We perish because we know not… #TLENews
Ohio schools may be giving the new Common Core tests this week, but not all students are taking them.
A growing number of parents are choosing to pull their kids out of testing.
We first told you about Ohio’s “opt-out” movement in October, but as the start of widespread testing approaches, the number of parents refusing to let their kids take the tests is growing.
It’s a movement closely linked to opponents of the Common Core standards themselves, but that also has parents who object to ever-increasing time spent on testing and the pressure students feel to do well.
It’s also driven by some teachers who say the tests are excessive and do not serve students well.
Melissa Marini Švigelj-Smith, a parent and a teacher at Cleveland’s New Tech West High School, is among those vocal about pulling her son out of the new tests.
She believes they cause too much emotional and physical stress.
“I trust his educated and experienced teacher to monitor his growth and progress ALL year long, and I am insulted when his education is reduced to numbers on isolated tests not generated by his classroom teachers,” she wrote in her online blog.
The Ohio Department of Education is not tracking how many parents are opting out of tests. A quick Plain Dealer survey of Cuyahoga County districts showed only a handful of parents skipping the tests in each district.
But in Lorain County, where a few teachers have taken up the cause and several parents oppose the tests strongly, it’s a different story.
“It’s getting higher every day,” Scott said.
That county’s opt-out movement gained support from several teachers, including Elyria teacher Dawn Neely-Randall, whose criticisms of tests have landed in Washington Post blogs and also caught the ear of education activist Diane Ravitch.
Neely-Randall said she would not give the tests to her students if she was not worried about losing her job. But she is still wavering.
“I do not want to send them into the lion’s den and be tested for six days of their life,” she said. “I don’t think I can go against my convictions.”
Stacie Starr, another Elyria teacher,drew local attention this past week when she announced she was resigning because of schools’ focus on testing.
Both Starr and Neely-Randall will speak at a forum scheduled by testing opponents at 4 p.m. Sunday at South Amherst Middle School.
Districts from other parts of Ohio also reported a strong opt-out movement to the committee — so much that they are telling parents to send the kids to school anyway and they will find other lessons for them.
State School Board member Sarah Fowler, of Ashtabula County, said parents in her area have questions about how to pull their kids out of testing and what their legal rights are.
The short version: Ohio has no legal requirement that kids have to take the state tests. It also has no law allowing parents to opt out.
Third graders need a strong score on their state reading test, or they can be held back under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, so they need to take it and score well. (Note: the state is using the old Ohio Achievement Assessments for the Guarantee this year, not the new Common Core tests.)
And high school students will have to pass several of the new tests to graduate, starting with this year’s freshman class.
There are no other requirements for any other grades.
Fowler last week week objected to guidance that ODE sent to districts and parents about testing rules that many in the opt-out movement have called intimidating.
It starts: “Federal and state laws require all districts and schools to test all students in specific grades and courses. There is no law that allows a parent or student to opt out of state testing and there is no state test opt-out procedure or form. If a parent withdraws his or her child’s participation in certain state tests, there may be consequences for the child, the child’s teacher, and the school and district.”
Fowler said that note caused misunderstandings.
“The impression parents got … was that parents are not allowed to opt students out of state tests,” she complained to State Superintendent Richard Ross at the state board’s meeting.
She later added: “It’s concerning to me that it could be taken as … because there is no law specifically allowing you to do it that it would be prohibited.”
Ross told Fowler and the board that was not his intent and that he only wanted to tell people what the law says.
Fowler asked him to change the wording to say that opting out is allowed, but Ross declined. Ross said the law is silent on opting out and he wanted just to say what the law requires — “not to make interpretations.”