A Case of Assessment Season Opt Out Bullying

bullying hurtsMost parents requesting to opt out would be shook up and intimidated if they received the following letter and form. It likely would affect their judgment to the point they wouldn’t check facts for themselves.


In this case, the parents let the school know their child was not to take the state assessment. The school informed the parents they would send a paper home with the child letting them know what activities the child could be doing during the testing time. Sounds okay so far. The paper that was sent home was the letter and form featured above. Not okay. While this took place in W. Virginia, similar things have taken place in other school districts in other states.

Let’s examine the letter and what it says. The letter refers to W.Va. Code 18-2E-5. The entire code is here:

I do not see anything in W.Va. Code 18-2E-5 that addresses opting out or refusal, either allowing or prohibiting it. This Deputy Superintendent needs to held accountable and asked to show where in the code it requires every student to be assessed or does not allow for opt out or refusal. Please do not take my word on this—-read this section of code for yourself and see what you think. The letter does quote a State Superintendent’s Update, March 25, 2016 saying, “There is no exception allowing parents and students to refuse to participate in the statewide assessment.” This apparently is an interpretation provided in the Update. This is not stated in the Code. From reading the actual Code, I would agree with this interpretation. It is incomplete. In the Code, there is nothing prohibiting parents and students from refusing to participate in the statewide assessment. This is either not in the Update or was selectively left out of this letter. My hunch is that it was not in the Update at all.

“There is no exception allowing parents and students to refuse to participate in the statewide assessment (General Summative Assessment) program.”   This is stated to make parents think it is not legal to opt out or refuse the assessment. The letter goes on to say, “Though there is no right to opt-out of our statewide summative assessment…”. Again, this is stated to lead one to believe it is not legal to opt out or refuse the assessment. The code has no provision for opting out or refusing, but as important, it does not prohibit opting out or refusing.

18-2E-5(3). I would use this clause as the foundation to ask how the Interim Assessment Block (IAB) results will be used “to determine when school improvement is needed”. Will enough students be taking the IAB to be able to actually use the results in a meaningful way to determine anything?

The letter also indicates the WVDE “has given the county board the authority to create a plan for students who refuse to participate in the assessment”. Someone should ask for the documentation of such authority being granted. These people should be held accountable—the WVDE, the county board, and the Deputy Superintendent. The board should be asked to provide a written copy of the plan they were supposedly authorized to create. The IAB needs to be questioned as to what makes it a meaningful, alternate academic assignment. Does meaningful mean “commensurate to the amount of rigor and time as a student that would be engaged in the General Summative Assessment (GSA)”?

Reading a book might be a meaningful, alternate academic assignment. Why the IAB? Who charged the county with the responsibility to have students that refuse to test to complete a meaningful, alternate academic assignment? Can they provide the charge in its original written form? Why can’t parents have a say in what they think is a meaningful, alternate assignment? The only say they are being offered is to choose from an online format or a paper pencil format. In other words, no say.

Neither the PARCC nor SBAC have been proven to be valid and reliable. Has WV’s state assessment been proven valid and reliable? (I think they are using SBAC, so the answer would be no). NCLB requires states to administer assessments that are valid and reliable. NCLB also requires states to administer a statewide assessment. It does not require all students to participate in the assessment.

If they were trying to use the IAB as a substitute for the state assessment, I would ask if the IAB has been proven to be a valid and reliable substitute for a state assessment that is not valid and reliable. In this case, they are not trying to use the IAB as a substitute for the state assessment. It sounds more like they are using it for punitive purposes. If they can’t control parents and students in the manner they want, they will impose something upon them that will be equally unpleasant or objectionable.

The letter also says the “results from the IAB tests would be used at the school level only to check student progress”. Sounds good but I think this is lame. A fifteen minute chat with the child’s teacher(s) should yield better information about the student’s progress.

What if parents just presented their opt out request in writing and left it at that? Presented with this letter and form, what if parents simply presented the request in writing that their child is not to take or be administered either the state assessment or the Interim Assessment Blocks? The form forces one to choose between two things, neither of which is a satisfactory choice for some parents. What if a parent crossed out the two printed choices and adds and selects a third choice which would read something like this: My child will not take and is not to be administered any state assessment or Interim Assessment Blocks online or in paper/pencil form.

