Minnesota Students Pressured Over Opting Out of Assessments

A principal and science teacher in a southern Minnesota middle school tried to convince students who opted out of taking the NWEA MAP test last week that their parents misunderstood the assessments and were conveying false information to them about the nature of the assessments.

Some students recorded their principal talking to students who opted out of the assessments waiting in their school’s cafeteria while the assessments were administered.

The name of the school, principal and teacher are being withheld by request of the parents.

Here is audio from the first day, I am just including the last almost five minutes of the audio file. Update: At the request of a couple different people I’m sharing the longer audio file with a redaction of a student’s name and teacher’s name.  I did trim one-and-a-half minutes at the beginning which included smaller group discussion and was inaudible.

She gives an apology for data collection, and during her remarks she actually discusses an individual student’s results with the students gathered which, even though he performed well, is a violation of privacy (not included in the audio file I’m sharing).  She then discusses “misconceptions” surrounding the test after asking students if they knew the difference between the NWEA and MCA assessments.

The principal said, “I talked to some of your parents and some of your parents did not have all of the knowledge correct either.  Some of your parents didn’t even say the right tests.  They called it by a different name.  I am not telling you this in order to persuade you.  I’m totally cool with what you decide to do, but I also… my job is to give you the information and the knowledge to make an educated decision.”

She then asked why kids were opting out.  One said because they had mono.  Another said because their parent told them not to.  Another said because “there is Common Core in it.”  Other kids expressed their agreement with that child.

The principal responded, “Do you know that is not true?  There is not Common Core in it.  People are confused about this.  Common Core is this thing that is nation wide that no school in the state of Minnesota practices.  No school… They hear it on the national news, but it is not being taught.  You are not being taught Common Core.  Nor is Common Core in the NWEAs.  Common Core is about here are the objectives that students need to know and it has nothing to do with Common Core.  There is no bias in the NWEAs, and people are really confused about that.  And I’ve talked with some of your parents and some of them are going to come back and visit with me about that a little bit.”

“But just so you know that is not true,” she added.  “NWEA is just what is 3×5 and it has nothing to do with the Common Core and Common Core has nothing to do with the state of Minnesota.  We have Minnesota standards.  We have nothing to do with Common Core whatsoever.  So those are some misconceptions.  So you can clarify those and talk with some of your parents about that.  But that’s a big misconception.”

She and another teacher in the classroom affirmed that the school is “Minnesota Standards-based” and that “the NWEA is not Common Core.”

A science teacher who was also in the room chimed in.  “I have to tell you that when you don’t take the NWEA in Science it crushes my soul because I don’t give you guys tests very often and even less this year than last.  I’m trying to do mostly projects,” she said.  “Sometimes I can miss if you are really excelling.  All I can see is ‘oh yeah they got this.’  I don’t really see that you could have had this two years ago.  So it is really good for me to know if you need to be challenged more or are not getting it and it might explain why.  It’s really helpful to me.”

The same science teacher the next day of tests chided the kids for “lies and deceit” that was going around.  She was also recorded by some students.

“I have heard some bad stuff like parents talking really ad about our teachers here and misunderstanding what these tests are for.  Lies and deceit is going around and that is what I am seeing right here is some miscommunication and misunderstanding… It makes me sad.  It really does because I work really hard and I do everything I can for you.  One of the things that helps me do that is this test.  It is hurtful,” the teacher lamented.

It concerns me that these students are being “educated” by the school’s principal about an assessment.  Opting out is something they are doing as a result of the student’s parents.  Parents who are the ones responsible for the education of their children and who should have the final say.  What is the purpose of the principal talking to the students other than to pit students against their parents?

There should be universal agreement, whether you agree with the parents or not, that this conversation is clearly inappropriate.  The science teacher’s comments are over the top and frankly manipulative.

That said, I want to address the comment about Minnesota, the NWEA test and Common Core.

The principal’s comment that no school in Minnesota teaches the Common Core is patently false.  The Common Core English Language Arts standards were adopted by Minnesota in 2010.  They decided not to adopt the Common Core math standards however.   From the Minnesota State Department of Education’s website:

In 2010, Minnesota adopted the Common Core English language arts standards in their entirety and added some supplementary content. Public schools in Minnesota are required to implement the 2010Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in English Language Arts no later than the 2012-2013 school year.

Minnesota has not adopted the Common Core mathematics standards. The academic standards are revised according to a timetable specified in state statute (Minn. Stat. § 120B.023, Subd. 2). The 2007Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Mathematics were revised prior to the development of the Common Core mathematics standards, and legislative action would be needed in order for the state to adopt the Common Core mathematics standards before the next scheduled revision, in 2015.

While the state has not formally adopted the Common Core math standards, activists in Minnesota have told Truth in American Education that “Common Core-aligned” math textbooks are present in many Minnesota schools.

So let’s be clear here, Common Core is present in Minnesota schools, at the very least the Common Core ELA standards, have been implemented for two school years.

As far as the assessment goes.  NWEA MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assesses math, English language arts and science.  They do provide a Common Core version.  If you compare the NWEA’s MAP Minnesota goal structure chart with their MAP Common Core-aligned assessment goal structure chart you will find the math is different, but that the English literature arts goals for each assessment is identical.

So with these facts would this principal still maintain there is “no Common Core” in the assessment?  For math, that would be an accurate statement, but since the NWEA MAP assessment includes English Language Arts that is an absolute lie.

Update: Apparently Minnetonka School District 276 in Minnetonka, MN is more forthright with their parents than this particular school I discuss above.  From an email sent to parents on June 3, 2013

Finally, this year, students in grades 2-8 took NWEA’s new version of the Reading assessment, which is aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  School staff will use what they have learned from the new assessment for future planning.  Both the NWEA and MCA reading tests are now aligned to the Common Core.

Oops.  Either the principal and teacher in the audio clips above are supremely incompetent and clueless about what is going on with assessments they administer in their school or they are outright lying to parents and students.

25 thoughts on “Minnesota Students Pressured Over Opting Out of Assessments

  1. “I have to tell you that when you don’t take the NWEA in Science it crushes my soul because I don’t give you guys tests very often and even less this year than last…”

    Wow, it doesn’t get much more manipulating than that. The real tragedy here is that these teachers have probably been lead to believe that what they are saying is correct. Is it possible they are uneducated themselves about what they are saying? I really don’t want to believe educators would out and out LIE in this way to an entire student body. It seems too Orwellian to me.

  2. Guilt tripping the children!? Why is the principal speaking to the kids about this? They are disrespecting the parents and their authority over their children. The principal and this instructor are over-stepping their authority. The parents decide a child’s education!

  3. Many do not understand that Minnesota IS a Common Core state! As stated in the article, CC Math is coming in by way of publishing companies and websites and that DOES include standardized testing. These alignments can be identified through the use of technology resources on electronic devices such as iPads. It is concerning when those you trust who are in power, do not realize what has been implemented. Far worse is the fact that it is completely unethical for any teacher, much less a principal to groom children into thinking the parents are wrong. Simply appalling, disrespectful and completely unacceptable.

    1. A little push back, yes CC math is coming in via publishers, but comparing the MAP goal assessment charts for Minnesota and their “Common Core-aligned” assessments it is pretty clear the math is significantly different. The ELA section is identical though.

  4. I believe this is an example of how educators themselves repeat the talking points given them “We don’t have Common Core Standards…we have MN standards!” The sad thing is, the public naturally believes that the teachers are the ones who would know…and so they believe them. Our teachers themselves believe that they don’t ‘have common core or ‘do’ common core. So that is the continued mis information that they spread. How awesome is it that these kids knew that the teachers should not be addressing this in this manner? Kids are tracked and data mined and have the ability to be recorded at any time in the public school setting. It works both ways.

  5. I think our focus needs to be educating the educators, if this is truly what they believe. I prefer to think they are sorely mis informed rather than outright lying. I hope anyway.

  6. I think everyone talking on here needs to be a little more educated. Clearly this entire blog is taking what she said out of context. She was saying how the test is unbiased which is true. That test is put in place to see how well of a job the teacher did to educate your children and for parents to “opt” out of it they are essentially saying that they don’t care if a teacher is doing a good job, and that they don’t care if the school gets funded buy the government. NEWSFLASH people the tests actually help fund your school. Maybe instead of wasting your time attacking some principle and teacher you worry about other trying matters like why we group all students together no matter how smart they are. That won’t happen though, all the parents I see on here are just delusional crazed hounds ready to attack any teacher they see.

    1. truthsayer, you are not a truth teller. For you this is all about the teaches and schools rights, money, etc. You show no understanding of a parents or a students rights. Not what one expectsf from a truthsayer / teller.

      1. I understand completely that you are hurt by my comment but I am an avid student parent activist. I would like a full rework of our education system but if we don’t test the kids to see how well a teacher does then what do we have to go by? You would rather blindly follow a teachers teaching and take their word or would you rather take a series of tests which aren’t that bad at all, and prove that the teacher/teachers are doing a good job? Sometimes the truth hurts Mr.Perkins.

