The State Testing Opt-Out Form

Alisa Ellis is sharing this great letter she used to opt her children out of state testing. You can easily modify this to your needs and opt out your children as well. Happening right now in schools, it’s CRT tests. By next year it will probably be the AIR/SAGE adaptive tests unless we succeed in getting those thrown out. These tests are not only dangerous for behavioral tracking, but have other concerns as well as they are designed to have all children hit 50% scores by increasing or lowering the difficulty based on their performance on each question. Some students may only have a 15 question test, while others could be forced to answer 100 questions to complete the test.

I would add one word of caution. Some teachers may use the state test in some way for student grading. You may want to include a statement such as, “if you plan to use this test in my child’s grade for some reason, I ask that you make an exception and not factor this state test into their final class grade.”

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The opt out letter I sent my child’s teachers (I copied the Governor, state superintendent, local superintendent, and principal):

Ms. ________, Ms. ________, and Ms. _______,

________ thoroughly enjoys all of your classes. Thank you.

I’m guessing you know my name and the research I’ve been doing into the education reform taking place in the United States. If not, I’d be happy to share my research with you.

I am writing to let you know that ______ will not be taking the CRT’s this year. I recognize that there is nothing new about the testing taking place this year but feel that I must take a stand. This is nothing personal with you or your teaching. You are excellent and I appreciate your willingness to spend time educating children.

I have been studying the increasing push for data. While I recognize that data has great value, I don’t agree with the blatant disregard by the Federal Department of Ed of parental authority. Last year’s changes at the Federal level to privacy laws cause me great concern.

January of 2012, the FERPA (Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act – governing what student records schools can share) laws were changed due to a request by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

• Page 52 of the new FERPA document outlines 11 different ways Personally Identifiable Information (PII) can be shared by schools without parental or student consent.

In Utah we accepted $9.6 million in Stimulus Funds to develop our State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS).

SLDS FAQ sheet: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/slds/factsheet.pdf

We have been assured that no one wants to release our children’s information but the fact is the State of UT does not currently have the proper protections in place to prevent Personally Identifiable Data to be released. Someone’s word isn’t good enough when it comes to our children, we must have the proper protections in place. Until there is a remedy to this problem my children will not be participating in end of year testing. Terms like “de-identified data” and “dis-aggregate” data are not acceptable. There are so many data points being collected assigning a child a number does not protect their identity.

Utah may not currently be releasing student level data to private interest groups or the Federal Department of Ed but we have a system set up making that possible. Utah must shore up our student privacy laws and reject the data push currently stemming from the Department of Education.

I’ve heard many teachers upset about the more stringent teacher evaluations and placing blame on the legislators for these laws. The fact is, before the law was written the State office and Governor’s office accepted grants (see below) and waivers agreeing to such evaluations.

http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/utah-receive-more-129-million-additional-recovery-funds

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/Utah2009-ARRA.pdf

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/state.asp?stateabbr=UT

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/map/ut.html

As a teacher you should also be aware that the SLDS grant UT (according to the SLDS FAQ page) accepted also called for tracking individual teachers, by name and linking teachers to students they teach and then tracking the student’s performance. This is in order to “…help identify teachers who are succeeding…and find teachers who are struggling…” I do not agree with so much emphasis being put on high-stakes testing when evaluating teachers. I’ll explain why below.

I have 7 very different and all very bright children. They all test differently. A test can never measure home life, stress in a child’s life, parental support or lack thereof, or sheer determination on the part of a child. It just can’t. I don’t support the notion that schools and teachers should be graded on these high-stakes test scores. This narrows the curriculum as teachers are forced to teach to the test. The NCLB waiver did not solve this problem created from NCLB.

My _______ scores very well on these test (top 8% in the Nation) and also does decent in school but falls dead center in his class. He never passed the GATE tests but has consistently competed with those GATE students since the 2nd grade.

My _______ child score fairly well on these tests, but not in the very top; yet, she has been the #1 student in her class for several years running due to hard work and determination. A test simply can’t measure one’s ability to work hard. She is not taking easy classes either.

_______ has a very high amplitude. He does well on tests and in school. My point is each child is different. A test, no matter how great, cannot measure a child’s worth.

Just to be clear, I am not opposed to testing but I am opposed to high stakes testing especially when it is collecting so much data on our children and being so heavily used to determine the effectiveness of a teacher.

I thank you for honoring my wishes. Tomorrow I will not be in town when the CRTs are being administered. ______ can be sent to sit in the office or library during testing. I trust that you will not punish _______ in any way, shape or form for my taking this stand. Please advise if the CRT was to be used toward his class grade. If this is the case, I hope we can come up with a solution at the local level without involving high-stakes testing. _______ is very bright and scored in the top 5% of the Nation in all subjects of the IOWA test a few years ago but I don’t believe that can truly measure what he is capable of.

You may want to take some time looking through the 200 page document from the Data Warehouse in UT http://www.schools.utah.gov/warehouse/Specifications/Warehouse-Data-Dictionary.aspx.

The National Center for Educational Data has scrubbed their site tonight so I can’t send you to see the 500 data points they recommend. http://nedm.sifassociation.org/datamodel_review/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentElementarySecondary

Thank you for your time,

Alisa Ellis

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