Tag Archives: Opt Out Florida Third Grade

Parents, YOU are the Boss… and you can say NO.

(This post has been updated to include information from the FL DOE, reported in the Tampa Bay Times May 1, 2015)

Across the state of Florida, some parents of rising fourth graders are being informed that their child is being retained in the third grade because their FSA scores were in the bottom quintile (20%) of the state – no matter what that score may be. Some are being promoted, but are assigned to remedial reading class, often unnecessarily.  Some middle and high school students are being made to sacrifice electives for remedial or Intensive Reading/Math.

In the absence of a valid FSA score, schools are making these critical decisions based on the data they have, which may be from progress monitoring tests, such as Achieve 3000 or Discovery Ed, etc. You may not even be aware that your child has been taking other standardized tests besides the FSA and classroom tests. Well, now you know. Some are even using FCAT scores from TWO years ago!  How valid is THAT?!!  In other words, districts have had to improvise in the face of no real guidance from the state, with little consistency from one district to the next. This is meaningless. If every student passed the test, there would still be a bottom 20% of those passing students, to whom a test would say, “You failed.” Children are being retained and remediated, regardless of what their actual scores are – in spite of the fact that the FSA validity report is not due back to the state until Sept. 1, 2015.

This is happening in certain districts and within those districts, only in certain schools.

But why is this happening and why is it happening so inconsistently?

From POLITICO Florida –

Schools in ‘holding pattern’ while they await testing study

Since state law requires the tests be used in determining whether third graders are promoted, the state Department of Education released to schools the lowest quintile of third graders’ scores,

those “at risk” of retention. The department also alerted schools where students passed ninth-grade  English and algebra exams, which are graduation requirements.

For other grades, districts may choose whether to use the test scores in promotion decisions. Stakeholder groups said schools had to move forward without the scores…

Vince Verges, assistant deputy education commissioner for accountability, research and measurement, said it will be up to districts what to do with the results.

From the Tampa Bay Times article, Florida education department clarifies rules on student retention…

The Florida Department of Education issued its notes from an April 29 conference call, in which it aimed to explain the current state of affairs to superintendents. Here’s what it said:

Regarding third grade English Language Arts, it is clearly stated in the bill that we will determine the students who are in the bottom quintile to produce a list of students statewide who are at risk of retention. We will provide to each district their students that are in the statewide bottom quintile. The list will then be disaggregated by districts and provided to each of you as an alphabetical list of your students. You will receive the names of your students only, who are in the bottom quintile of the state. We will not be providing the percentile associated with each student, as that would be inappropriate when we consider that the scores have not been through all validity checks. 

The law indicates that the list is to be provided for consideration by the district to then determine whether or not they will retain the student [emphasis added] or use other means as outlined in s. 1008.25(6)(b), F.S., for grade placement in either third or fourth grade and to be considered with other information that the district has for each student to provide supports for success in fourth grade. The statute is clear that for this year of transition the districts will notify parents and provide evidence.

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House  Bill 7069 states: 

“Each student who does not achieve a Level 3 or above on the statewide, standardized English Language Arts assessment….must be evaluated to determine the nature of the student’s difficulty, the area of academic need, and strategies for providing academic supports to improve the student’s performance.”

1) It does not say that all students scoring below a level 3 will be placed in remedial reading class. 
2) Remedial reading class is not an evaluation.
3) At this time scores have not been released…. no 1,2, 3, etc.
4) If your student has been put into remedial reading, without just cause, and you don’t feel it would benefit your child…..SAY NO.

Confusion and misapplication of the law is happening because districts have been left to decide for themselves, what to do about the children who were flagged for being in the bottom quintile – no matter what their actual scores are – Do we promote, retain or remediate them?

In spite of decades of solid research by child development and education experts, which overwhelmingly conclude that third grade retention is not only not beneficial for children, but is, in fact, harmful, the Florida legislature chose to maintain this draconian policy. Current research shows that retention is harmful, not only for children in the third grade, but in all elementary grades.

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The ultimate decision for ANY class placement for your child rests with YOU, the parent. Your consent is required. And you don’t have to give it. It doesn’t matter if you are told that your child’s retention or remediation was a state, district or school decision.

You can simply say, “No.”

If you don’t want your child remediated, DON’T give your consent or permission for the school to do so. It may not be easy to do this with your school, but it really is that simple.  If you get resistance from your school, KEEP CALM and remember that YOU are the final authority on the education of YOUR child.  

