High School in Seattle says “No!” to the Common Core SBAC Assessments

In January last year, Truth in American Education reported about teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle taking a stand and refusing to administer the MAP test.  Now, a year later, another high school in Seattle file0001849487704 is taking a stand against the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium assessments.

Yesterday afternoon the Nathan Hale Senate (functions as Building Leadership Team) voted nearly unanimously not to administer the SBAC tests to 11th graders this year.

The Senate also recently voted not to administer the PSAT test to 10th graders at all in the future.
Reasons for refusing the SBAC for 11th graders included (summary):
1. Not required for graduation
2. Colleges will not use them this year
3. Since NCLB requires all students pass the tests by 2014, and since few if any schools will be able to do that,  all schools will therefore be considered failing by that standard. There is thus no reason to participate in erroneous and misapplied self-labeling.
4. It is neither valid nor reliable nor equitable assessment. We will use classroom based assessments to guide next instructional steps.
5. Cut scores of the SBAC reflect poor assessment strategy and will produce invalid and unreliable outcomes.
6. Student made this point: “Why waste time taking a test that is meaningless and that most of us will fail?”
7. The SBAC will tie up computer lab time for weeks.
8. The SBAC will take up time students need to work on classroom curriculum.
This is an important step. Nathan Hale is asserting its commitment to valid, reliable, equitable assessment. This decision is the result of community and parent meetings, careful study of research literature, knowledge of our students’ needs, commitment to excellence in their education, and adherence to the values and ideas of best-practice instruction.This resolution does not mean NHHS will refuse the 10th grade SBAC assessments, sorry to say.But the way the school went about the decision is a powerful model for other schools, and means that anything is still possible in that regard.

ACTION ALERT: STOP THE STUDENT “SUCCESS” ACT (HR 5)

Congressional Leadership Is Bull-Rushing Through HR5, the 600 Page Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (rebranded the “Student Success Act”)

The House votes on it this week.  Call your Representative and call the Speaker of the House and tell them to vote “no” on HR 5!

 202-224-3121. 

Below are just a few of the problems.

1. HR5 Denigrates Parental Rights and Seizes State Sovereignty

  • No program shall “operate within a State, unless the legislature of that State shall have . . . waived the State’s rights and authorities to act inconsistently with any requirement that might be imposed by the Secretary as a condition of receiving that assistance.” (Sec. 6561) (emphasis added).
  • Federal requirements will trump the rights “reserved to the States and individual Americans by the United States Constitution” to lead in the education of their child. (Sec. 6564)
  • Requires states to change laws and regulations to “conform” to HR5. (Sec. 1403)
  • Alters the governance structures of states by requiring them to form “Committees of Practitioners” to whom the state must submit rules and regulations. (Sec. 1403)

2. HR5 Does Nothing to Relieve Children From No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB’s) Oppressive Testing Requirements.

3. Feds Will Effectively Direct State Education Policy through Enhanced Continuation of Heavy-Handed NCLB Policies

  • Requires states to demonstrate to the federal government that their standards, assessments, and state accountability systems meet the goal of “prepar[ing] all students to graduate high school for postsecondary education or the workforce.” (Sec. 1001)
  • Requires states to submit comprehensive state plans, which the Secretary can disapprove. (Sec. 1111)
  • States had to make the same showing and meet the same definitional goal to receive NCLB waivers and Race to the Top grants.. HR5 allows for a Common Core “rebrand.”  (Sec. 1001) and (Sec. 1111(3)(A))
  • Prohibitions against the Secretary forcing states into adopting Common Core are meaningless.

4. Increases Federal Data Collection To Control Curriculum

  • Empowers the Department of Education to request individual student and teacher data from State and Local Education Agencies.
  • Authorizes substantial new funding to use this data to evaluate whether schools are using “effective” instructional methods.  (Sec. 2111(b)(1)(A)) and (Sec. 2132)

The above information is originally from the Parents Against the Common Core website.

monday-hr5-action-alert

The meme and following four bullet points come from the Missouri Education Watchdog.

HB 2165 to Eliminate the Common Core and Assessments in WA

There is now a House Bill in the Washington State Legislature to eliminate the use of the Common Core State Standards and its assessments in the State of Washington.

