Anonymous fliers calling on students to skip the exams have been circulating in the district, notably at Greenwich High School. One of them includes a form for parents to sign to authorize their children opting out.
District officials have responded by dismissing the opt-out forms as fake and reiterating their intent for all students in the tested grades to sit for the exams.
“Let me be crystal clear: Per federal and state regulations, students do not have an `opt out’ option with the Smarter Balanced field test,” Superintendent of Schools William McKersie said in a letter Thursday to district families.
But that statement was contradicted recently by a top educational authority in the state — the chairman of the state Board of Education, who, ironically, is a major supporter of the new tests.
“There’s certainly no state law that says they can’t (opt out),” Chairman Allan Taylor, an attorney, said during a March 12 hearing of the state Legislature. “Therefore, residually, presumably they have that right. What the local district chooses to do about that is a local district decision ¦ The state Department of Education will not be reaching down and sanctioning parents.”
This week, students throughout the district will start taking online “field tests” or pilot versions of the new exams, which were developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Aligned with the Common Core State Standards, the exams are replacing Connecticut Mastery Tests in grades three through eight and most of theConnecticut Academic Performance Tests in grade 10. High school students will take the new tests in 11th grade.
This year’s exams will not be used for school-accountability purposes or factored into teacher evaluations. The “operational” roll out of the Smarter Balanced tests will be in 2015.
But state education officials are adamant that this year’s “test of the test” does not mean students can blow them off.
“Both state and federal laws require public school students to take annual state assessments in certain grades and subjects,” said state Department of Education spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly. “These laws do not provide a provision for parents to `opt-out’ their children from taking state tests. These mandates have been in effect for many years, and the State Department of Education, as well as all public schools, must comply.”
Not exactly true, said Wendy Lecker, a columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and senior attorney for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity at the Education Law Center.
“There’s no punishment in either state or federal law for students who refuse to take the test,” Lecker said. “They’re telling a partial truth when they say that there’s no opt-out provision. But they don’t tell parents that there’s no sanction if they refuse.
“`Will my child or me get punished if we don’t take the test?’ — that’s really what parents are asking. Why does the state have to play with semantics?”
This is the same crap McKersie and his state bosses pulled with racial redistricting (by the way, when can we expect to see the legal opinion we paid for last year to review the legality of the star mandate on redistricting? ). They toe the corporate line because they are the corporate line. Greenwich homeowners who depend even in part for the quality of our public schools, which is to say, all of us, should pay attention: parents here are sophisticated enough and have the financial wherewithal to yank their kids from the grasp of these bureaucrats and when they do, there goes the system.
Probably couldn’t happen a moment too soon, but home values will take a hit. The school system is everyone’s business – wake up.