To Opt Out, Or Not!

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?

  1. Contact the superintendent of your school district, directly, and ask for a written policy on opt-outs. When provided, forward a copy to contact@educatelouisiana.org.
  2. 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.

  1. Clearly state that you are exercising your authority as a parent to exclude your child from the state assessment.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

10 thoughts on “To Opt Out, Or Not!”

  1. Concise. Accurate.
    SB-262 – I would argue that using assigned zeroes for non-participation in school performance scores IS including the data in school ratings. Aggregate scores are artificially lower. Maintaining the letter grade distribution is only part of the puzzle. NCLB required participation and proficiency rates to be 2 separate evaluations, but LA always ran a hybrid system that assigned zeroes at some point. This was questioned in the NCLB waiver proposal by the peer review team (or maybe it was public comment), but the US Dept of Ed didn’t require the state to fix that particular issue.

    With accountability rules related to ESSA no longer in existence, who knows if the state plans will get approved without scrutiny. We need a loud ballyhoo from all parties to stop the LDE from assigning zeroes to non-participants. We need the parents in districts that link standardized test scores to pupil progression plans (meaning promotion) to slap around a few superintendents.

    1. You are correct. ESSA, in fact, allows for the participate rate to be calculated, but does not require it to be used in the performance score. USDOE regulations provide four options for use of the data; however those regs will soon be repealed.

  2. I am scared bc last year I had to talk to the principal 2x in her office to try and change my mind. They made it very hard for me

  3. I don’t think parents are aware of the testing procedures. Children will be sitting in front of a computer screen for 90 minutes and 75 minutes everyday. Research proves that this amount of screen time is not healthy for children. Also, a person is to exercise good posture when sitting at the computer. What child does this? It makes me cringe to think that these children will be hunched over staring inches from the screen for hours a day. It’s ridiculous. I’ve already asked about opt-out options and my district said that there is no opt-out. If a child doesn’t take it, he/she gets a zero and so does this school.
    Does anyone know of any advocacy groups that would raise awareness to parents about this?? I want parents to be fully informed of what their child will be exposed to!

    1. Get all the parents you know on “OPT OUT LOUISIANA”, “BAD ASS TEACHERS ASSOCIATIONS” (on facebook), and this site of course.

  4. This is what I was told:
    Federal and state laws and regulations require inclusion of all students in state assessment and accountability measures
    In accordance to federal law, non participation will result in a negative impact (score 0) on school and district accountability measures.
    there is no provision in state and federal law that allows parents to voluntarily withdraw their child from state and federal required accountability measures.
    Additionally I was told if I refused to let my child take the test, I had to keep my child home and basically face truancy.
    I was also told my child will receive a 0 and will not be eligible for grants/scholarships or get into good high school.

    Again it all boils down to POLITICS and MONEY, schools are threaten with the loss of funding if children do not take the test.

    No proof of any claim was provided in writing. My Opt out was denied. I am still fighting it, though.

    1. There is no existing law, state or federal, that mandates a child to take the test. Federal accountability laws (ie. NCLB and ESSA) apply to school systems. Schools are expected to administer the test, and/or make it accessible, to a minimum of 95% of the students eligible to take the test. Louisiana’s old NCLB waiver is null and void as of 8/1/16, and we do not have an ESSA waiver in place, yet. The new ESSA law is in effect, and it explicitly acknowledges the parent’s right to exclude their child from state assessment. Please provide the district, school and name of principal via email to contact@educatelouisiana.org.

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