“Want to end the obsession with standardized testing? Opt your children out of the state tests.
“Ignore the threats from state and federal officials. The tests today have taken over too much of the school year. Teachers should prepare and give tests that cover what they taught.
“What if all students opted out of testing? That’s democracy in action. The elected officials who mandate these tests would take notice. They might even discover that no high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year.
“The tests today are pointless and meaningless.”
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Those statements in a recent blog post come from a highly respected expert in the education field, Diana Ravitch. She’s a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University. Her credentials include the authorship of 10 books and editing another 14. From 1991 to 1993, she was assistant secretary of education and in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.
Her words express the widespread anger and frustration over high-stakes testing all across the nation — under the guise of teacher and school accountability and tougher education standards. But opting out is not the solution. Changing the emphasis in education is.
Apparently, according to DOE, state law on testing is fluid — open to interpretations.
This is a roundabout way of framing the latest education enigma emanating from Tallahassee. And Manatee County School District Superintendent Diana Greene is legitimately angry at the Florida Department of Education’s newest confusing and confounding statements. Apparently, according to DOE, state law on testing is fluid — open to interpretations.
This emerged after the state released scores from third-graders on the state-mandated English language arts exam. Students who refused to take that test or a state-approved equivalent would not be promoted to the fourth grade, the district announced. In a message to the district, the DOE cited language in state statutes about mandatory participation in testing, though there are exceptions.
Third-graders who fail to score a Level 2 or higher on the standardized English language arts assessment can be promoted to the fourth grade should they qualify under the so-called “good cause” circumstances as set in law — by attending a summer session before taking a test or demonstrating mastery of state standards via a portfolio, for example. Greene consulted with a top DOE official and came away with confirmation that students who refuse to take a test cannot be promoted and do not qualify for any good-cause exemption.
Days later, Greene learned that the interpretation of those laws were strictly left to individual school districts. “To say that I am angry, frustrated and disappointed in the FLDOE’s lack of leadership on this extremely important issue is a massive understatement. To pass this difficult decision off to 67 different school districts is a gross abdication of responsibility,” Greene wrote in a statement. Furthermore, the district only intended to follow state law as instructed, she remarked.
She also announced all students who had no test score — and pupils who did not have a Level 2 score or higher — would be allowed to qualify for promotion via all six good-cause exemptions, including a portfolio of work.
The DOE’s latest judgment of state law appears to validate opting out by allowing portfolios instead of tests to gain promotion. We doubt that was the intent and expect to hear further clarification. But doesn’t that confirm “tests today are pointless and meaningless”?