test. For more on who did, see Who wrote the Common Core Standards? The Common Core 24.

Now, moving on to Portland, Oregon:

Reynolds teacher Emily Crum, center, talks during an opt out committee meeting. About 5 percent of Portland Public Schools students have opted out of taking new Smarter Balanced assessments.

Reynolds teacher Emily Crum, center, talks during an opt out committee meeting. About 5 percent of Portland Public Schools students have opted out of taking new Smarter Balanced assessments.

Movement to opt out of Common Core testing gains steam, especially in Portland

As tougher standardized tests roll out in public schools across Oregon, Portland is emerging as a player in the erratic national movement to boycott testing aligned with the new Common Core standards.

Overall, about 5 percent of Portland Public Schools students have opted out of Smarter Balanced tests, but at some schools the numbers are much higher. According to data released April 10, Abernethy Elementary, Metropolitan Learning Center K-8, Creative Science K-8, Alliance High School and Sunnyside Environmental K-8 have the highest rates, with at least a quarter of test-takers opting out.

By comparison, the Hillsboro School District on Friday reported a total of 48 opt-out requests. On Thursday Beaverton had 107, and North Clackamas reported 27.

Oregon law permits students to opt out of standardized testing for only two reasons, disability or religious belief. In Portland, district administrators don’t review reasons parents give for opting out. Parents requesting a religious exemption need only to check a box on a one-page form.

At a meeting Sunday in Portland, members of an opt out committee formed through the education reform group Oregon Save Our Schools, talked about the need to increase outreach to parents, school employees and organizations and how testing is linked to broader education issues.

Emily Crum, committee member and Reynolds School District elementary teacher, said parents often underestimate their power under the law.

“At the end of the day, this is your civil right,” she said. “You’re not requesting.”

Roughly a dozen educators, parents and others attended the meeting, held at a real real estate office in the Buckman neighborhood. Representatives from advocacy group Angry Grandparents Against High Stakes Testing and members of the newly-formed Lake Oswego High School Student Union also attended.

The student union formed with the goal of launching an opt-out campaign and received advice and invitations to collaborate from committee members and advocates.

So far, 170 students have opted out at Lake Oswego High School, according to district spokeswoman Nancy Duin.

The opt out committee formed last year and meets monthly, Crum said. The committee has held information nights for parents and is planning a high school panel and other events. Crum said the idea was to offer a safe environment for parents to get information.

Parent and committee member LuAnne Dindia DeMarco did much more than opt-out. She withdrew her children last month from Glencoe Elementary, where about 13 percent of students won’t test.

Dindia DeMarco felt the pressure of Smarter Balanced tests was having a negative affect on teachers and her fourth grade son, and has since moved her children to homeschooling. She also worries about the tests having a negative impact on disadvantaged students.

“We felt like we can do better for our children,” she said. “They’re enjoying what they are learning again.”

Gwen Sullivan, president of the Portland Association of Teachers, the union representing Oregon’s largest district, said she expects Portland’s numbers to keep increasing as more schools start testing.

In February, the union had passed a formal resolution objecting to plans to conduct the exams, citing concerns with the validity of the test and other issues. Teachers will not be directly affected by test outcomes this year, but some are worried that the tests could eventually become a measure of teacher performance as well as student performance.

Sullivan said she has spoken parents about concerns with the tests, such as projections that from 60 to 65 percent of students will fail.

Sullivan said she has presented alongside district staff at multiple parent group meetings, including at Abernethy. She said her goal is provide parents with facts and balanced information so they can make their own decisions about opting out. The district’s Smarter Balanced information had been criticized as being promotional, though spokesman Jon Isaacs said forms have since been revised.

Sullivan is also the parent of a student at Abernethy, where about 50 percent of students have opted out.

Patricia Brooke, a parent and co-chair of the Abernethy Board, said she and other parents support holistic education. She’s concerned about the test’s length and reliance on technology, and said she values creativity and collaboration.

“I’m not sure it’s clear how high stakes testing develops any of those things,” she said. “We’re a very empowered parent community.”

Parents who opt their child out are asked to submit an alternative assignment equivalent to what they would be doing for the test, said district spokeswoman Christine Miles said. The district tries to consider parent requests, but the school principal makes the call on what opted out students do instead.

To read this article in full, go to Oregon Live.

Lake Oswego High student union campaigns for peers to opt out of Common Core tests

Members of the Lake Oswego High School Student Union, from left to right- Haley Bertelsen, Daniel Vogel, Blake Mindemann, Lauren Anderson and Jack McLean. The union is advocating for students to opt out of Smarter Balanced exams.

Members of the Lake Oswego High School Student Union, from left to right- Haley Bertelsen, Daniel Vogel, Blake Mindemann, Lauren Anderson and Jack McLean. The union is advocating for students to opt out of Smarter Balanced exams.

A significant number of Lake Oswego High School students have requested exemptions from taking new Common Core aligned assessments following the launch of a student union founded to encourage opting out.

The Lake Oswego High School Student Union, formed about a month ago, has started a campaign to advocate for students to opt out of taking new Smarter Balanced assessments. Test exemption requests are typically rare, but more than 100 have poured in this year, said district spokeswoman Nancy Duin. Lake Oswego High School students will start testing April 17.

For the full article, go to the Oregon Live.

In Pennsylvania:

Alison McDowell, holding a sign encouraging parents to have their children not participate in PSSA testing

Alison McDowell, holding a sign encouraging parents to have their children not participate in PSSA testing

As Pa. School Assessment Tests Begin, ‘Opt Out’ is Some Parents’ Response

PHILADELPHIA — Three weeks of standardized testing begin today in public schools across Pennsylvania. But in Philadelphia and elsewhere, a growing number of parents are opting their kids out.

The PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) exams are being administered in classrooms throughout the state. The tests are the primary way the state evaluates school performance.

But some parents have chosen not to have their kids participate, claiming the tests cause undue stress for kids, and have no direct benefit.

“We’re not going to be silent about what is actually happening, and that people in Pennsylvania have a right to either opt out on religious grounds, or to outright refuse tests for their children,” says parent Alison McDowell, an opt-out organizer in Philadelphia.

The state recommends that any writing on school walls be covered up during the tests. The opt-out group has launched a web site, talesfromthetest.org, in which some teachers are posting photos of classrooms and hallways covered with brown paper.

A photo on the talesfromthetest.org web site shows a school’s display boards covered for the duration of testing, as specified in the PSSA rules.

A photo on the talesfromthetest.org web site shows a school’s display boards covered for the duration of testing, as specified in the PSSA rules.

North Fork Parents: Is Your Child Opting Out of Testing?

opt out
Students in New York State will sit down this week to take the infamous Common Core tests.

Approximately 60,000 students opted out of testing in 2014, according to the New York Post. Even more students are expected to opt out this year in protest of the tests.

A deafening outcry from parents, students, teachers, and politicians on both sides of the aisle has grown over the past few years since the tests were instituted. On Long Island, educational leaders have overwhelmingly joined the opposition.

In Southold, the school district Superintendent David Gamberg sent home information for parents back in March to inform them on the option of opting out, including a link to the NYS Allies For Public Education website which provides parents with a format for a refusal letter.

“In an effort to provide all available information and options to parents, the following is the current information for opting out of New York State’s testing for grades 3 to 8,” the district wrote in a message to parents. “This is solely information, we are not guiding you for or against the tests, but we feel that having this information is important. Whether or not you decide for your child to take the test is your choice.”

The South Shore created a red line down Sunrise and Montauk Highways in March in protest of the exams. Hundreds lined the streets in protest with cardboard cutouts of Cuomo and signs exclaiming “kids not numbers.”

Cuomo’s increased consequences of test scores only further infuriated its opponents.

To read this article in full, go to the North Fork Patch

More from New York:

Astorino: Why my kids are ‘opting out’

Rob Astorino and his wife Sheila are pictured during a press conference in Albany last year. The former gubernatorial candidate says he is opting his children out of the controversial Common Core tests because "(New York's) kids deserve better than Common Core, an experiment conceived in secrecy with no public hearings or testing.

Rob Astorino and his wife Sheila are pictured during a press conference in Albany last year. The former gubernatorial candidate says he is opting his children out of the controversial Common Core tests because “(New York’s) kids deserve better than Common Core, an experiment conceived in secrecy with no public hearings or testing.

Rob Astorino and his wife Sheila are pictured during a press conference in Albany last year. The former gubernatorial candidate says he is opting his children out of the controversial Common Core tests because “(New York’s) kids deserve better than Common Core, an experiment conceived in secrecy with no public hearings or testing

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino issued a statement Tuesday morning explaining why he is opting his children out of the controversial state standardized testing that begins today for students in grades 3 through 8.

Astorino, the Republican challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year, joins a growing number of parents and lawmakers who say the tests are unfair to students and teachers alike.

His statement is below:

“Today, Sheila and I join over 100,000 parents across New York in opting our children out of the Common Core tests, as is our right.

“Our kids deserve better than Common Core, an experiment conceived in secrecy with no public hearings or testing. There are no consequences for opting out. The scores will not affect student records.

“We support higher standards for our kids, but that’s not Common Core, despite what we’ve often been told.

“The standards are of “poor quality.” Those aren’t my words; those are the words of the Math and English Language Arts content experts on the validation committee. But their concerns were expunged from the final record.

“Also ignored are experts’ concerns that:

– The standards are developmentally inappropriate in the early grades

– No K-12 teachers were involved in writing the standards

– High-stakes testing as the sole assessment for both student and teacher performance is both unfair and wrong

“I share these concerns, as well as the concern that this is education policy guided at the federal level and not the local level as historically has been the case.

“As parental concerns and frustrations continue to fall on deaf ears, the numbers opting out of the tests will continue to grow.

“The Governor, Legislature, Education Commissioner, and Board of Regents must restore local control of our schools. Common Core needs to be replaced with better standards developed with input from teachers and parents and vetted and tested in a fully transparent process.”

Scores Of Westchester Students Expected To Opt Out As State Testing Starts (and they did)

Westchester

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – With approximately one million public school students set to start state-mandated standardized testing this week throughout New York, grumblings about “opting out” and “over testing” have come to a heated head.

Since the Common Core Learning Standards were hastily forced upon school districts several years ago, parents, educators and elected officials have banded together in their opposition of standardized testing, which forces teachers to “teach to the test,” while adding undue stress on students, whose assessments are closely tied to the exams.

As a result, tens of thousands of students, whether on behest of their parents or schools, have boycotted the tests in an attempt to send a message to officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose most recent budget included controversial education reform that has come under fire from local officials.

“I understood the concept of Common Core, but the rollout was abysmal,” New York State Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “Then I saw the new budget was all about testing and assessing teachers, not making sure how we can best educate our children.”

To read this article in full, go to the White Plains Daily Voice.

For additional information on opt out activity around the country, go to the United Opt Out website to view the map created of opt out activity in the US.

Dora Taylor

One comment on “The Opt Out Update: From the Northwest to the “anti-testing tsunami” in New York to Pennsylvania where the hallways and classroom walls are covered with brown paper for three weeks

  1. Sea Optout
    April 18, 2015

    Rob Astorino really nails it. We need more like him seeking office. Great article, Dora!

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