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Issuing penalties to districts when families opt out of testing?

Recently the CT State Department of Education set penalties for school districts where large percentages of students and families “opt out” of testing. The CT Mirror reported on this strategy by the CT State Department of Education a few weeks ago. Note that there is also a bill in the CT Legislature to prohibit the CT SDE from issuing penalties to district rankings when families and students “opt out”.

Based on your understanding of the issue,  what is your reaction to this proposal? (Respond before class on April 20, 2016!)

Here is the web link to the video, extra readings, and links related to our “Challenging the Test” panel last month.

11 Responses to Issuing penalties to districts when families opt out of testing?

  1. More and more schools have been penalized for having increased numbers of students opting out of the class. I personally think this is ridiculous, I think if the numbers of parents letting their children opt out is rising, policy makers should take a look within. I also don’t think funding and children participating in testing are two issues that should coexist. Funding should not be based upon a parent’s personal preference for their children. I think it will just feed to the testing obsession. If teachers are not only forced to “teach to the test” now they will have to promote the test in order to entice children to want to take.

    I think a lot of my interpretation of this issue and statement above has to do with my presence at the “Challenging the Test” panel last month. I saw the passion in the participants’ eyes and how passionately they felt about their children. Why should school funding depend on how parents feel about their children? I believe they are two separate issues that should not affect each other.

  2. The Connecticut State Department of Education should not harm district rankings when the districts’ families and students decide to “opt out” of standardized tests. Families and students have the right to decide whether they will “opt out” of standardized tests or not, and no student is mandated to take them. The issue is that parents and students are unaware of the fact that they do have the right to “opt out”, and schools make every attempt to dissuade them from doing so. Districts and schools try to discourage students and parents from opting out for the sake of their district. The fact that the CT State Department of Education penalizes districts that have a large number of people who opt out may be one reason that CT schools dissuade parents and students from doing so. When there are consequences attached to “opting out”, schools will do whatever they can to try to force students and their parents to agree to take standardized tests.
    A school that is filled with students who “opt out” should not automatically be ranked lower than a school in which the majority of its students agree to take standardized tests. Standardized tests are not representative of all that a student knows, and people boycott their use because they realize how these tests harm students and their education. When consequences are attached to standardized tests, schools and educators make every attempt to teach to the test. High stakes tests lead to a narrowed curriculum; educators spend more time teaching subjects that are tested like math and English, than subjects that are not tested, like science and social studies. Students deserve to receive a well-rounded education, and a curriculum that revolves around math, English, and standardized test preparation is not the curriculum that will prepare students for the future. Students spend a great deal of time in school demonstrating what they know, and one test cannot test everything that they have learned.
    Opting out has proven to be the correct move for many students as it allows them to work on creative projects and explore areas of interest that would have been neglected had they decided to take the tests. Education is meant to prepare students for the future, and learning how to take a test should not form the basis of a student’s education. The professional world does not revolve around the use of standardized tests but rather around the skills that students should have acquired in their education. In order for our students to be ready for the professional world, we must teach them to be critical and creative thinkers who work well with others. A test based curriculum harms students because it does not give students the skills that they need to be successful in the future. Therefore, because there are legitimate reasons that students and parents give for opting out of tests, neither schools nor districts should be penalized when they decide to opt out.

  3. Regardless of how one view’s testing, I believe that anyone should have the option to decide for themselves whether or not they want to participate in standardized assessment. I came to this opinion after attending the “Challenging the Test” Panel last month. While there are many reasons for choosing to opt-out of a test (for example, the discriminatory nature of many standardized tests, the inability of test takers to show their full range of academic abilities on just one test, because emphasis on test preparation can stifle students education, and more), one particular motive for opting out stuck with me. The first speaker, Leticia Cotto, explained why she had her daughter opt out of the CMT. She explained that $2.2 million bonuses were given to school administrators with “CMT gains”. This was not a statistic that I was aware of, yet it struck me because students’ performance on assessment should not be a money-making scheme for top performing schools. This is an exploitation of students’ educations and exacerbates the already existing inequalities in schools. Therefore, this, among the many other reasons expressed at the panel, makes me believe that opting-out should be a choice, and not something that can be penalized, or incentivized against, through funding.

