Some Schools Want to Flunk Kids Who Opt Out of Standardized Tests A controversial interpretation of an education statute has moms and dads in Florida rallying against testing.
The fight over standardized assessment tests, relegated so far to street protests andraucous school-board meetings, may soon have a new battleground: the Florida courts.
Local parents and education activists in the Sunshine State’s Tampa Bay area are considering legal action against school districts if they follow, to the letter, a controversial state law and hold back third graders who opt out of mandatory reading assessment tests—even if the students can read at grade level and have proved it in the classroom during the school year.
The conflicts in Florida are a microcosm of the larger, nationwide battle over timed, fill-in-the-bubble assessments as a way to determine what students have learned in class—even if teachers and parents can observe the progress for themselves on a day-to-day basis, said Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest: National Center for Fair and Open Testing.
“It’s a larger fight over ‘What do you believe? Test scores, or your own lyin’ eyes?’ ” said Schaeffer. While fights over standardized testing continue in other parts of the country, he said, Florida has become “a small island of insanity” that “reflects the politics and ideology” of the debate over standardized testing.
The Florida Department of Education tried to clarify, noting that the law in question doesn’t specify that students who don’t have a Florida Standards Assessment test score can’t advance to the fourth grade. That’s particularly true, officials say, if the student has a “good cause” exemption or opts for an alternative, such as presenting a portfolio of classroom work or taking a different assessment test.
Therein, however, lies the rub: Parents don’t believe local officials think opting out of the test qualifies their children for the exemption, and the alternatives to the test aren’t much better. At least one local school superintendent blames the state for further muddying the waters.
“I’ve contacted an attorney,” Jennette Edwards, the parent of an eight-year-old boy who attends school in Alachua County, near Orlando, toldPolitico on Wednesday. “We are ready to go onto the next step with legal matters.”
Starting with No Child Left Behind in the early part of the century and continuing with the Common Core curriculum, student testing has spiked in the last decade. In addition to receiving state assessments, students in some districts are tested as often as once a year on math and reading proficiency; in previous decades, testing typically happened just once in elementary school, middle school, and high school.