Some local families say ‘no’ to standardized tests
How to opt out
To opt a student out of standardized testing, families must contact their school and give permission, then fill out a form. Students are still expected at school.
EAGLE COUNTY — More than 100 local families joined thousands statewide, saying their children will not sit through yet another layer of standardized tests.
Students started in mid-March taking the newest math and English tests — called PARCC, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The families of 43 Battle Mountain High School students opted out. Of the 35 students eligible at Red Canyon High School and World Academy, 18 declined to take the test.
So far, 50 Eagle Valley High School families decided their children — almost all juniors — had better things to do than sit through more standardized tests.
Locally, families have been “very civil” about it, said Tammy Schiff, chief communications officer for the Eagle County school district.
In Boulder, not so much. Dozens of Fairview High School students took to the streets to picket and protest. Fairview initially reported that only around 5 percent of its students sat through the first round of PARCC testing. The PARCC tests continue through early April.
The test results probably won’t be in the school district’s hands until January, Jason Glass, superintendent of Eagle County Schools, told the school board during last Wednesday’s meeting.
Not much backlash
For now, state and federal laws require the tests, and the Colorado Department of Education wants districts and schools to hit 95 percent participation among students.
The backlash for schools that don’t make that 95 percent threshold remains unclear, said Mike Wetzel, of the Colorado Education Association, the state teachers union.
The federal government could threaten to withhold funding from districts and schools that don’t meet the 95 percent test-taking threshold. Whether the feds will make good on that threat remains unclear, Wetzel said.
The political backlash, however, is crystal clear and state lawmakers and education officials appear to be getting the message. Colorado lawmakers are taking some of the teeth out of that 95 percent requirement with two bills. The first, SB15-215, reduces the amount of standardized testing Colorado students must endure. The second, SB15-223, prohibits penalties when parents exercise their freedom of choice and opt out of tests. Current law provides no guidance to schools on how to handle parent refusals.
The CEA is lobbying hard for SB15-223.
“We want to make sure there is no retribution against the student, the schools and the teachers for failing to reach that 95 percent level,” Wetzel said.
So many Colorado families have opted out of PARCC testing that earlier this month the Colorado State Board of Education handed down the Parental Rights Resolution. The resolution supports parents’ rights to choose whether or not their children will participate and contains a directive not to hold districts accountable for low participation on the tests due to parent refusals.
Too much testing
Late last year, a statewide task force toured Colorado collecting input from parents and teachers. They received plenty. Those comments were delivered to legislators in January. Coloradans said clearly and repeatedly that they’re fed up with standardized testing usurping instruction time, that students spend too much time being tested and teachers spend too much time teaching to the test, stifling learning in favor of test preparation.
“Not everyone hates it; there’s just too much of it,” Wetzel said.
Teachers spend 30 percent of their time dealing with standardized testing, according to a CEA poll of its member teachers. Different polling data released by the CEA last October showed nearly two out of three Colorado voters support less standardized testing in schools and overwhelmingly support the idea that teachers should spend less than 20 percent of instructional time preparing and administering standardized tests.
“Our education system is infected with obsessive testing and our students and educators are expecting a full recovery from what ails them,” said Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association.
Dallman said SD15-215 doesn’t go far enough.
“Legislators have heard serious concerns from their constituents,” she said. “They can’t offer serious answers with a bill that only skims the surface of the testing dilemma.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.