Friday, March 28, 2014

#OptOut - Part the Third

Gentle Reader:
Joshua Starr, MCPS Superintendent (Twitter Avatar)

When last we met, I had posted about our family's attempt to get our school superintendent on board with our efforts to refuse to have our children participate in a test whose only benefit, to our minds, was to provide millions of dollars to the Testing Machine that would be creating, distributing, and scoring the tests - but NONE whatsoever to the students or to the schools. After all, this is a man who was written about in EdWeek about this, and was quoted as having said, "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." He also posted a short video interview about the MSA's.

So, did this guy respond to our concerns?

He did not. He simply forwarded our letter right back to the Testing Office!

The next response I got at the County level (we were emailing the individual schools back and forth on this in the meantime, but they kept saying they were getting guidance from the Testing Office anyway) was:

This e-mail message is being sent on behalf of [Name Redacted], associate superintendent, Office of Shared Accountability. (In other words, this guy had his assistant shoot me a form letter?)

Thank you for writing with your concern about your child’s participation in the upcoming administration of the Maryland School Assessment (MSA). Your e-mail to Dr. Joshua P. Starr, superintendent of schools, dated February 27, 2014, has been forwarded to me for response. Unfortunately, we are not able to grant permission for students to opt out of taking this statewide test. 

Montgomery County Public Schools is required to administer the MSA and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests to students this year. The Maryland State Department of Education has instructed school systems that students may not be granted exemptions or waivers for 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.  If a student is in attendance during the testing window (including makeup testing), that student is required by law (No Child Left Behind Act of 2001) to take the assessment.

If you have additional questions, please contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thank you for supporting your student.


                                                                                                [Name Redacted]
                                                                                                Associate Superintendent for
                                                                                                   Shared Accountability

 Here we go again, as if I'd asked for permission, OR as if we were "opting out."  It took me about 5 minutes to churn out a response to that, which I made sure to cc to the Superintendent:

Here's the thing, and [Name Redacted] has NOT addressed it: I don't need anyone's permission for my family to *refuse* the test. However, individual schools - or their leaders - DO have the power to decide what shading of the word "administer" will be used. In some Maryland schools, parents are simply bringing their kids to school 2 hours late for the duration of the testing window (which I would be fine with, frankly). In still others, administrators *are* accommodating non-testing children by allowing them to refuse the test at the outset and then participate in other constructive activities. I suggested offering the test to my children, and after they refused to take it, they would be allowed to do other work; in other words, they are using the loosest possible definition of the word "administer" with regards to this boondoggle of a test.

I would have appreciated the courtesy of being able to work individually with my children's schools on this, and the support of a superintendent who has gone national with his opposition to this particular administration of the MSA would have meant a great deal to our family, especially given the way the ISAT (Illinois' test, also in its last year) is being outright boycotted in many Chicago schools. This response from MCPS is all the more disappointing in that light.

I'm not looking for *permission* to refuse to permit my children to take the MSA's, because I don't need it. I'm looking for looser definitions of "take" (as in "take" the test) and "administer," so that everyone is following at least the barest letter of the law AND families who opt out aren't left with kids coming home as exhausted from staring at a wall for 2+ hours as they would have been testing for that length of time.


Sounds reasonable, right? After all, other Maryland families were successfully petitioning THEIR schools and school systems for help and getting it. A number of Baltimore County families benefited from a softer stance there. "Stacey Shack, Direct of Assessments in Baltimore County, said, “If the student is in school during the testing window [Mar. 4-20], they are supposed to attempt to test them.”" (emphasis mine) And one would think that if there would be support in ANY Maryland school system for test refusal, it would be here.

One would be wrong. Very, very WRONG. :-(

To be continued here.....

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