Click on the hyperlink for the official page for HB 2165 Eliminating the use of common core state standards and assessments in Washington.  Click here to download the pdf file of the original bill.

HB 2165 is sponsored by Representatives Scott, Haler, Shea, Vick, Short, Van Werven, Condotta, Wilson, Young, Orcutt, Kochmar, Schmick, Taylor, Harmsworth, G. Hunt, Griffey, Klippert, Buys, Parker, Holy, Pike, and MacEwen

Please call all your Representatives to support this.
Please call the House Education committee to have a hearing on this.

Share this information far and wide.

SB 6030 to Withdraw WA from Common Core

There is now a Senate Bill in the Washington State Legislature to withdraw the state from the Common Core.  The bill also addresses assessment issues and is to withdraw the state from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium assessments.

Click on the hyperlink for the official page for SB 6030 Concerning assessments in public schools.  Click here to download the pdf file of the original bill.

SB 6030 is sponsored by Senators Chase, Roach, McCoy, Hasegawa, Miloscia, Padden, and Dansel.

Please call all your Senators to support this.
Please call the Senate Education committee to have a hearing on this.

Share this information far and wide.

Opt Out Info

Over the last couple of years Truth in American Education has heard from many concerned parents across the country wanting to know if and how they can opt out of state assessments, especially those administered online and the assessments produced by SBAC and PARCC.

Teachers, principals, schools, school districts, and states are under a tremendous amount of pressure to produce results on assessment tests. Schools get branded and punished if deemed a failing school even though the system is pretty much set up to start schools onfile000978694068 a downward spiral from which it is extremely difficult to recover. In too many places teacher evaluations are being tied to these assessments. This pressure may result in parents being told they can’t opt out of testing and having the parents’ requests disregarded. Parents may be told the tests are required and there is no opt out provision. Threats may be made that the parents will be reported to the child protective service agency if their child is not in attendance on assessment days. In most states the state may mandate the administration of assessments but that does not mandate each student participate in the administration (consider the semantics that comes into play).

Across the country there is a large and growing resistance to assessments. There are opt out websites that may provide a lot of information and advice. Some information is provided here to help parents as they go through the process of opting out of assessments and not allowing the school system to assess their child. The information provided here is not intended to be all-inclusive but it may have some suggestions other information sources don’t emphasize or have. Links to other information sources and letters/forms are also provided. Parents are encouraged to thoroughly explore those sources for a better understanding of the issues and process related to opting out. It is helpful to be knowledgeable of related legal issues in your own state, keeping in mind the information presented here is general information and not specific to any one state.

Opting out, refusing the test, saying no to the test, and boycotting assessments may be considered different ways of saying your child is not to be administered the assessment.

State and Federal Laws & Opt Out Provisions

Parents should check their state laws to see what they say with regard to state assessments. In most cases, there are no state or federal laws requiring every student to participate in state assessments. No Child Left Behind requires states to administer state assessments. Many states require the same thing. Requiring state assessments to be administered does not mean that every student has to participate. So, to restate, it is mandatory for schools to administer assessments, but it is not mandatory every child take the assessment.

“There are no state or federal laws requiring every student to participate in state assessments.”

“It is mandatory for schools to administer assessments, but it is not mandatory every child take the assessment.”

There have been school officials who have told parents that state and federal laws require every child to take the assessment. This is not true and parents should challenge this by asking the school officials to cite and provide a hard copy of the state and/or federal law requiring participation in state assessments. School officials directing parents to find the law for themselves is not adequate. Officials have also told parents there are no opt out provisions in the law. This is often stated to make parents think it is not legal for them to opt out. While it is true most states do not have opt out provisions in the law that does not mean the law requires every student to participate in state assessments. Parents should put the responsibility on the school officials making such claims to cite in writing the state or federal law requiring every student to take the assessment. It is not good enough for the school official to say such laws exist; they must cite the law in writing so parents can verify it for themselves. If the school official says they are following a state directive, ask to see the directive in writing. If the laws don’t exist, they cannot produce and show them to you. A directive may be misleading and not truly address the issue.

