Because of the high stakes placed on tests by the state, teachers are forced to focus on test preparation at the expense of real learning. Some third graders who do need extra help are not receiving the assistance they need due to the obsessive test prep and stealing of instruction time. Children complain of test anxiety and no longer enjoy learning. In many schools, young children are being deprived of daily recess in order to create more time for test preparation.
For many, The Opt Out Florida Network has been a phenomenal resource by providing information on how to participate in the state mandated test to the extent the law allows, also known as opting out. That is, a student signs in to the test, and answers no questions. According to F.S. 1008.22, “Participation in the assessment program is mandatory for all school districts and all students attending public schools, including adult students seeking a standard high school diploma”.
Nowhere in statute is participation defined.
“Florida law [section 1008.25(5), Florida Statutes (F.S.)] says that third graders who score at Level 1 in reading on the statewide Florida Standards Assessment-English Language Arts (FSA-ELA) must be retained (not promoted to fourth grade). However, children who demonstrate the required reading level through a state-approved alternative standardized reading test or through a student portfolio can be granted a good cause exemption and be promoted to fourth grade.”
The FL Statute does not define what constitutes a student portfolio. We believe 180 days of classwork as well as passing grades on a student report card is the most authentic way of showing a student has mastered the standards needed to move on to fourth grade, as long as the student does not have a documented reading deficiency . #180dayscount
This summer, several parents whose children opted out of the state test, are suing the FL Department of education. They have been told their children will be retained, and will not move on to fourth grade even though their report card shows they passed. You can read more about that law suit here and here.
Let me be clear. These children do NOT have reading deficiencies, have completed 180 days of work, and have demonstrated mastery of the standards with passing grades on their report cards.
Not only have they demonstrated that they are proficient, studies have shown that retention does not benefit students in the long run. “Grade retention has repeatedly been proven to be counterproductive: students who are retained do not improve academically, are emotionally damaged by retention, suffer a loss of interest in school and self-esteem, and are more likely to drop out of school.” says The National Center for Fair and Open Testing.
United for Florida Children stands with these courageous families to stand up for what is right and just for their children. We hope this case sets a precedent across the country, as other states are fighting against these destructive education policies that punish students, teachers and schools. We are contributing to the go fund me campaign to help pay for attorney fees and hope that you will too.
Whatever you do, PLEASE, don’t wait for others to fight this. We need every single one of you.
Laura Oosse McCrary, Co-Founder, United for Florida Children
Disclaimer: United for Florida Children does not provide legal advice or official interpretations of the Florida statutes. References to the Statutes are provided for informational purposes only.