You may wish to respectfully ask for the statutory citation mandating retention or remediation on the basis of this test score, at this time. They will not be able to do so… because it does not exist.  

If you are told that your child is being retained because he/she needs intervention, you can insist that your child be promoted and also be provided the appropriate intervention(s), which may require a 504 or an IEP (Individual Education Plan).  According to the preponderance of serious research, this practice is considered the best approach by veteran educators, education researchers, and developmental psychologists.  These are not decisions to be made lightly. These decisions should never be made on the basis of a single test score, which denotes only a snapshot of a single moment in time.  Any decisions about promotion, retention or remediation should be made thoughtfully with the team of parents, teachers, administrators and guidance counselors.  

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This document below is an example of a common sense decision made at the school level. It affirms that the decision is parents’ to make. Kudos to the school leadership for supporting their students and for empowering parents.

Lake Nona MS letter

I must confess to secretly doing a happy dance because the folks at Lake Nona Middle School named their document, “Intensive Reading Opt Out Contract“… 😉

This post is written by Sandy Stenoff.

Parent Resources:

  1. Additional information and support for Third Grade can be found at the Opt Out Florida Third Grade group.
  2. Statewide information and support is available in the Opt Out Orlando Facebook group.
  3. A support network for your district may be found here.

Notable research on the practice of third grade retention:

  1. Grade Retention – Info for Parents by Jimerson
  2. Grade Retention – Guide for Parents by Jimerson
  3. Grade Retention & Promotion- Guide for Educators by Jimerson Renshaw Skokut
  4. Grade Retention – Fact sheet by Jimerson
  5. Grade Retention’s Negative Effects – Ineffective and possibly harmful
  6. Alternatives to grade retention- Jimerson Pletcher Kerr
  7. 10 Strategies to Fight Mandatory Retention – by Sue Whitney for Wrightslaw
  8. New Research Suggests Repeating Elementary Grades – even Kindergarten – is Harmful

 


Sammy Addo: “I did my job as a Third Grader.”

In Florida,

“due to an extreme delay in the scoring of the of Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), its unsubstantiated validity…. recent legislation (House Bill 7069), states that the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) is not expected to release FSA scores for Third Grade English Language Arts (ELA) until after the school year has ended.” (ABC News13, 05/05/15)

The law no longer mandates retention. (Tampa Bay Times, 04/29/15)  As a result, in some districts, such as Orange County, retention decisions for students of concern, will be at the discretion of a team, made up of parents, teachers and principals.  Other districts, such as Bay District Schools, have made policies of “no retention.”  Yet, in spite of the fact that test scores will not be validated until after the next school year begins, if they are validated at allDuval County, still threatens third graders with retention, even though they may be proficient readers, with the record to prove it.

We will have to wait until Sept 1 to learn whether the tests are valid or not – when the review panel is due to deliver their final report.


Eight year old Sammy Addo, from Brevard County had no doubt he was going to the fourth grade, in spite of having no test score, as he had opted out of the FSA.  

Sammy is 8 years old, and just completed the third grade in Brevard County, Florida.  His mom is Darcey Addo, a teacher, fierce education activist and 2016 school board candidate.

Last December, Sammy addressed the Brevard County School Board on high stakes testing – Watch him here.
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This week, Sammy got the great news that he had been promoted to the fourth grade, even without a test score.  His mom had more faith in Sammy’s teachers to authentically assess his work via multiple measures (classwork and class tests for the entire year), than on a single high stakes test score on a single day.  She did sound research and tells #WhyIRefuse…just three of my reasons.” She shares how Sammy was promoted without a test score in, No FSA score? No problem! My 3rd grader is being promoted, yours can too!

Watch Sammy share his news with the Brevard County School Board:

TRANSCRIPT:

My name is Sammy Addo. I am finishing third grade at Port Malabar Elementary this week. Next year I will be in fourth grade even though I did not take the Math or the Reading FSA.

I also did not take any of the three FAIR tests this year. I did not take either of the two BELLA tests, either of the two district math tests, the district science, or the district social studies tests. There are a lot of tests!

Even though I didn’t take those tests, I took all the tests that Mrs. Kelly gave me about things that she taught in our class. Those tests were how I proved what I learned. I did well and that is why I am going to fourth grade – my report card proves I did my job as a third grader.