“While it is true most states do not have opt out provisions in the law that does not mean the law requires every student to participate in state assessments.”

Make the Request

Parents should make their request in writing using a letter or form. There are links provided below to Opt Out Letters and Forms. Use a suitable one that is provided or customize your own. Some parents request more than just opting out of an assessment. Parents should opt out of named or described specific assessments. It is important parents clearly state what they expect.

Examples that are specific:

  • My child will not take or is not to be administered the SBAC assessment (or the name of whatever assessment is used in your state).
  • My child will not take or is not to be administered any online assessments.
  • My child will not take or is not to be administered any assessment until I, as the parent, have had the opportunity to view the state assessment in its entirety to deem whether I feel the content is appropriate for my child.
  • My child will not take or is not to be administered any assessment or test that is not written in whole or in part by my child’s regular classroom teacher.

It is not necessary for parents to give a reason or explain why. Doing so opens the door for school officials to engage parents in a debate. As a parent, take the position that you have the authority to make decisions regarding your child’s education and well-being and you do not have to seek permission to opt out.

Parents have the authority to make decisions regarding their child’s education and well being.

Parents wishing to have their kids not be given an online assessment should not wait until assessment time to make such a request. That request should be made early in the year if possible. The request should also prohibit their child from using any online computer or device at school. This sets a precedence making the case stronger when it comes to assessment time. That way at assessment time the school officials can’t come back at the parent and say, well, gee, you let your kid do all kinds of other things online at school all year.

Prior to making a request, parents should consider asking school officials to show the information that their child will be asked to provide as well as the assessment questions opt-out5and tasks. It is likely they will not allow parents to see the material, but in the event they do, it may help in making the decision about opting out. If parents are comfortable with what they see they may no longer object. If parents aren’t comfortable with what they see, they may have more solid ground on which to base their request. If parents are not allowed to see the material, they should question why not and become suspicious that something is being hidden from them.

If school officials respond to a parent request by denying the request, the parent should ask to be shown the statute in state law requiring the child be assessed against the parent’s expressed wishes. Hopefully, the parents have done their homework with regard to state laws and may want to seek legal counsel at this point.

Communicating/Meeting with School Officials

Parents are not obligated or required to meet with school officials regarding any request made to have their child not be administered an assessment. Some school officials will request, maybe demand, such a meeting. It is within a parents right to deny a requested meeting with school officials. Some parents will still choose to meet. For those parents, here are some recommendations.

  • Be polite and non-confrontational
  • School officials work for you, not you for them
  • Take someone with you to the meeting, legal representation if needed
  • Record the meeting
  • Feel free to end the meeting at any point; this can easily be done by standing up, saying “This conversation is over,” and leaving
  • Follow up with a written summary of the discussion

“Parents are not obligated or required to meet with school officials.”

If communicating by phone, follow up by writing up a summary of the conversation and send, in writing, to the school official and others. Written communication should visibly be copied to other people—your lawyer, a family advocacy group, friends, family, known community members. This lets the school official know others are watching the situation and they will be less likely to bully you and more likely to treat you with respect.

Here are some things you might expect when you communicate with school officials. They may ask why you don’t want your child to take the assessment. You are not required or obligated to give a reason why. They may try to convince you to change your mind. They questionsmay tell you your child is required to take the assessment (this has been addressed earlier). School officials may try to convince you of benefits of taking the assessment. If this happens, ask specific questions about those benefits and ask them to provide evidence of the benefits they mention. You can always ask for evidence of how the assessment will help your child. Ask for evidence of how the teacher will use the results to further your child’s education. Ask how the results will show your child’s academic achievement/standing with regard to content knowledge. It is important to note, don’t just ask how but ask for the evidence of how.

Parents are not required or obligated to give a reason why.

If you are requesting your child not be administered a state assessment, you probably already have good reasons already. Remember, you are not required to provide any reason. Here are some reasons people object to their child being administered a state assessment.