  4. This policy disappoints me because it shows how the Connecticut State Department of Education would prefer to “punish” schools rather than listen to the genuine concerns of the parents, teachers, and students who attend them. Adults and children who chose to opt-out of standardized tests do so for genuine reasons – not to make life more difficult for state officials. Yet, in return, these citizens are met with hostility from the government officials who are tasked to represent them. My experience attending the “Challenging the Test” panel, in which opt out activists shared their stories, showed me how these people want to engage in a meaningful discussion about testing and potential drawbacks that come along with it. Penalizing schools that serve students who opt-out out state exams does not start a discussion; rather, this political move ends a conversation before it even fully started.

  5. Punishing schools because of their students’ and students’ families’ decision to not take a high-stakes test completely ignores the purpose of public education in the United States. Public schools are supposed to be providing students and their families the resources to allow students to become active citizens of our democratic society. During the “Challenging the Test Panel” event on campus two and a half weeks ago, one Hartford mother, Leticia Cotto, opted her daughter out of standardized testing in 7th grade, because after being explained why she was being tested, Leticia’s daughter felt that she was being used. In a country where we are so focused on allowing freedom of expression, opting out of testing was Leticia and her daughter’s way of expressing this expression towards testing. To punish schools, by taking away funding, and ultimately to punish the students does not address educational equity, if anything it drives the wedge deeper into the issue and compromises the schools’ ability to properly fulfill the purpose of public education. I think that the threat to take away funding from schools if too many students opt out shows the fear the government has about such a strong rebellion from citizens. The government knows that the majority of students who will opt out of testing attend schools in lower-income communities. This is taking advantage of the students’ socio-economic status in ways that are not moral. Adding this high-stake on top of the already high-stakes that are involved with standardized testing only strengthens the arguments of opponents of standardized testing. If this funding-at-stake policy goes through, we will only see a wider gap in educational equity. If policymakers truly believe that this standardized testing is crucial for addressing educational inequalities, then they should be discussing and explaining testing with students, not shutting down the conversation by threatening the schools.

  6. It is extremely troubling that the Connecticut State Department of Education would decide to punish schools who have higher percentages of students opting out of standardized testing by taking away funding. As made evident in the “Challenging the Test” event two weeks ago, choosing to participate or not participate in standardized testing is a right and it is absolutely unfair to punish schools by lowering the amount of funding schools with high numbers of students opting out are receiving. Parents, students, and teachers who spoke at this event all talked, with great passion, about their experiences opting out of the test and the different circumstances that led them to this decision. After listening to these stories, it was evident that these decisions are not made lightly by parents and opting out is not something that they choose if they are not extremely passionate. Ultimately, this decision to punish schools will directly harm the students as it will lower the amount of resources that many cash-strapped schools are able to provide students, which will in turn, lower the educational achievement of the students. Students and families have many different reasons for opting out of standardized testing and I find it quite upsetting that the Connecticut State Department of Education would look past the reasons that these students have for opting out instead of investigating ways to address these issues. Regardless of whether people are for or against standardized testing, I think everyone would agree that all students have the right to a great public education and lowering the funding and resources school districts have will hurt the education of many students. Hopefully, the current bill in the CT legislature will prohibit this practice from happening, as it is extremely troubling and damaging for schools and students and their educations.

    • After reading the proposal to set penalties for school districts where large percentages of students and families are choosing to “opt-out” of testing, it is very clear that the Connecticut State Department of Education did not listen or try to understand why students and families were choosing to do so. I believe that students and families should have the right to choose not to participate in high-stake testing and should not be punished for their choices. If high-stake testing wasn’t stressful enough, this proposal adds even more pressure to faculty and school administrators to make sure that at least 95% of their students participate in testing otherwise the school loses funding. Listening to the parents of students whom chose to opt-out of standardized testing at the “Challenging the Test” panel, a main reason for people to choose to opt-out is because they feel that the curriculum should not be based around a test and students shouldn’t spend so much time preparing for the test. With this proposal implemented, this just creates a greater weight on standardized testing. I hope that the people who choose to opt-out of testing continue to do so in order to show the Connecticut State Department of Education that this proposal will only hurt themselves by not funding schools that have 5% or more of their students choose to not partake in testing and instead of making the tests even more high-stakes, listen to students, families, and faculty to better the education system in Connecticut.