Lots of people at school said I would have to stay back because I didn’t take the FSA, but I knew they were wrong.

I knew that my mom and dad wouldn’t tell me to do something that would be bad for me. They always say that one test on one day does not prove anything about me.

 – In third grade this year, I learned so much, that I wasn’t worried about being held back.
– I learned about Celiac disease and I won second place in my school science fair!

 – I researched John Lewis, one of my civil rights heroes.
 – I read the first four Harry Potter books and finished the Percy Jackson series.
 – I learned how to calculate area and perimeter.

There are lots more things I learned in third grade, but the point is that my teacher taught and I learned. My report card proves it – not an FSA score. I can’t wait for fourth grade to learn even more.


Way to go, Sammy!

If you are the parent of a Florida third grader, read how your child may be promoted without an FSA test score.
Per FL DOE K-12 Chancellor, Hershel Lyons (see p. 1, item 4):

…it appears that your district has chosen to pursue good cause exemptions for any student who does not have a score on the third grade ELA FSA. This is consistent with the technical assistance from the department (DOE).
Please continue to work with your district on the implementation of this local decision.

Therefore, if the DOE says promotion is a local decision, then ALL districts have the same authority.  If your district says otherwise, it is only because they choose not to use the authority granted them.  Push.  The priority of school districts should be the welfare of children.
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In March, Darcey wrote an outstanding open letter to the Florida House and Senate on behalf of Opt Out Orlando. You can read it here.


If I Didn’t Opt Out, I’d Be A Liar

Opting out of high stakes tests is about so much more than just the test.

As the parents of young children consider opting out, one of the Issues we face is how to talk to them about opting out.  They are, after all, the ones who will be doing the opting out. In all dealings with children, honesty is always the best policy. If you get busted by your kid for fudging the truth, you’re sunk. So what do we talk about?

When my daughter was 8, we started a conversation that has evolved over the past two years. She is now 10, and our conversation now includes my son, who is 9. 

I have tried to explain it to them this way:

When you take the test, you get a score. Your score gives your teacher and your school a grade. That grade tells the state and the district how much money your teacher and your school should get paid. It can even determine if your teacher gets to keep teaching, or if your school might be closed.

They asked me, “Is that why we have to do so much test prep?

“Perhaps, but it’s also complicated.”

We talk about recess a lot, because they don’t get recess. Usually, it’s the first thing I hear at pick up – whether he had recess or not. The Recess Report. He gets in the car, slams the door shut and says, 

“No recess… again” 

”Bus loop – one lap”, or 

“Bus loop – two laps.”

 They get recess on Wednesdays. That’s it. On non-PE days, if everyone has been good at lunch (recess should be neither reward nor punishment), when there is time for a break, they get to run the bus loop. The first time I heard this, let’s just say I was more than annoyed. I’ve told this to friends and they have no idea what I mean. The bus loop is the paved driveway where the school buses turn around. That’s right. The “recess” my kids get is 5 minutes around the bus loop. Their school is old, in not the greatest surroundings, currently next to highway construction, so it’s not even a pretty bus loop. Anyone who has ever played on a sports team of any kind knows that laps are a form of discipline – for being late, for talking back to the coach, for being lazy, etc. Laps.  The new recess is punishment.  PE is not recess. It’s another class.

Lack of recess is perhaps the single greatest reason why my children are so unhappy in school now. Of course, it may be different for other children. My kids do not get a break in the day. They KNOW it’s because of the test. Instead of recess, they do test prep. In addition to the increase in content to get through, over previous years, the reason they are constantly rushed is because teachers have to be sure to get in all the test prep they can, leaving less time for actual instruction. Instead of recess, my daughter in the 5th grade has Typing class – because… computer testing.

We talk about how some schools might have children who struggle. Their school has a large population of English Language Learners (ELL), and is also an Exceptional Ed Center, where 25% of their schoolmates are Exceptional Student Ed (ESE or Special Ed) – they know that their ESE friends get tested at their chronological age, not their developmental age, and they know the difference. To my children, THIS is the most unfair aspect of testing, and it doesn’t even affect them directly. They REALLY get it.

We talk about how it might be unfair to compare their school to another school where kids don’t struggle as much, or one where kids might struggle more. They know their teachers work just as hard, maybe even harder than other teachers in other schools. They love and respect their teachers.

We talk about the fact that their teacher doesn’t get to see their test, so the test CANNOT help their teacher to help them learn better.