A Few Reasons for Opting Out

  • Confusing questions
  • Complex format
  • Computer use
  • Religious reasons
  • Data collection on students and families
  • Assessments have no evidence proving validity or reliability
  • Misguided focus on assessments rather than academic content instruction
  • Teacher evaluations tied to assessments that are not valid or reliable
  • Assessments and preparation for them take away time from quality instructional experiences
  • ELA and Math are emphasized while other subjects are neglected
  • Developmentally inappropriate

Parents Prepare Yourself and Your Student(s)

Prior to requesting opting out, parents may want to gather some information and take some steps to safeguard their child.

Parents may want to see the assessment before it is administered in order to see the content material prior to it being exposed to their child. That may help in making decision to opt out. If a parent can’t see the assessment in its entirety, they may not want their child to take the assessment.

Ask to see the assessment in its entirety.

Parents may want to ask for a copy of the validity and reliability report for the assessment. If such a report is provided, please share it and look it over carefully, or have someone else look it over to determine if it is legitimate and reasonable. If school officials can’t or won’t provide you with proof the assessment is valid and reliable, why should a child take the assessment? Parents should insist a copy of a written report be provided rather than just being told where the information can be found or that it is available online. This may prevent parents from being sent on a wild goose chase or as a tactic to send the parents on their way.

Ask for a copy of the validity and reliability report for the assessment.

Parents should ask if and when they will receive test results for their child. They should ask for a sample of a results report. If parents aren’t going to be provided with a results report or can’t see a sample, why should they allow their child to take the assessment.

Parents should brief their students on what to expect if their child is going to be in school on assessment days. Parents should request their child be engaged in suitable and appropriate educational activities. The practice of having non-participating students sit and state during the assessment is not acceptable and is seen as unreasonable and punitive. Non-participating students should not even be in the testing environment. The PARCC Test Coordinator manual states that non-testing students are “prohibited from entering the testing environment”. That prohibition should apply to other formal assessments as well.

Parents should request their child be engaged in suitable and appropriate educational activities.

file0001110781475If parents choose to keep their child home on assessment days, they should make sure this are legitimate reasons so as not to run afoul of truancy issues or of being reported to a child protective services agency. Is it time for a series of doctors appointments—check ups, eye exam, allergy testing? Will the school try to administer a make up assessment upon the child’s return to school? Beware of the window of time for the administration of the assessment.

Parents not wanting their child to take an assessment need to follow up on their request for opting out. Submitting a letter or opt out form is not a guarantee the request will be honored. Prior to the administration of the assessment, the parents should remind the school officials of their request and ask what arrangements have been made for their child during the assessment

Additional Resources and Sources of Information

There are two lists below with links to web pages or documents with Opt Out Resources and Information and Opt Out Letters and Forms. The lists are not all-inclusive and are not intended to be. They are provided to give people a starting place for finding information about opting out that they may need. Since more resources become available over time, an online search may generate more information and resources than provided here.

Opt Out Resources and Information

FairTest Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/FairTest

FairTest Opting Out
http://fairtest.org/get-involved/opting-out

Kansans Against Common Core Opt Out page
https://kansansagainstcommoncore.wordpress.com/opt-out/

Opt Out Pennsylvania
http://optoutpa.blogspot.com

Opt Out of State Standardized Tests
http://optoutofstandardizedtests.wikispaces.com

Parents & Kids Against Standardized Testing Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Parents-Kids-Against-Standardized-Testing/117479641627357

United Opt Out National
http://unitedoptout.com

Opt Out Letters and Forms

Common Core & Year End Standardized Testing Opt Out Form
https://kansansagainstcommoncore.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/common-core-standards-testing-opt-out-form-8-6-13.pdf

https://kansansagainstcommoncore.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/common-core-opt-out-form_version2.pdf

Generic Opt Out Letter Guidelines (provided by United Opt Out)
http://www.fairtest.org/sites/default/files/GeneralOptOutGuidewFormLetter_0.pdf

Opt Out of State Standardized Tests
http://optoutofstandardizedtests.wikispaces.com/Opt+Out+Form+Letters

Opt Out Pennsylvania Letters/Forms
http://optoutpa.blogspot.com/2014/11/opt-out-lettersforms.html

Pacific Justice Institute California Common Core Data Opt-Out Form
http://www.pacificjustice.org/california-common-core-data-opt-out-form.html

Thomas More Law Center Common Core Center Opt Out Forms
https://www.thomasmore.org/common-core-resource-page/#optout

Truth in American Education Common Core State Standards Opt Out Form
https://app.box.com/s/aqlcblinjcvq7pm5jmbd

narrow+standards+more+testing

It’s Not Right for Kids

This video was posted on youtube earlier this month.  The youtube title is Technology glitches with new state testing.  Here is the information provided about the video:

New Maine schools online testing comes under fire in Lewiston. Lewiston Middle School teacher Brian Banton talks about newly discovered technology glitches with software for iPads. Video by Russ Dillingham / Sun Journal.

