April 17, 2016
RE: Opt Out of Testing Policies and Protocols Request
TO: Spokane School Board Directors
CC: Dr. Redinger, Dr. Gering, Dr. Dunn, Mr. Travis Schulhauser, Heather Richardson, Dan Jenkins, Jenny Rose
Dear Spokane School Board Directors,
It has come to my attention from a variety of parents and teachers in differing schools there are some inconsistencies in the procedures and messages being given regarding the legal right of parents to Opt Out of the various state tests. (WaKids, MSP, SBA) I think it is critical for the Spokane Board of Directors to know and understand what the experiences are of parents in the schools you oversee.
Personally, my conscience is pricked with the current testing practices and believe whole heartedly these tests are harmful to children and send them a wrong message about what is truly important in their educational careers. I believe the tests are invalid and do not measure accurately what children know or how they have grown in their learning.
I am not alone. Recently, a report just was published with research, guiding questions and recommendations. One hundred (100!) education researchers have called for a moratorium on the SBA. I am attaching this report here. It is lengthy, but they expose clearly why the SBA is an inaccurate and invalid measurement of student learning.
Over One Hundred Education Researchers Calling for a Moratorium on High Stakes Testing
There are other reports, however, this one is the most in depth I have found with peer reviewed and accurate links.
Misinformation Being Spread
I would like to share with you some stories coming from schools in the Spokane School District. It is my hope, the School Board begin a process for setting protocols and policy.
- We have some principals in Spokane telling parents who submit opt out letters their children will not pass their grade. This is not the truth. The bill passed in our legislature says NOTHING of the sort. What makes me so angry about this is: These adult educators are promoting the idea that the classroom based learning the children have shown means very little. Really? A child could be making excellent progress in their classroom, and these adults, being put in charge of our little people, think they can hold children back from being promoted to the next grade because they don’t take a test at 8, 9, 10, & 11 years old? I think of my own child performing well above grade level in mathematics and reading. I find it hard to believe he would be held back a grade because he did not take a high stakes test. Principals who are stating this to parents who have submitted opt out letters need to be educated and be asked to stop spreading this inaccurate information.
- The actual RCW 28A.655.230
- The actual language clearly states a child can only be held back with parent consent.
- The reading levels are being found to be higher than the grade level tested. How can we as a system bank one score on a child’s potential success in the next grade?
- These same principals are also telling parents they are setting their children up for failure in high school. Oh? Really? Based on what peer reviewed, sustainable research?
- Principals are also stating schools lose funding if they do not get 95% of their students taking the test. There is not one school in the United States that has lost funding. There have been threats, however, not one school with high opt out numbers have lost one dime in funding.
- When parents submit an Opt Out Letter to the school they are being told they must speak with the principal first. There is absolutely NO state requirement the parent has to meet with the principal first. This is another tactic being used to coerce parents into allowing their children to test. Most parents opting their children out of the testing do not need a special meeting. They are not allowing their child to test because it is an invalid measure of student learning, and they are unwilling to have their child’s instructional hours wasted.
- On a positive note: I just got word one principal in Spokane handed their teachers a simple Opt Out Letter to give to parents. This principal understands the rights of the parents and is not spreading the misinformation above. For this, the parents and teachers are thankful.
Other Considerations for the Spokane School Board of Directors
- Opt Out friendly schools are finding worthy and child friendly alternatives during testing hours. Suggestions include allowing them to help out in another class, work on a project in a non-testing room, help out in a Kindergarten Class and read to other children, etc… there are stories from across the United States in which children are made to sit and stare at their computer screens. They are not allowed to read. Just sit. For an entire day. This is mental abuse and educational malpractice. I hope I do not get one story from one parent in Spokane a school is practicing this procedure.
- There are stories of schools throwing parties and giving food awards to only those children who test. Excluding children who don’t, and using shame tactics, are a form of mental child abuse.
- I have already published a piece asking teachers to avoid this malpractice. I’ve asked them to think about what they want emphasized in their student’s educational experience.