  7. After watching the video and reading about “opt-out” decisions, I find it absurd that public schools are being penalized by the CT State Department of Education. Leticia Cotto and her 7th grade daughter decided to opt out of taking the Connecticut Mastery Test, as her daughter felt as she was being used, and felt almost like she was preparing for a heavy weight fight. The problems we have previously discussed throughout the course of this year are prevalent in this real life example. Putting this kind of emphasis on a test, with little to no gain for the child- only causes the child harm. What good does this test really do in a child’s life, other than cause them more stress?

    Because of decisions like Ms. Cotto’s, schools have started to become unfairly penalized and punished by the CT State Department of Education; however, this action only seems to exacerbate problems of unequal education in America. By taking away funding from public schools, the Department of Education directly harms the student. There are many problems that need to be addressed; first, Mrs. Cotto and parents alike should be allowed to decide whether or not they want their children to take this test without fear of the State penalizing their school. And more importantly, the state should never be allowed to punish schools if parents don’t want their children to take the test. Finally, if the number of people opting out is rising, if anything, the CT State Department of Education should reevaluate their decisions and probably reform their policies before more schools, parents, and children are negatively affected. This doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident, so something has to change.

  8. Recently the CT State Department of Education set penalties for school districts where large percentage
    I personally think it is ridiculous to penalize school districts where there are large percentages of students and families “opt out” of testing. The action of opting out students from testing is a difficult decision for parents as is, and their decision to do so is a reflection of the frayed relationship that the Connecticut State Department of Education has with the community it serves. When I heard Violet Jiménez Sims speak about how her kids weren’t learning basic science or social studies anymore and they barely remembered what they were taught a week ago, it really struck a chord with me. Testing can be very stressful to students and the emphasis on reading and math skills can cause other subjects (like social studies, science, art, and languages) to be removed from the curriculum or drastically cut. These subjects are just as important to a student’s education and the emphasis on testing completely disregards that belief. This decision will continue to demonstrate to the CSDE that the opinions of parents and the community are not important and that they do not respect their decision to opt their students out of testing.

    • After attending the “Challenging the Test” panel and reviewing the CT Mirror’s report, it is clear that punishing districts in which large percentages of students decide to “opt out” is not only a flawed solution, but may also contradict existing laws. Furthermore, the increasing rate at which students and their families are choosing to “opt out” should be interpreted as a sign that the current system of testing needs to reformed. Unfortunately, instead of reaching this relatively obvious conclusion, policy makers have responded by punishing districts where large numbers of students are opting out. This response not only adds even higher stakes to these already inflated tests, but also appears to deny students and their families of the basic right to “opt out” without facing negative consequences, which is guaranteed by state legislation . After listening to the panel members at last month’s “Challenging the Test” event, I’ve also started to understand these high stakes tests as a form of student exploitation. For most research suggests that students gain very little from all of this testing and test prep, and thus are just forced to obsess over these tests because they directly correlate to teacher compensation and district funding. Therefore, punishing students for wanting to leave this exploitative system seems utterly ridiculous.

      Given these issues, I believe that policy makers should be focused on creating tests that won’t result in such high “opt out”rates. Additionally, teachers need to preparing meaningful work that students who do chose to “opt out” can engage with during these lengthy testing periods. Finally, I believe that it is critical to make sure that parents and students know their rights when it comes to “opting out”.

  9. Reflecting back on “Challenging the Test”, it was made clear that choosing to participate in standardized testing is a right. Within the panel presented, audience members were able to understand why parents chose to opt out their child, as well as reasons why a student chose to opt out-why more and more students are beginning to opt. out. Violet Jiménez Sims, educator and parent, describes the realities that she faces within both parties. To begin with, she identifies her role as an educator; committed to civil rights, multiculturalism, and community service. On the flip side, as a parent of two, she believes that dual-language programs should be taken into account in public education rather than high-stack testing.
    As I look back on my own thoughts of the opt-out movement, it defended my opinion on the lack of creativity and passion that is offered within public education classrooms today. In addition, more and more educators have become obligated to “teach to the test”. In limelight of Connecticut State Department of Education removing funding from schools because of the increase of the opt-out movement, it is very frustrating to see how the state crosses this “invisible” line- why do you draw the line of power that government have compared to what parents and students are allowed to advocate and believe for?

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