First, we’ll begin with why parents are opting their children out of high stakes testing.
Rick called me a few days ago. He had, he said, been contacted by Linda Stewart, a member of the Florida legislature. She was looking into a constituent’s school-related complaint, and wondered if Rick would check the matter out for her.The constituent is an administrator in a special school that serves the educational needs of kids who for one reason or another can’t be served by the county’s regular public schools. The school, however, is under school board jurisdiction and therefore subject to the same rules and regulations as all others.One of those regulations is that every kid has to take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in order for the school to receive state support. That creates a problem, the school administrator tells Stewart. The problem: Michael. He has a disability.Contacted, state officials cite state statutes. Michael has no options. He has to take the test.Michael is nine years old. Born prematurely, he weighed four pounds. He has a brain stem but, according to doctors, most of his brain is missing.

No problem, says the state. An alternative version will be sent—pictures that Michael can describe.

Unfortunately, Michael is blind.

No problem, says the State. There’s a Braille version.

Michael doesn’t know Braille, and is unlikely to ever be able to learn it.

Amanda, Michael’s teacher, is frustrated. She really cares about the kids she teaches, and resists deliberately setting them up to fail. She also knows that Florida’s legislature, ignoring the research, has jumped on the merit pay bandwagon,  which requires that teachers evaluated in large part by the standardized test scores of their students. So Michael’s test score—a zero—and the scores of other disabled kids for whom she’s responsible, can set her up for a poor review or even get her fired.

This isn’t an isolated case.

To read this in full, go to the Answer Sheet.

Also from the Answer Sheet:

Sixty percent of adults who took standardized test bombed

The bottom line: Sixty percent bombed the test. Translation: Of the 50 accomplished adults who took an exam made up of questions from the New England Common Assessment Program, 60 percent received a score that would — if translated to Rhode Island’s new diploma policy — put a student in jeopardy of graduating from high school.

Those were the results released Tuesday of the scores earned by  the state legislators, council members, scientists, engineers, reporters, professors and others who took the test. The exercise was staged by the Providence Student Union, a high school student advocacy group, as a protest against a new state requirement that high school seniors must reach a certain level of proficiency on the exam to graduate.

This year, Rhode Island is implementing a new policy that uses the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP, as a high-stakes testing graduation requirement. Students — beginning with this year’s juniors – must earn a score of at least “partially proficient” on the NECAP to graduate from high school. The NECAP was not, however, designed for this purpose. It wasn’t even designed to assess individual students.

To read this post in full, go to the Washington Post.

And a video, How FCAT affected my life

And now the push back.

WNYers hold forum for Opt Out Movement

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – New York’s standardized tests are just that — standard, for all children who attend school in this state — right?

Wrong, say a small but steadfast group of advocates.

While it is not widely-publicized, it’s a fact that parents can choose to ‘opt out,’ and not have their kids take the tests. And this idea of refusing to take the tests is beginning to gain steam, with parents and teachers who feel the tests are doing more harm than good.

Saturday, they held a public forum at Buffalo’s Niagara Branch Library to inform other parents of ‘opt-out’ right, what its consequences are, and how to exercise it, if they so choose.

To see the news report, go to WIVB4.

DOE Official Affirms Parent Rights to Opt Out of Tests

Group critical of FCAT encourages parents to ‘opt out’

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, will be administered until 2014, at which time a new standardized test is set to take its place.

But it’s of no consequence to parent Richard Bolam, who sees the exam as flawed and believes parents should be allowed to have their children opt out of having to take the test.

“I’m the parent.  I feel what is right for my student is she shouldn’t be stressed as a student… not at all.  There are more things to worry about than one test.” Bolam has a third-grader in an Orange County school and a fifth-grader who is being home-schooled.  We met Bolam and two other parents at Bolam’s home on Thursday. They are part of the  group Opt Out Orlando, which they say is growing fast.  They also say they don’t believe there will be any repercussions if their kids are among those who do not take the FCAT.

“I’m not real concerned about repercussions, because I believe they are not true,” says Bolam.

The issue came to a head at the last school board meeting, when Bolam told board members his group’s plan to urge parents to have their kids opt out of taking the FCAT.  Some board members, including Board Chair Bill Sublette, pointed to state statute and said the test is not optional.

We read the statute, which states that, “…participation in the assessment program is mandatory for all students attending public school.”

Sublette told FOX 35 that there are indeed possible repercussions for any student who opts out, including: remediation, not being promoted to the next grade, not graduating with a diploma, and even truancy.

Still, Opt Out Orlando parents are onboard with what they say is becoming a growing national movement against standardized tests.

To read this article in full and watch the news report, go to My Fox.

There are new opt out Facebook pages, Opt Out of State Standardized Tests – Florida, Letters and Experiences of Parents Who Chose to OPT OUT and Opt Out Orlando.

Opt Out Orlando is hosting a forum on options to students taking the FCAT. Check it out at Rethinking High Stakes Testing.

And a new opt out-of-state testing letter courtesy of Ceresta Smith.

To Whom It May Concern:

Please be advised that our child will not be participating in state standardized testing during the current school year. Furthermore, we ask that no record of this testing be part of our child’s permanent file, as we do not wish our child to participate in standardized achievement testing for promotion, graduation, or school/state report cards.

