Some Florida families are facing the prospect of having their 3rd graders retained after they opted out of the state reading exam. The Orlando Sentinel reported in June:
Some Central Florida parents who had their third graders skip Florida’s standardized reading test now find their children threatened with being held back, even if they are strong readers who finished the school year with good report cards.
The parents, part of the “opt out” movement opposed to high-stakes testing, are furious.
They are convinced school districts are not following state law and are instead retaliating against families who refused to take part in the Florida Standards Assessments. They did so as an act of civil disobedience to protest what they view as the state’s over-reliance on an unproven standardized test.
“There’s no reason for a third grader with straight As to be retained,” said parent Rhonda Nickerson, whose 9-year-old daughter may be barred from fourth grade at a Seminole County elementary school. “What are they going to do with her in third grade again?”
Yesterday the Opt-Out Florida Network reports that a lawsuit has been filed to make sure the 180 days students are in public school count, and that they are not held back just because they didn’t take one standardized assessment.
In response to the districts that say their hands are tied, courageous parents of retained third grade students have taken their fight to a Court of Law. It’s officially on the books in Tallahassee now, folks and lawmakers are on notice. This suit is an indictment of test and punish accountability systems everywhere. A positive outcome from this case will have repercussions nationally – for the benefit of ALL children in public schools.
You can read the complaint filed in Leon County Clerk of Court yesterday can be read here.
Here is the text of the introduction:
Parents of students who received report cards with passing grades—some of whom were honor roll students—seek emergency declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that, because they opted out of standardized testing for their child, defendants arbitrarily and capriciously interpreted statutes and rules in a manner that requires retention, rather than promotion, of third grade students. The result is that students with no reading deficiency are retained in the third grade solely because they opt-out of standardized testing. Defendants’ policy means that a third- grader who takes standardized tests and scores poorly—whether intentionally or not—can still be promoted. Yet, an outstanding student who regularly produces proficient school work in the classroom for which they receive passing grades will be retained simply for not taking a standardized test that they are permitted to opt of under the Florida Statutes. Because the receipt of federal dollars is at stake unless 95 percent of students participate in standardized testing, test participation is treated as more important than actual performance. These actions produce an arbitrary and capricious result that violates the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause.
Nature of the Emergency
Emergency relief is warranted because Honor Roll students with no reading deficiency who earned passing grades will be retained in the third grade for the school year beginning in mid-August 2016. Plaintiffs did not receive notice that their child would be retained under the mandatory retention provision until late in the school year or after the school year had concluded.
School districts across the state concede that they dropped the ball on the portfolio exemption because the Department of Education gave inconsistent guidance throughout the school year on what is required under the student portfolio exemption, which is provided for in Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 6A-1.094221 and Fla. Stat., § 1008.25(6). The irreparable injury caused by such actions warrants emergency injunctive relief because similarly situated students are treated quite differently without any rational basis or legitimate governmental objective. Absent emergency relief, the Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm by having to repeat the third grade, which will cause devastating effects to students with no reading deficiencies who actually earned passing grades.