Reauthorizing ESEA: The road to effective education is paved with local control and parent power

The following statement by Lindsey M. Burke, Williamson Evers, Theodor Rebarber, Sandra Stotsky, and Ze’ev Wurman was posted on Jay P. Greene’s Blog.  It is reposted here with permission.

Reauthorizing ESEA: The road to effective education is paved with local control and parent power

Lindsey M. Burke, Williamson Evers, Theodor Rebarber, Sandra Stotsky, and Ze’ev Wurman

In reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 2015, Congress should restore the power of state and local governmental authorities. The law as it currently reads has centralized education and moved decision-making to a large and ever-growing federal bureaucracy — far from the schools most students attend.

The current drafts, both the Senate and the House versions, do not return authority to the states and localities or empower parents.  The ESEA has evolved from what was described at the outset in 1965 as a measure to help children from low-income families into an instrument of testing mandates and federal control of public K-12 education and, increasingly, of private education as well. The road to effective education is paved with local control and parent power.

We need to reauthorize ESEA in a way that empowers parents and moves authority back to local communities and the state laboratories of democracy where it belongs. Moreover, the reauthorization should abandon the ill-considered idea planted in the Obama administration’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Flexibility Waivers that our high schools are simply college-prep factories. Instead, the reauthorization should return to the previous widely accepted idea that high schools should prepare young people for American citizenship and to fulfill their individual potential as they see fit. Toward that end, high schools should be permitted to establish several sets of challenging academic standards rather than a single set of standards that purport to deliver self-proclaimed (but actually meaningless) “college-readiness.” Similarly, instead of federal regulations that require that the testing “tail” wag the curriculum “dog,” communities and charter schools must be able to select reliable assessments that align with their locally established curriculum.

Recent attempts to provide better educational opportunities to low-income children through one-size-fits-all requirements and increased federal testing mandates in the various versions of ESEA since its inception have met with little success.  As education researcher Helen Ladd concluded in her comments on a 2010 Brookings Institution paper by Thomas Dee and Brian Jacob:

“… First, the null findings for reading indicate to me that to the extent that higher reading scores are an important goal for the country, NCLB is clearly not the right approach. That raises the obvious follow-up question: what is?…

“[T]he suggestive evidence that I have included here on Massachusetts [indicates] that states may be in a better position to promote student achievement than the federal government.”

The 2015 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act should restore power to states and localities by allowing states, school districts, and charter schools to opt out fully and completely from the programs and regulations of ESEA, currently reauthorized as No Child Left Behind. When they opt out, states, local school districts, and charter schools would formally and publicly explain the accountability measures that they would use to assure that federal dollars improve the K-12 education of disadvantaged children. They would also provide the rationale that supports these measures.

States and local authorities would thereby be in a position to direct federal dollars to their students’ most pressing education needs. By this we mean that the 2015 reauthorization should follow the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) approach, which has been offered in previous years.

In addition, the 2015 reauthorization should:

