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Families Can Opt Out of Standardized Testing

By Christopher Wong, Chief Editor

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Kennedy will administer standardized tests throughout the entire month of April, with different tests each week.

While many students welcome some time out of class, others would prefer to attend classes. With students’ concerns about missing instructional time in preparation for finals and AP tests in May in addition to a general dislike of standardized tests, a sizable number would like a way out.

Fortunately for the latter group of students, a parent or guardian can write a note to the school to excuse their students from standardized testing.

The SCUSD lists the requirements of opt out letters on its website. The requirements are:

  • “Student’s name and school of attendance
  • Request to exclude their students from testing
  • Name of test(s) or parts of test(s) to be opted out of
  • School year
  • Request for alternative educational experience for child during testing period
  • Signature of parent or legal guardian”

Parents who would like to use a sample with all the required elements can download this letter, a sample letter from the California Teachers Association (CTA), filled in with the specifics for Kennedy. Download a .docx file of the letter by clicking the previous link, or download a .pdf file here. A student must print the letter and fill in the blanks with his/her name and a signature from a parent or guardian. Alternatively, parents may write their own letter, so long as the SCUSD’s opt out letter requirements are met.

After receiving a signed letter from a guardian, students should bring the letter to Mrs. Brown’s office, which is located to the right of the counseling office and also request that they receive a copy for their own records.

California Education Code 60615 states that, “a parent’s or guardian’s written request to school officials to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of the [California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP)] shall be granted.” This specific clause overrules any other law.

Parents may even submit a letter after testing has already begun, as specified in Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations, section 852 and as recognized by the SCUSD, “If the parent submits the exemption request after testing begins, any tests(s) completed before the request is submitted will be scored.”

Many families are unaware of these provisions. This should not be the case, as the previously cited code also states, “The notification to parents or guardians [about students’ participation in CAASPP testing] shall include a notice of the provisions

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The page with information on ability to opt out from state testing is four clicks into the district’s website. No information on standardized testing is prominently featured on the district’s home page.

outlined in Education Code section 60615.”

Some students reported that teachers informed Kennedy students that schools must test at least 95% of eligible pupils or face loss of funding. The penalties would also be administered if schools do not make “adequately yearly progress” (AYP).

Contrary to those threats, Monty Neill, executive director of FairTest, wrote in an article published in the Washington Post, “few if any schools report 100 percent of students scoring ‘proficient,’ NCLB’s current requirement for making AYP. Since that means almost all schools face sanctions, it hardly matters if fewer than 95 percent of the students take the state exam.”

At Kennedy, proficiency levels are much lower than 100 percent. Last year, Kennedy juniors had a 64.83% proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA) and a mere 26.96% proficiency in mathematics. No data exists for science, as this is the first field test of the California Science Test (CAST).

Thankfully, NCLB’s financial penalties only apply to states that did not receive waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who worked under the Obama administration. SCUSD received an individual district waiver from NCLB for its new accountability system in August 2013, as reported by EdSource.

The new accountability system, which takes into account other factors of school achievement such as suspension rates and English learner progress provides a greater insight into school progress besides standardized test scores. Kennedy’s data can be found here.

With this new school measurement dashboard, Kennedy should no longer have to face the fear of having federal funding revoked for not testing a great enough population of students, if that fear was ever valid.

In 2015 in New York, 20 percent of testing-eligible students opted out. As of February 2018, FairTest is not aware of any schools that have lost federal funding due to opt outs.

The CTA also stated in an FAQ that there are, “no state-mandated consequences for students who do not take the Smarter Balanced Assessments or other state-mandated tests.”

With threats to school funding seemingly empty, some families may wonder why students are given standardized testing at all.

Some argue that having the information is better than not.

“The measures are used, despite their imperfections, because in most situations in science as well as in life some information for making decisions is better than none,” Richard P. Phelps wrote in Standardized Testing Primer in 2007. In a 2011 study by Phelps, student testing, which includes classroom and standardized testing, produced a positive effect in student achievement in 93% of studies spanning 100 years. The study compiled the results of “several hundred” studies from 1917 to 2009.

However, out of the “several hundreds” of studies summarized, only 24 had a primary focus on measuring test-based accountability’s effects. The Clarion was not able to determine whether these studies found a positive correlation between standardized testing and student achievement.

The next planned standardized testing is on Friday for the field test of the CAST. Next week, juniors will begin to take Smarter Balanced Assessments Consortium (SBAC) practice tests in their English classes.

Stay tuned to the Clarion’s website for more investigation into standardized testing.

Have questions about opting out or standardized testing? Email any questions about standardized testing to jfkpublications@gmail.com or Contact Us.

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