We asked all of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates their position on opting out of the SBAC.
Four of the candidates responded to our query and we are publishing their answers today.
Opting your child out of a standardized test is a parent’s right. Parents have always had the right to opt their child out of particular courses or content areas. It is not the role of the federal or state government to question the motivations of parents; they are parents and a standardized test mandate does not supersede a parental rights.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is better than No Child Left Behind (NCLB), but a few glaring faults remain. The contradiction of a 95% test requirement while simultaneously acknowledging a parent’s right to opt out their child is still the cause of great confusion. States are now assigned the task of compliance to 95%, and the sanctions, if any, for districts that don’t comply. And yet the U.S. Department of Education still claims the power to withhold certain funds from states. This is where our State has to take a stand!
To address this contradiction of policy we must do five things:
1) Delink standardized tests as a high school graduation requirement;
2) Defend the right of parents to opt out their child;
3) Clearly define alternatives for students to show proficiency if they chose not to participate in federally-mandated testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school.
4) Do not require a student to test and fail first before utlizing alternative demonstrations of proficiency; and
5) Use assessment results to create intentional strategies to improve districts, schools, and where applicable, targeted interventions for students.
I believe very few parents would opt their child out of assessments if they believed the tests would be used to help their child improve AND they were confident the test would be used for system accountability only and not to penalize or stigmatize.
Professional educators should determine a student’s grade promotion and ultimate graduation – not a test. Incredibly, the research continues to tell us that high school GPA in combination with transcript evaluation is the better predictor of college success – not standardized tests. Colleges and universities across the country, and the world, are reducing the weight of SAT and ACT in college admissions; for some they don’t require any tests as part of admissions. Instead, they are seeking multiple measures – GPA, course evaluations, writing samples, community engagement, and so many other factors that are far more predictive of student persistence and success. Clearly, 48 diverse teacher grades (4 years X 2 semesters X 6 classes per semester) are more valid and reliable than one single measure in time.
Standardized assessments do have a role to play– to measure state, district, and when statistically significant, school building progress toward closing the achievement gaps. But, no single test should ever be used as a high stakes factor in grade promotion or graduation and they should never be used as a hammer.
Ultimately, educators should decide the best diagnostic tools to propel students to greater cognitive and social/emotional growth. It’s time to put the teaching and learning process back in the hands of educators!
-Chris Reykdal, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction