Thursday, March 27, 2014

#OptOut - Part the Second

Dear Gentle Reader:

When last I posted about our family's refusal to take part in the final installment of Maryland's State school assessment, the MSA, I had just received the following from our county's Testing Office (our school districts are countrywide in Maryland):

Thank you for writing with your concern about your child's participation in the upcoming administration of the Maryland School Assessment (MSA). We are not able to grant permission for students to opt out of taking this statewide test.

MCPS is required to administer the (MSA) and the Partnership for Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests to students this year. The Maryland State Department of Education has instructed school systems that students may not be granted exemptions or waivers to taking these tests.

All public school students are required to participate in the public school program which includes state mandated testing in reading and mathematics. Therefore, any student in attendance during the multiple weeks that the testing window (including makeups) is in effect, is requiried (sic) by law (NCLB, 2001) to take the assessment.

Just to be clear, Gentle Reader, we had not ASKED for PERMISSION. We had REFUSED to allow our children to be tested. Not at all the same thing. We sent this to the Testing Office in response:

Dear Mr. [Name Redacted]:

    Thank you for your response. We understand that Maryland and MCPS do not have “opt-out” clauses for standardized tests the way California does. We also understand that there are currently no formally outlined penalties for families who elect to refuse these assessments, and we maintain that we can do so for moral and ethical reasons, and are exercising that right as parents.In our opinion, there is no value to the testing this year, and while MCPS is administering the tests, we would not like our own children to take them. We as parents are permitted authority over the State in matters such as this, as outlined in the relevant legal citations in the letter we sent earlier. We are fairly certain that Lillian Lowery's authority does not trump the Supreme Court here. The purpose of the original letter was primarily to register our opposition to the testing at the County level; we have informed the Testing Office as a courtesy, but moving forward we would prefer to work with our children’s individual schools to find ways to handle this.

    We understand that the Maryland State Department of Education is pressuring Maryland's school systems to comply with No Child Left Behind, but we cannot justify our children's participation in these tests - either MSA or PARCC (especially field testing) - given that the funds Maryland will receive from Race To the Top funding (which seems to be *the* motivating factor in administering the tests at all) are unlikely to cover the costs of implementation for RTTT/PARCC, meaning that funding will need to be diverted from other crucial areas of public schools. We reject the State's authority over parental will in this matter. The fact that neither the scores for this year's MSA nor the scores for the PARCC field tests have any real applicability to our children's education, nor penalty or reward to their schools, furthers our resolve in this matter. We are confident that we can work with our children's individual schools and the educational professionals employed to find ways to handle this situation that best works for them and for our children that does not deny them their right to a free public education, even (and perhaps especially) during the testing window.


Crunchy Progressive Music Mama and Hubby

 Yes, silly us, we thought that perhaps our children's individual schools would work with us here. As it turned out, we were right, on one count at least - but I am jumping way far ahead here.
Joshua Starr (Twitter Avatar)

We read this missive and fired a volley to Joshua Starr, our County superintendent, who has publicly denounced the administration of the MSA's. His letter to MCPS families read, in part,

I do not believe it is in the interest of our students or schools for the state of Maryland to administer the MSA this year, and many parents, educators, and local and state leaders feel the same way. The MSA is aligned to our old state standards, which are being phased out as we transition to the internationally benchmarked Common Core State Standards. Many people in Montgomery County, and throughout the state, have expressed their concerns about losing valuable instructional time to administer a test that is not well aligned to current standards and does not provide meaningful information about how our students and schools are truly performing. However, federal law requires the state to administer the MSA and, therefore, we will give this test for the final time. There are no accountability requirements or consequences associated with the test this year.

Sounds promising, right? Here's a guy who doesn't believe the test is a good idea. Surely if families wanted out, he would help them, or at least not stand in their way; heck, he might even allow a looser definition of "administer" since this year the test is so patently useless. And so, ever hopeful, we appealed directly to Josh Starr:

Dear Dr. Starr:

I wanted to thank you for your public stance against the MSA, while still acknowledging MCPS's legal obligation to administer them. I'd love to see the entire county refuse to give them, but I understand that there is only so much you can do publicly in your position and in the current educational climate; this climate is in fact why I have left public school teaching myself, even with an Advanced Professional Certification in MD.

FYI, I sent this letter to my daughter's middle school yesterday (and a similar one to her elementary school, [XXXXX] Elementary). The response I received at 8:31PM last night from the Testing Office was not encouraging, but we are resolute in our position. My older daughter is prepared to "sit and stare," which I would find tantamount to solitary confinement, or to use any written responses in her MSA booklet to creatively express her feelings about the entire testing process, which would likely earn her the same score as outright refusal (but which she would find satisfying LOL); my younger is also asking questions about civil disobedience and refusing to take the test and how to do so politely (she's more the people pleaser, so for me, seeing her consider this instead of passive compliance is HUGE for me as a parent.).

I will be cc'ing you in my reply to the Testing Office later this morning, and wanted you to be aware that at least one set of MCPS parents is also not in favor of the MSA (and less supportive of the PARCC field testing). Given the weather forecast for early next week, it seems that even The Universe doesn't want this test to be given. *grin* I am hoping that in the end, my children's individual schools will be given the freedom to handle our family's refusal quietly and in the most constructive way for all parties.

Sincerely, blah blah blah.....

Anyone want to guess where it went from there? Certainly not the way I expected it to go.....

To be continued here.....

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep it clean. Differences of opinion aren't a problem for me. Rudeness is. Thankyouverymuch. :-)