A Case of Assessment Season Opt Out Bullying

bullying hurtsMost parents requesting to opt out would be shook up and intimidated if they received the following letter and form. It likely would affect their judgment to the point they wouldn’t check facts for themselves.


In this case, the parents let the school know their child was not to take the state assessment. The school informed the parents they would send a paper home with the child letting them know what activities the child could be doing during the testing time. Sounds okay so far. The paper that was sent home was the letter and form featured above. Not okay. While this took place in W. Virginia, similar things have taken place in other school districts in other states.

Let’s examine the letter and what it says. The letter refers to W.Va. Code 18-2E-5. The entire code is here:

I do not see anything in W.Va. Code 18-2E-5 that addresses opting out or refusal, either allowing or prohibiting it. This Deputy Superintendent needs to held accountable and asked to show where in the code it requires every student to be assessed or does not allow for opt out or refusal. Please do not take my word on this—-read this section of code for yourself and see what you think. The letter does quote a State Superintendent’s Update, March 25, 2016 saying, “There is no exception allowing parents and students to refuse to participate in the statewide assessment.” This apparently is an interpretation provided in the Update. This is not stated in the Code. From reading the actual Code, I would agree with this interpretation. It is incomplete. In the Code, there is nothing prohibiting parents and students from refusing to participate in the statewide assessment. This is either not in the Update or was selectively left out of this letter. My hunch is that it was not in the Update at all.

“There is no exception allowing parents and students to refuse to participate in the statewide assessment (General Summative Assessment) program.”   This is stated to make parents think it is not legal to opt out or refuse the assessment. The letter goes on to say, “Though there is no right to opt-out of our statewide summative assessment…”. Again, this is stated to lead one to believe it is not legal to opt out or refuse the assessment. The code has no provision for opting out or refusing, but as important, it does not prohibit opting out or refusing.

18-2E-5(3). I would use this clause as the foundation to ask how the Interim Assessment Block (IAB) results will be used “to determine when school improvement is needed”. Will enough students be taking the IAB to be able to actually use the results in a meaningful way to determine anything?

The letter also indicates the WVDE “has given the county board the authority to create a plan for students who refuse to participate in the assessment”. Someone should ask for the documentation of such authority being granted. These people should be held accountable—the WVDE, the county board, and the Deputy Superintendent. The board should be asked to provide a written copy of the plan they were supposedly authorized to create. The IAB needs to be questioned as to what makes it a meaningful, alternate academic assignment. Does meaningful mean “commensurate to the amount of rigor and time as a student that would be engaged in the General Summative Assessment (GSA)”?

Reading a book might be a meaningful, alternate academic assignment. Why the IAB? Who charged the county with the responsibility to have students that refuse to test to complete a meaningful, alternate academic assignment? Can they provide the charge in its original written form? Why can’t parents have a say in what they think is a meaningful, alternate assignment? The only say they are being offered is to choose from an online format or a paper pencil format. In other words, no say.

Neither the PARCC nor SBAC have been proven to be valid and reliable. Has WV’s state assessment been proven valid and reliable? (I think they are using SBAC, so the answer would be no). NCLB requires states to administer assessments that are valid and reliable. NCLB also requires states to administer a statewide assessment. It does not require all students to participate in the assessment.

If they were trying to use the IAB as a substitute for the state assessment, I would ask if the IAB has been proven to be a valid and reliable substitute for a state assessment that is not valid and reliable. In this case, they are not trying to use the IAB as a substitute for the state assessment. It sounds more like they are using it for punitive purposes. If they can’t control parents and students in the manner they want, they will impose something upon them that will be equally unpleasant or objectionable.

The letter also says the “results from the IAB tests would be used at the school level only to check student progress”. Sounds good but I think this is lame. A fifteen minute chat with the child’s teacher(s) should yield better information about the student’s progress.

What if parents just presented their opt out request in writing and left it at that? Presented with this letter and form, what if parents simply presented the request in writing that their child is not to take or be administered either the state assessment or the Interim Assessment Blocks? The form forces one to choose between two things, neither of which is a satisfactory choice for some parents. What if a parent crossed out the two printed choices and adds and selects a third choice which would read something like this: My child will not take and is not to be administered any state assessment or Interim Assessment Blocks online or in paper/pencil form.

The school officials, up and down the line, should be ashamed of the approach they are taking with parents and students. Are the state and local school officials completely to blame here? Probably not. Bullying begets bullying. Like the majority of the education reform movement, bullying has been a top down approach, with the top being at the level of our federal government. Reform measures have been top down and bullying is being used from the top down to impose those measures on down the line. I fail to see how this bullying and intimidation approach is going to serve well for our education system, school officials, communities, parents, and students.

stop bullying. seriously, just stop

Bullying graphics courtesy the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website at http://www.stopbullying.gov/image-gallery/.


4 thoughts on “A Case of Assessment Season Opt Out Bullying

  1. “In the heart of a child, one moment …. can last forever.”

    About this testing …

    There is no virtue in making children so brave that they might withstand the idiocy of adults. Nor is there any virtue in lying to children so as to protect adult ridiculousness. And when adults trip over their own commandments and reason away the subtle wounding of children … then they themselves have committed a great sin.

    Childhood is an extraordinary moment. It has its own sanctity because it is the maker of first memories … and we make big deals of firsts in our lives. And first memories should never be ugly. Not ever.

    But what has become of us? Why have we arrived at this moment when children become fair game in an adult controversy? Instinct tells us never to place children in the middle of a muddle. But here we are … hearing unbelieving tales of adult unfairness that seem such the antithesis of what is expected from the guardians of our children.

    Life is a long frustration. The great beauty of maturity is that we learn to keep our cool and to react only to the most insistent frustrations. Adults learn to separate the important from the unimportant … and it prevents us from the nasty human inclination to settle on easy scapegoats … and then to punish the weakest and most vulnerable.

    Scapegoats are born of frustrations adults cannot control … and we have loads of frustration surrounding this wretched reform. But frustration is never a green light to exercise a disturbing dominance over the smallest of the small. If that is the first impulse of an adult, then they are in a queer orbit.

    Children cut off from pizza parties and ice cream treats because their parents exercised their right right of refusal? Little humans in little desks made to sit and stare for hours … in of all places … a school? Children confronted by some towering goliath … insisting that they revoke their parents’ own wishes? What the hell is going on here?

    Where is the wisdom in gluing children to desks for hours as they squirm their way through some asinine educational gauntlet that has no real purpose other than to pay homage to some testing god? Who thought that a good idea?

    This is a mess that cannot be unmessed. When will we start over … and get this straight?

    Is this how children should ever be treated? Are there not school campaigns to disarm bullies … and to champion kindness? Have those champions vanished? Were those just paper heroics? Empty nonsense? I sense adult ugliness seeping through a holy firewall behind which childhood is protected. It seems too many are now comfortable liars … even with children. And worse, some have become hypocrites.

    There is never an excuse to scar a child. And if you’re in the child business … that sort of action condemns you to a special sort of hell.

    For children, school is a majestic cathedral. A near shrine where every minute should be crammed with as much wonder as a minute might hold. To disturb that atmosphere is to violate the inviolate,

    A school has no place or space for anyone unable to plug into their memory bank for recollections of their own childhood. If one cannot stay linked with with the memories of their own past, perhaps they shouldn’t be in the memory-making business at all.

    When one’s memory of childhood evaporates, so does one’s empathy. And that is a signal to move on.

    “Childhood is a short season.” Give it its due.

    Denis Ian

    1. Denis, this is eloquently expressed. I would love to share this, crediting you naturally. May I assume since it’s in the public domain that I am allowed to do so?

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