The school officials, up and down the line, should be ashamed of the approach they are taking with parents and students. Are the state and local school officials completely to blame here? Probably not. Bullying begets bullying. Like the majority of the education reform movement, bullying has been a top down approach, with the top being at the level of our federal government. Reform measures have been top down and bullying is being used from the top down to impose those measures on down the line. I fail to see how this bullying and intimidation approach is going to serve well for our education system, school officials, communities, parents, and students.

stop bullying. seriously, just stop

Bullying graphics courtesy the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website at http://www.stopbullying.gov/image-gallery/.


U.S. DOE Gives Oklahoma Its NCLB Waiver Back

The U.S. Department of Education announced yesterday that they gave Oklahoma its NCLB flexibility waiver back.  It was taken from them after Oklahoma repealed Common Core.

From their press release:

In August, Oklahoma was unable to demonstrate that it had college- and career-ready standards in place, a key principle in ESEA flexibility, which is why the Department did not approve the state’s request to extend its flexibility. Following a recent review of the standards by the state’s colleges and universities, the state has the certification required to continue its flexibility. Higher, more rigorous academic standards help ensure that all students have the skills they need to succeed in college, career and life.

“I am confident that Oklahoma will continue to implement the reforms described in its approved ESEA flexibility request and advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students,” Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah S. Delisle wrote in a letter to the state.

The law has been due for Congressional reauthorization since 2007. In the absence of reauthorization, President Obama announced in September 2011 that the Administration would grant waivers from parts of the law to qualified states, in exchange for state-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity and improve the quality of instruction. The one-year extension of ESEA flexibility allows states to continue moving forward on the ambitious work they began with their initial flexibility requests.

The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education certified Oklahoma’s previous standards, Priority Academic Student Skills or PASS, back on October 16th, Oklahoma education leaders pushed for a quick reinstatement.  Without that stamp of approved the Feds would not deem those standards “college and career ready.”

PASS will be used until new standards can be developed and implemented in the 2016-2017 school year.  It would have been better for Oklahoma to tell the Feds to stick it.  The waiver is unconstitutional, and states cede their sovereignty in education by seeking it out.

Lessons from Iowa on Fighting for Local Control

Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation had an op/ed published in Deseret News entitled “Lessons for Utah from Iowa: Fight for control of education.”  She wrote:

If the centralizing impact of the Obama education waivers wasn’t already clear, the recent decision by the U.S. Department of Education to issue its first waiver rejection to Iowa — a state well known for its history of local control — makes it unambiguous that the waivers are designed to increase federal control over education.

Why was the Hawkeye state denied this alleged flexibility? Evidently, Iowa’s long-standing legacy of school district autonomy prevented the state from being eligible for a waiver.

The U.S. Department of Education informed Iowa that it would have to implement a statewide teacher evaluation system if it hoped to receive a waiver. Because the legislature hasn’t vested the state department of education with the authority to mandate such regulations on school districts, Iowa can’t meet the federal government’s condition.

Unfortunately many outside of Iowa aren’t aware of our Governor, Terry Branstad’s push for the centralization of education and the fact he chastised the Legislature for not giving up on local control

Burke then goes on to discuss options that exist for flexibility without the strings attached:

One of the more frustrating aspects of the NCLB waiver issue is the fact that an alternative to NCLB that provides genuine flexibility for states exists, and doesn’t carry with it the strings associated with the waivers. For years now, conservatives in Congress have championed the Academic Partnerships Lead Us To Success Act, or A-PLUS, which would allow states to completely opt-out of NCLB.

States that choose to opt-out would be empowered to use their share of federal funding for any lawful education purpose under state law. And if a state can demonstrate over a five year period that it is able to improve student outcomes, the state can continue to enjoy that flexibility.

It’s a far better approach than further concentrating power in the halls of the Department of Education, which is the outcome we can expect if the White House waivers continue.