broken pencil

Pictured: The deep symbolism intended in this photo is especially so, as I think the new assessments are supposed to be computerized. Hey, I graduated in ’97. Just go with it.  (Image Credit: M. Dunn)

Yesterday fellow blogger Elise posted her personal thoughts about standardized testing in the public schools and how she’s not going to let some numbers on a page impact her view of children’s real educational progress and well-being at school.  But what about the hundreds of parents who want to opt their kids out of standardized testing altogether?

Here in Connecticut, this year is the pilot year for implementation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, which is set to replace the current state standardized tests, the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) in 2015.  Yep, by “pilot” year I mean that this year’s testing doesn’t count, although school districts are still required to administer it.  It is a practice run-through to work out the bugs before school districts throughout the state become obligated to actually start using it to track student achievement (or, you know, alignment to the Common Core or whatnot) next year.

Here in CT, as elsewhere, there have always been parents who, for various and sundry reasons, choose not to have their kids sit for the assessments.  For example, some children have fairly severe disabilities, and their parents don’t want them to needlessly waste time and energy suffering through the assessment.  With the advent of Smarter Balanced testing, the state is seeing a large uptick in parents seeking to have their children excluded from the exam.  In response, a December 2013 memorandum from our State Department of Education outlined a protocol for school districts to follow in addressing the rising number of parent inquiries into how to opt out, although from what I understand, the State is no longer circulating this memo.

I won’t add much more to the detailed commentary on this topic; in fact, if you want more background, you should just click here.  And actually, the topic of my post is really the same as this one:  answering the question of whether students can be opted out.  Jonathan Pelto’s post also includes the now-removed SDE memo, and some sample language parents can use to communicate to their local school districts that they will not be allowing their child to sit for the test.  The loose consensus now seems to be that while the school districts have been given a directive to administer the assessment to as many students as possible, if a parent insists that their child not take the test, the school district really cannot force the child to do so.  Simply put, there is no penalty if you “opt out,” even if you’re being told by the school that there is no way to opt out.

Let me stop here and say that I am not expressing an opinion one way or another on the question of whether any parent should or should not opt their kid out of the exam.  You guys know I’m just a lawyer mom on the Internet, right?  Do your own research and decide what’s best for your child.  My kids are not even beyond their preschool years yet, so I’ve derived most of my knowledge of standardized testing during the course of my work and from talking to other parents.  But if you have already decided that you don’t want your child to take Smarter Balanced (or CMT/CAPT, for the districts still giving it this year), then you should be aware of the somewhat ambiguous and varying stances being taken by parents, individual school districts, and the State on this topic.


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