- Think about this: The parents opting their children out of these tests are standing up for TEACHERS. They believe what teachers do every day in their classroom are way more important than the tests. They don’t believe schools should be compared or measured by these tests. They are fighting for the autonomy and flexibility of educators to create powerful learning experiences.
- SUPPORT THESE PARENTS. It is their legal right to object to and resist these tests. And remember… 100 education researchers just came out with a signed document asking for a moratorium of the SBA.
- When the former Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, made a statement, “The Opt Out Movement is led by white suburban mom’s because they don’t want to hear their children aren’t as smart as they think they are,” many parents across the nation were infuriated. This is an outright lie. He later apologized and retracted this statement.
Please Promote The Truth
With the diversity of misinformation being presented in Spokane Schools, PLEASE promote some sort of policy or procedure for principals and teachers to receive and dispense accurate information on the topic of Opt Out. We need to stand up for all children. Many do not have advocates or guardians who will protect them from harmful mandates. My role continues to grow in the state of Washington as I continue to raise my voice against what I am seeing directly from the trenches. I understand clearly during contracted hours, educators cannot suggest Opting Out of the test nor can it be discussed. Okay. BUT, if a parent initiates this option, it is an educator’s legal obligation to dispense truthful information. The new ESSA rewrite of NCLB states this. It also holds educators maintain their first amendment rights.
No Bullying or Empty Threats Should Be Tolerated
No bullying or empty threats should be tolerated. We do not allow it in our students. Adults who have our children in their care should not be allowed to threaten, lie, or bully parents from exercising their legal right to opt their children out of the state tests… Nor should they be allowed to shame any child who is opted out.
As testing season approaches, parents are already contacting me with their personal experiences. For their protection, I am not naming the schools or principals. I do thank the principals who are being honest and honoring the parents who wish to exercise their legal rights and to do what is best for their children.
Seeking Answers to Previous Letters
Sidenote: In previous letters to the board:
- I asked what the protocols and policies are in Spokane School District in regards to your position with the parent’s right to Opt Out of State Testing. It is my understanding from the response to my letter, the Spokane School Board of Directors had not had time to meet around this issue. It is my hope the Spokane School Board begins the process of setting policy, if you have not done so already. I am specifically requesting this on behalf of several parents and teachers who are part of the Spokane School District community.
- I also requested what the Spokane School Board’s understanding of the data collection practices are in regards to the tests and other educational programs being used in our schools. I was told the email was being forwarded to Travis Schulhauser because he is the Assessment Coordinator in Spokane. To date, I have not received any word upon this important concern and topic by many parents. My understanding and research regarding data collection has found much data is not private, it is being shared with third parties, and it can be sold to third party vendors to be used for their profit. Many of the educational computer programs being used state clearly the company owns the data. Although I respect Mr. Schulhauser’s position with the district, it seems this is a larger issue then his role. It seems the Spokane School Board would desire to play a larger role in understanding how the data is being collected and used, and the privacy of the students served in Spokane. I am wondering if the board needs to set up procedures for computerized education programs and testing platforms to go through a “rigorous” review process and create a transparent process in which parents can review the privacy policies of these programs. If they disagree with the privacy policies and do not want their child’s data to be collected by these programs, they can choose to opt their children out and be provided with alternative, quality educational experiences.
Educators Across The Nation are Opting Their Own Children Out of the Tests
In conclusion: Please think about this. Many teachers are opting their own children out of these tests. (myself included). I know of school board members, principals, and superintendents who have and will continue to opt their own children out of these tests. Think about the reasons EDUCATORS are opting their own children out..
National Board Certified Teacher (2001 – current)
National Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics
National Christa McAuliffe Fellowship Award
Washington State Christa McAuliffe Teaching Award
United States Senate Innovative Teacher Award
RAZ ON FIRE
Link to Print Friendly Document (Word Doc): Opt Out Policies and Protocols