Tag Archives: test score

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

 

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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


Adult Business…On The Backs Of 8 Year Olds

Florida schools will begin administering the FSA on Monday, March 2… The pressure is on to assure the data is collected at all costs.

Last week, the Florida Department of Education (FL DOE) handed down instructions for handling opt outs to districts: OCPS Parent Notification Letter

A handful of districts have chosen to be respectful of parents’ choice to refuse the FSA this year… others have not.  Seminole County has been courageous in this regard and issued a comprehensive
FSA Question and Answer Guide.

Seminole FSA QA

In the absence of the “whole truth” from the DOE, this clarification has been needed to quell the confusion and fear-mongering that was so cunningly targeted at parents and teachers. Seminole County’s Guide was the first bit of truth to come out of any district since the commissioner issued her chilling letter. Parents across the state have been asking the same of their districts.  So far, only Brevard, Hillsborough, Lee, and Polk Counties have joined Seminole County in similarly supporting children and families statewide. We are grateful for this demonstration of true leadership.

On Thursday, however, when asked by a TV reporter for her position on choice testing in Orange County, Supt. Barbara Jenkins responded,

“We are hopeful that parents won’t have children’s educational careers at risk over this adult issue, so we have no provision for opting out.”

She was, at the time, accepting a check for $10.3 Million from Gov. Rick Scott for the state’s School Recognition Program, awarded based on last year’s test scores. That statement protects the state’s interests, not our children’s.  To this, we say:

“WE, in the opt out movement, are no longer confident that our children’s well-being is the state’s priority over these adult issues, and have therefore sought and found provisions for opting out.  We refuse to continue to fuel the testing machine with our children’s data.  WE WANT OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS  BACK AND WE ARE DONE.”

On Friday, Supt. Jenkins underscored the district’s position by sending this e-mail to parents. But that was not enough. The message also went out as a robo-call and in text messages, all in the space of an hour. Supt. Jenkins is Florida’s 2013 District Data Leader of the Year. Her message is clear. We want the data… and we will have it.

Jenkins E-mail 022715

As a parent, I am embarrassed and ashamed that these statements represent my school district.

What greater “undue burden” has any parent placed on our children, as young as eight years old, than the state’s burden of excessive high-stakes testing to harvest data, to secure school funding, and to threaten job security for teachers? THESE ISSUES are the real adult issues. The mandates, policies, rules, and statutes attaching the highest stakes to testing have already been forced upon the backs of our children by punitive federal and state laws, and are implemented and enforced by school districts.

The Superintendent is correct when she states that there is no option to opt out of the FSA. Opting Out has never been an option, and it is still not an “option”. No parent or student is asking for permission to opt out of the test. It has always been a parent’s and a student’s RIGHT to do so. Parents and students can still make that choice, regardless of the Commissioner’s letter.

What can you do to protect your child from having to bear such a burden?

Your parental mandate to protect the well-being of your child morally supersedes any law of the land to provide “accountability” to the powers that be. You can refuse to go along without question simply because it is mandated.

When parents make the decision for their child to opt out, some express fear or hesitation, others tell us they have been repudiated, over placing the burden of opting out on young children, such as Supt. Jenkins implies repeatedly. The daily burden of excessive, punitive high stakes tests on children is a far greater burden for them to bear than refusing the test will ever be. This burden is not imposed by parents. Children are really on the front lines for matters that have nothing to do with their actual learning. They are there at the behest of the state, NOT parents. And you do not have to offer them up like little lambs.

When children, especially young children, are asked to bear the burden of performing on a single test, or else… in order to ensure their promotion, graduation, possible retention and/or remediation, whether their teacher’s contract is renewed, whether their school stays open, whether their school gets the right grade to ensure adequate funding, it is oppressive and abusive. There is no way that it cannot be. THESE are adult concerns and have no place in any child’s education. To allow children to participate in this farce is to condone and perpetuate these oppressive and abusive policies. High stakes testing distorts the relationship of trust between teachers and students.

Is the business of our school districts and schools to support our children in learning to love learning so that they can become curious, questioning, independent, engaged, productive and contributing citizens – in other words, whole human beings? Or is the state’s chief concern the implementation of state mandates, no matter the human cost?

Some have expressed concern that students who opt out harm their teachers and schools by denying test scores and data. Proper refusals do NOT count against teachers and schools. Furthermore, THIS is the very reason why we MUST refuse by opting out: we do not send our children to school for the purpose of providing data, with which to protect their teachers and schools. THIS is adult business.

Opting out is not easy. It is not an action parents choose without great consideration of all of the consequences. It is our last resort, in order to bring to bear the appropriate pressure on legislators to effect positive, meaningful, and lasting change to the laws governing public education.

Since last June, Opt Out Orlando has helped parents, teachers and former teachers to start their own local Opt Out groups in 26 separate districts across the state of Florida. In this way, parents and teachers have locked arms and have become empowered to address their specific concerns and to advocate for the children in their local communities.  We also advocate strongly for teachers. And we have organized thousands of parents and teachers, who work tirelessly in support of meaningful legislation, with which we hope to return authentic assessments and real accountability to public education in Florida.

It is our hope that as Monday looms large, that the Department of Education will provide guidance to all districts, with which to respectfully deal with families who choose to refuse these tests on moral grounds.

If school districts continue to put the admittedly unreasonable and illegitimate demands of the state above the welfare of our children, this grassroots movement will continue to grow. Since Supt. Jenkins’ campaign of intimidation yesterday, we have been VERY busy approving all the new parents requesting to join Opt Out Orlando.

Until we have multiple measures of authentic assessments to guide our children’s education, that do not threaten and punish children, teachers and schools, we will continue to refuse these high stakes tests, and we will continue to grow this movement.

Tweet: bit.ly/AdultBiz

NOTE:  It is important to note here that although Polk County has issued virtually the same policy for children and testing and test refusals as Seminole County, they have sent the most threatening directive to teachers – threatening them for not reporting POTENTIAL opt outs, of which they may be aware.  This is blatant intimidation and it is unconscionable.

Links to Resources:

REFUSE THE FSA in 3 Easy Steps

Opt Out Orlando’s Open Letter to the Florida House and Senate –
Feb 19 2015

Opt Out Documents

Opt Out Groups by District

Why You Can Boycott Standardized Tests Without Fear of Federal Penalties to Your School

FairTest – List of 850+ test optional colleges

What Opt Out Is NOT


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