        1. That’s the thing…The tests ARE bad! I did not opt my children out last year. My third grade soon came home in tears after the first testing…saying he is “stupid and should not be permitted to pass the third grade.” As a 3rd grader my son was placed in front of a computer for 4 solid hours.Of course there was a lunch break, but not many other breaks at all. He answers one question correctly, it bumps him up to a more difficult question. He answers the next question correctly, bumped up again. This boy of mine is borderline advanced in every subject…He was getting bumped into higher learning that he hasn’t been taught yet. It frustrated him and made him feel stupid. I’m not following any teacher blindly…how dare you assume that! I’m paying attention to my child and his needs. I am the parent. Not the teacher. Not the principal. Not the state. Not the Boats of Education. I decide what’s going on here and what is beneficial to my child. Don’t tread on my rights and don’t use my child in your experiments. If you are truly a parent advocate, then why would you call me a “delusional crazed hound.” You need to rethink yourself because you haven’t advocated once for me, but rather AGAINST me.

        2. Do you work for one of the teachers unions or the NEA? Just curious as it’s clear you’re not a parent. No parent would ever want a teacher to come between them & their child.

        3. truthsayer: in a few years you may grow up and understand….why do you think we need to give money to the government to get it back. Oh, could it be control!

      1. You may of quoted it “verbatim” but the way you are portraying the comments is out of context. You are playing her to be an enemy when in actuality she is just telling them why the tests are given.

    2. “That test is put in place to see how well of a job the teacher did to education your children for parents to “opt” out of it they are essentially saying that they
      don’t care if a teacher is doing a good job, and that they don’t care if
      the school gets funded buy the government.” Um, Wow. This statement is just completely irrational. You’re suggesting that there is no other way to determine whether or not a teacher is doing well other than test results? My goodness, what did we ever do before these tests? Here are some hints: Homework, student portfolios, actually speaking to your child, parent-teacher conferences, regular teacher-given tests and quizzes- and actually seeing those results, oh, and let’s not forget, actual administrators and peer ratings.

      I’m appalled you would suggest that parents “don’t care” simply because they don’t believe in a barrage of testing- whatever their reasons may be. The fact is, the parents ARE the parents and they should be afforded (and supported in) the ability to stand up to practices they believe harm their child(ren). For you to suggest testing as the only viable option to gain information in lieu of day-to-day interaction and an academic year of work, does a huge disservice to both teachers and parents.

      1. The best part in all this is I’m a student who is “barraged” by these “harmful” tests and I just sit back and think, wow they are not that bad and never have been, if you want to get rid of a useless test get rid of the MCA because it is totally useless. What you don’t understand is if the school doesn’t get funded anymore by the government our activities like sports or classes like fine arts get taken away unless you the parent are willing to pay much more for it. There is nothing the parent or he teacher could do about that unfortunate series of events. I just don’t understand why you would go through all the trouble to harm my and everyone else’s eduction. You parents are fighting against the wrong test, why not get rid of stupid tests like the MCA instead of the NWEA? That makes way more sense right? I would like you to tell me an unbiased way other then testing to gain information of day-to-day interaction because I can’t think of one that isn’t biased besides testing. Thank you for your time.

  7. Actually, I think she said there is no biasness. (Is that a word) If she were having this discussion about biasness with parents…that might be okay. Discussing it with minors whose parents made a decision that she might not agree with is inappropriate. And that totally crushes my soul (and my grammar book).

  8. Wow! Unbelievable, the lies and manipulation by these teachers and the principal is sad!!! NO wonder home schooling is growing at a RAMPANT rate!!

  9. I hope the parents sue for this, the parents already said their child does not have permission to take the tests, if a parent said a child does not have permission to go on a field trip, would they try to talk the student into going anyway?

  10. Wake up and smell the coffee people. We are all tested and judged from the day we are born until you die on performance and intelligence. Those of you that do not want to be tested or compared to your peers will fail and never be able to hold a job. That is the reason us 58% of the USA need to support you 48% leeches.

    1. First of all…it should be smarter THAN you, not smarter then you. Secondly, not one parent has a problem with their child being tested, but rather we want our children to be tested on appropriate material within the limits of their grade level and what has been taught. Lastly…58% plus 48% equals more than 100%. You really aren’t the best example for Common Core English and Math skills. Just sayin’

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