My children are not afraid of tests. They know that the reason I refuse the FCAT/FSA is not because I’m afraid they won’t do well on the test. They would. They take tests all the time – spelling tests, vocabulary tests, reading comprehension, math, history, and science tests; tests that they review with their teacher, so they know where they need to work harder. THESE tests help them to be a better student and their teacher to be a better teacher.

My son is emotionally mature and intellectually advanced for his age. Without having been taught the same concepts, he often helps his older sister with her math homework. He tells me he isn’t learning anything in school now. While I could choose to believe that is simply a childish exaggeration, I choose instead to take him seriously. 

I ask him, “What would you like to learn?”

  He tells me, “Greek mythology.” It will have to happen at home, because it won’t happen in school. He can’t even discuss it with his teacher, because there is no time. When he recounts his day from start to finish – he talks about having worksheets and worksheets, and rushing, rushing, rushing, and double blocks of math every day now.

“But you love Math,” I say to him, with a smile, trying my best to help him find a reason to want to go to school, while my mind growls, “Grrrr…”

“Yes, but not twice a day. And we don’t get to do Writing anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Because the Writing test is over.”

He says, “I don’t even care that it’s not fun anymore, Mom. If I’m not even learning anything in school, why should I go? If you give me one good reason why I should be happy to go, I will. But you can’t say, “Because you’re supposed to”, or “Because I said so.””

My children understand the need for rules, and they follow them at home and at school. They are also allowed to question anything. Respectfully. Parenting in this way can be tricky for a parent to navigate. Questioning does not mean you will always like the answers. But they know that I will always answer them honestly. My honesty with them teaches them that even when I don’t like their answers to my questions, that I have an expectation for the truth as well. That’s our agreement. Our rule. Carved in stone.

 As a parent, what do I say to this child, who I must answer honestly, when there is no acceptable answer, and he knows it?

My son is now occasionally despondent about school. He wakes up fine. Has breakfast fine. Takes the dog out fine. Brushes his teeth fine. Gets dressed fine. Then… when it’s time to go out the door, he gets a headache or a stomachache and sometimes both. He sometimes gets sweaty and irritable. His breathing becomes shallow. Sometimes he throws up. You may have seen this in your child. This is called anxiety. In a nine year old child. He looks up at me and his eyes plead with me to let him stay home. I can’t. Attendance. He becomes stony and will not say a word all the way to school. He won’t make eye contact with me. He goes to school because I make him go to school, and for no other reason. I can’t think about what must be going through his mind, or we won’t make it on time, but it’s heartbreaking.

When I told this to his principal, he nodded in acknowledgment, and shook his head. His response to me was very telling. His tone was resigned.

“A lot of what we have to do in school today is just because I said so. For the kids and the teachers.”

One night not long ago, my 10-year-old daughter had the saddest face. She is a joyful child and a wonderful student. Her teachers say they would like to clone her. She LOVES school… like I used to love school… She fears nothing. NOTHING. She’s not taking the test this year, just as she hasn’t taken it ever, and has been promoted without incident.

She put her head in my lap and said, “I don’t want to go to school anymore, Mom. It’s not even school anymore.”

 School is changing our children before our very eyes. And not for the better.  Mothers know this.  We are heartbroken and we are angry.

Our children are sad. Apathetic. Compliant. Angry. Frustrated.  Resigned. These are not words any parent would use to describe the experience they imagine for their children in school, or the childhood they want for their children, especially not for young children.

Joyful. Exuberant. Independent. Curious. Resilient. Persistent.  Fair.  Compassionate. These are not characteristics fostered by public schools under the crushing weight of today’s false accountability.

If you think your child is unhappy at school, and you believe it’s more than “all kids hate school,” you can help them identify what specifically about school is the issue for them. If you’ve never talked about it, your child may not even know why they’re unhappy. Even if you feel powerless to change anything that will help them, simply talking to them about it will help them to know that they are heard. The conversation may change more than you imagine.  It may not help you though.

My children know that if they wanted to take the test, I would allow it, and would be supportive of their decision to do so. They also know that if I make them take the test, it would mean that I believe that everything I’ve written here that makes school a problem because of the test is right. Well, it isn’t right, so I can’t.

If I did, they would call me a liar… and they would be right.

We opt out.

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Shortlink: bit.ly/LiarOO

#whyIrefuse
#PublicEdRevolution
#OptOut


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