Friday, March 25, 2011

Students opt out of CPS tests

Grumpy Note;  As most of you know Sandra in Brevard has been working really hard to keep us informed about the pro and cons of Obama's RTTT Merit Pay Scheme.  As a result of her research and blogs she has contacted and been contacted by people from across the country with an interest in the subject.

One of these people was Sharon Schmidt, Sharon is the managing editor of Substance News, a Chicago publication dedicated to the teachers and the public school system.  Substance News is pro union and pro teacher, not so pro Obama or Arne Duncan.  In a comment Sharon made on Sandra's blog Parents Opt-Out of Standardized Testing, she asked people to read what she is doing to keep her own son Sam out of the tests.

The story is reprinted here with her permission and at her request. 

Students opt out of CPS tests  Sharon Schmidt - March 06, 2011

For more than a year, my husband George Schmidt and I have been opting out our son Sam from the Chicago public schools’ excessive testing program. Any student may opt out of the Scantron Performance Series tests, Learning First math and reading benchmark tests, KLT tests and other CPS tests

O.A. Thorp fourth grader Sam Schmidt began sitting out
 most of the required CPS testings in third grade,
instead reading a number of books (some shown above).
 Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt
According to a March 25, 2010, letter sent to us by Barbara Eason Watkins (then Chief Education Officer), parents have the right to opt out their children. At the close of the two-page letter — which covered testing schedules, availability of copies of tests, rubrics and scoring materials, information on the Scantron Performance Series, validity, reliability and fairness studies — Eason Watkins addressed the issue of opting out. “Parents are not required to sign releases for their children to participate in any assessment,” Eason Watkins wrote. “If parents choose to exclude their children, the school has no obligation to provide an alternate activity. Your child will be asked to engage in a silent, self-guided activity

Logistics of opting out

We kept Sam at home during administration of the Scantron Performance Series in February 2010 prior to receiving the letter. Eason Watkin’s letter confirmed to us and to the principal that it is within our rights to opt out of testing and have our child remain at school during the tests.

Sam, who is now in the fourth grade at O. A. Thorp elementary school, now sits in the school office instead of taking tests. At the time he began sitting out the tests, he was in third grade.

We opted out Sam from the three-part May 2010, September 2010 and January 2011 Scantron tests. We opted out Sam from the school’s administration of the May 2010 Reading Benchmark Assessment and Math Benchmark Assessment. In addition, when a university research team came to Sam’s school in October 2010 to study a science curriculum, he skipped the pre, during and post study standardized tests the researchers administered. While he still took part in the ISAT last spring, he opted out of over 20 hours of additional testing this year. During that time he read silently from books of his choice. He also wrote and drew pictures in his journal.

Helping my son

Until I asked my son’s principal and Board officials for specific test information, I didn’t know how many tests Sam would be forced to take. Like most Chicago public school parents, I received no information. Once I learned the extent of the testing it was an easy decision to say no. The tests rob my son of the learning and joy I want him to experience at school.

Instead of laboring over unnecessary tests, he reads and enjoys and learns. 

See three additional stories:

It's the right thing to do": Q and A with Sam Schmidt

100+ unecessary tests (CPS testing schedule)

How to opt out

Editor's Note: The article above (and three others linked in this article) originally appeared in the February 2011 print edition of Substance]. 

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