  1. Eliminate mandates, including, but not limited to: Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), federal prescription of annual grade-level testing for each student, the Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) mandate, and maintenance of effort (MOE) regulations. The reauthorized act should not require a single statewide set of standards or assessments in each state, nor approval or review of any state or local district or charter school standards or assessments by the U.S. Department of Education. It should instead allow states, local school districts and charters the choice of what grades and subjects to test, and the number of tests, letting them choose from among a wide range of state-approved standards and aligned valid and reliable tests. Those states that believe annual grade-level testing in specified subjects of each student doesn’t improve student learning could drop it, while those states who believe such testing makes their state more competitive and is useful for teacher and school accountability could keep it. They should provide parents and taxpayers with reasons for their choice. Eliminating the prescriptive and ineffective Highly Qualified Teacher mandate would put states instead in a position to improve teacher quality by requiring teachers to demonstrate content mastery of the subject matter they teach, instead of having to use false measures of effectiveness, such as paper credentials and licensure. 
  1. Eliminate programs and, correspondingly, eliminate the spending tied to those programs. The reauthorization bill should eliminate the competitive grant programs that have accumulated over the years (some 60 programs) and cut appropriations for those programs to zero. The proliferation of competitive grant programs is one of the primary means by which Washington has increased its intervention in local school policy over the decades.
  1. Make Title I money portable. Any reauthorization of ESEA should provide states the option to make their Title I dollars portable to follow students to any public or private school of choice. This idea has been fleshed-out by the Brookings Institution’s Russ Whitehurst. Writing in EducationNext magazine, Whitehurst suggested:

Rather than the complicated federal schemes under which funds are currently disbursed to districts, funds should be attached to the student. Individual schools would receive federal funds based on student counts, with a weighting formula to adjust for factors such as the increased burden of educating high-need students and for regional differences in costs. Sometimes called “backpack funding,” weighted funding that follows the student has been shown to direct proportionally more funds to schools that serve needy students than traditional distribution schemes.

Portability of Title I funding, however, does not mean federal mandates should also be portable. Specifically, portability must not be used to extend federal or state standards and testing mandates to any private school that receives funds under the act. Such an extension must be prohibited by specific language in ESEA.

  1. Strengthen prohibitions against national standards and tests. So long as federal K-12 competitive grant programs, conditional waivers, and conditional grants-in-aid exist, the federal education bureaucracy will have trouble resisting the temptation to dictate curriculum content. Despite prohibitions already existing in three federal statutes against meddling in curriculum, President Obama and the U.S. Department of Education incentivized states to adopt curriculum-content standards (the Common Core), and they funded national tests designed to secure those content standards in place.

Language in any reauthorization should underscore that the federal government is prohibited from directing curricula, and should further ensure that the federal government may not condition or award preferences in federal grants or contracts to states that adopt any particular academic content standards, tests or curricula, including but not limited to the Common Core standards.

With specific regard to the proposal put forward by Sen. Lamar Alexander, entitled the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015 (a title problematic in and of itself as it continues the notion that high schools are little more than college-prep or career factories), the proposal includes language that runs counter to the goal of restoring state and local control of education. It includes, for example, an assurance that states have “state standards aligned with entrance requirements, without the need for academic remediation, for an institution of higher education in the State.” This assurance needs to be eliminated.

Additionally, to allow for multiple standards and assessments, the language included in the draft that state assessments “are the same academic assessments used to measure the achievement of all students;” also needs to be eliminated. If the same assessment must be used for all students in the state, there is no possibility of multiple assessments. Moreover, if the authors are serious about restoring state and local control of education, there can be no peer review process of state plans dictated from the federal level, as the current proposal requires. There must also be no federal directives on what local report cards should look like, as the current proposal also contains.

The proposal should also go further in prohibiting the collection of individual student data from the state or other entities. It should also prohibit the federal collection of individual student data from states, contractors, and grantees and prohibit the Secretary of Education from possessing individual student data. All language mandating the content of local report cards should be removed. Parents must be empowered to shape the kind of information they want the teachers they hire and pay for to give them. Report cards are part of local accountability, which must be retained.

Above all, any reauthorization of ESEA should take meaningful steps toward curtailing federal overreach into local school policy. Reauthorization should roll back the host of programs and mandates that burden states and local boards, and allow states, school districts and charter schools to opt out completely, and allow school policy to be set at the local level. For the sake of our children and the future liberty of our country, we need to restore local control of education.

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Lindsey M. Burke is the Will Skillman Fellow in Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation, Williamson M. Evers is a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a former U.S. assistant secretary of education for planning, evaluation, and policy development, Theodor Rebarber is CEO of AccountabilityWorks, Sandra Stotsky is professor emerita in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and Ze’ev Wurman is a former senior policy adviser with the U.S. Department of Education. This article reflects our views individually, not necessarily the views of our organizations.