SARASOTA, Fla. (WTSP) - Parents of students held back in third grade because they refused to take a test sued the Florida Board of Education, the education commissioner and several school boards in an attempt to get the rule changed Tuesday.
Wendy Chastain is one of the plaintiffs in the case. Her son should be starting the fourth grade this month in Sarasota, but he may not be allowed because he opted out of a state standardized test measuring reading proficiency.
"His grades right here are all Bs and then down here it says 'Retained in 3rd Grade,' " said Chastain, showing her son’s report card. "When I learned that our property taxes and teacher evaluations were based on that test I did not want that to come off the backs of our children."
“I’d always felt that the tests where … I wasn’t sure about those tests and when I learned that you can refuse them,” added Chastain. “I didn’t hear anything from them about being retained until the end of the school year. It was in an email.”
"Students who are similarly situated are not being treated equally,” said civil rights attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs. “Different districts have not been given the proper guidance from the department on how to handle a student who’s opted out of testing, how to make a determination whether they have reading proficiency and that has led, in our view, to wrongful retentions for some children.”
“The fallout,” added Flynn Mogensen, “is that you can have an honor roll student with straight As, with no reason to think that they have any deficiency in reading who doesn’t promote because they opted out of the testing, whereas a student who may have average grades and a poor test score will promote simply because they took the test.”
"I'm not really worried about it actually,” said Chastain. “I felt confident since the lawyer was willing to take the case on."
Flynn Mogensen went on to add that her clients are only seeking a clear avenue for children and their families in Florida if they opt out of the testing.
“They’d really to see an emphasis measuring the child’s actual abilities rather than the emphasis being on the testing and participation in testing,” she said.
Flynn Mogensen said she had asked the court for emergency injunctive relief and reached out to school districts and state board for a temporary injunction because the school year was just days away at the time the lawsuit was filed. As of our interview, she had not heard back on those requests.