Spring will soon be upon us. I can tell because my inboxes are filling with questions about state assessments and opt-outs. I am happy to answer questions for anyone who takes the time to contact me, but it is easiest for me to just explain it here. I will provide you with the information regarding accountability, and leave it to you to make your own decision, as a parent.
Common Core: As in every state that pushed back against Common Core, Louisiana is stuck with a rebrand of Common Core. In the 2015 legislative session, a very lengthy, good-faith effort, was led by Representative Brett Geymann to review and revise the Common Core standards with the intent of producing a new set of standards. The result of HB-373 became known as the Great Compromise. The spirit of the compromise was violated at every turn, and every effort to make meaningful changes to the standards was blocked. In June of 2016, after the year long review process, the Louisiana Student Standards were approved by the Joint Education Committee. Since then, it has been determined that fewer than 6% of the standards were changed, and of that 6%, none had any change significant enough to change the standard. Louisiana still has Common Core.
Assessments: Also included in HB-373 was a stipulation that no more than 49% of the test items in the 15-16 assessment could come from the PARCC assessment. In an effort to at least appear to be complying, the state assessment was rebranded as the LEAP 2025. Because tests and test items are secure, there is no mechanism available to confirm compliance; however, at least ten teachers who administered the test in “read aloud small groups” confirmed that the test was identical to the PARCC test administered the previous year. There is no reason to believe this year will be any different.
High Stakes: In the 2016 legislative session, Senator Dan Morrish filed and ultimately passed SB-262 to protect students, teachers, schools, and districts, in the event the new standards were accepted. For the 16-17 school year, the Department of Education can administer the assessment for the new standards and collect data; however, the results of the test and the data cannot be used to determine student advancement to the next grade, or in rating a school. The distribution of school scores has to reflect that of the 12-13 assessment; unless the score of a school improved.
Parental Authority: The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the parent’s authority to determine the manner in which their child is educated. The Every Student Succeeds Act clearly states that no state or federal law shall usurp the parent’s authority to exclude their child from state assessments. Some claim that this doesn’t apply because we aren’t under ESSA, yet. This is false. There was no provision in NCLB that denied this right to a parent, and even though states have not submitted and implemented their ESSA plans, the parental authority provision became effective the moment the bill was signed into law. Furthermore, any school or district that seeks to enforce a policy that challenges a parent’s authority, and places parents at odds with school personnel, is creating a hostile environment that isn’t conducive to learning and most certainly opens themselves up to litigation.
What should you do if you decide to opt-out your child?
- Contact the superintendent of your school district, directly, and ask for a written policy on opt-outs. When provided, forward a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If the policy provided a.) acknowledges your right to exclude your child from testing b.) provides for a productive day in a setting away from testing for opt-out students, and c.) provides a form for opting out; follow the steps and turn in the form.
In the event that you do not receive a response, or the response states that your child will not be able to opt-out, compose a letter with all of the following components. Send the letter to the school principal and a copy to the superintendent with return receipt on both.
- Clearly state that you are exercising your authority as a parent to exclude your child from the state assessment.
- Request that during testing your child be provided with a day of instruction that cannot be perceived as punitive, in a room separate from testing, and supervised by an appropriately qualified adult.
- Be clear that any actions before, during, or after testing, that excludes your child from participation in clubs, activities or grade advancement because they did not participate in the state assessment, shall be deemed as discrimination, and a violation of your parental rights, and shall be met with legal action.
If you find yourself forced into a position where you have to communicate directly with a teacher, principal or superintendent, try to remain calm. Explain that your decision isn’t a personnel attack, but instead, an opposition to policy. Your decision is about your child and your authority as a parent. It is not about them, or their score, or their rating.