We believe the following of forced, high stakes testing:

•Is not scientifically-based and fails to follow the U.S. Government’s own data on learning

•Fosters test driven education that is not meeting the individual/intellectual needs of students

•Presents a racial and economic bias that is beneficial to white middle/upper class students and detrimental to second language students, impoverished students, and students of color

•Violates the United States Constitution’s ESEA Fiscal Fairness Act

•Supports complicity of corporate interests rather than democracy based on public concerns

•Fosters coercion over cooperation with regards to federal funding for public education

•Promotes a culture of lying, cheating, and exploitation within the school community

•Has used the achievement gap to foster a “de facto” segregation that has resulted in separate and unequal education for minorities

We understand that federal law provides the parent or guardian the right of choice regarding standardized testing when such testing violates spiritual beliefs. In contrast to our spiritual beliefs, which are firmly rooted in a moral code that embraces equity and fairness, we believe such testing is not in the best interests of our child since it fosters competition instead of cooperation, contributes to separate and unequal education for minorities, and belies our child’s intellectual, creative, and problem-solving abilities, while presenting a fictitious picture as to the impact of the pedagogy provided by our child’s individual educators.

Ultimately, our state is required to provide our child with an education in a least restrictive environment that does not force us to go against our spiritual beliefs. My child should proceed to learn and develop at an individual pace following education standards that are imparted under the guidance of education professionals, not market-based reformers, who are able to provide quality pedagogy without fear of reprisal if students – who mature at vastly different levels and come from diverse backgrounds that may or may not be supportive of intellectual pursuit – do not hit the bulls’ eye of a constantly moving achievement target.

Therefore, we request that the school provide appropriate learning activities during the testing window and utilize an alternative assessment portfolio or concordant college testing score to fulfill promotion and or graduation requirements, as our child opts out of standardized testing.


Child’s Name ____________________________________________ ID#_________________________

opt out4

If you are not aware of it already, there is a nationwide push to collect as much information as possible about students for commercial use. To find out more in the state of Washington, check out The Road Map Project, Race to the Top, Bill Gates, a national data bank, Wireless Gen…and FERPA?

To follow is up to date information on the movement around the country to opt out of providing sensitive information about students.

A letter to Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters from JeffCO Public Schools:

Hi Leonie,

Thank you for signing our petition, JeffCo Public Schools: Stop disclosing confidential student information to corporations without parental consent! With your help, we’ve reached 248 signatures!

JeffCO Public Schools is one of a handful of districts/states across the nation piloting the inBloom project. Parents and community members like you are speaking out against the release of confidential student records to corporations without the parental consent.

Here are recent updates:

1. Last week New York State Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell sponsored this bill to block the NY State Dept. of Ed. and the DoE from sharing confidential student records with inBloom, Inc. Read more on this bill and growing inBloom concerns expressed by parents and others at this NY press conference.

2. The Massachusetts PTA and ACLU have spoken out against the release of confidential student records without parental consent to inBloom.

3. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Dept. of Education’s legal authority to relax and revise Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations allowing corporations (inBloom) access to confidential student records without parental consent. It is under these new FERPA regulations, finalized in Jan. 2012, which inBloom believes piloting districts/states are “fully compliant.” Had inBloom launched their project to collect confidential student records in Dec. 2011, FERPA law would have required parental consent.

4. A father in Louisiana emailed this letter to the State Dept. of Ed. demanding his child’s data not be included in the inBloom project; he is prepared to take legal action.

5. Read these Reuters and NPR stories highlighting Rupert Murdoch’s involvement with inBloom and education technology.

For more news and information, and to help grow our voice in JeffCo, visit our website at www.schoolbelongstothechildren.org.

Please help us get the word out by posting your concerns about inBloom and the petition link on your facebook timeline, and forward this message to five of your friends.

Thank you for taking a stand on this important issue for our children.


And another state bill in New York prohibits the release of personally identifiable student information where parent consent is not provided.

And finally, this article, Public School Parents and Advocates Protest Violation of Kids’ Privacy:

Going to school now means much more than students learning grammar, math, and geography. It’s about students learning how power works and can be used against them.  From sequester cuts impacting low-income students to gun violence being used to justify increased police presence, and now in  parents across nine states : Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina, are fighting to keep their kids’ names, addresses, social security numbers, learning disabilities , test scores , attendance, hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school , and even homework completion from private companies.

According to a story published by Reuters a few weeks ago, the Gates Foundation has formed a new non-profit corporation called inBloom Inc., to store and distribute the confidential student data of nine states, including New York public school students. The three month old $100 million database was built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school. While local education officials retain legal control over their students’ information., federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services. In other words the information will be used to push products and services onto children, their families, and their schools.

“Parents trust schools to safeguard their children’s confidential and sensitive data,” said Coalition for a Commercial Free Childhood Associate Director Josh Golin. “Sharing that data with marketers and commercial enterprises is a clear violation of that trust.”

Five states have already selected districts to be part of the pilot testing including the  New York City Department of Education. Though over 2,600 New Yorkers emailed New York State Education Department Commissioner Dr. John B. King, Jr.to protest this plan, the state has refused to meet with parents and has insisted that it will go ahead sharing any and all private information in student and teacher educational files including detailed disciplinary records, health conditions, economic status and race, without parental notification or consent.

To read this article in full, go to Politic 365.

Dora Taylor