Opinion: The question of opting out of state testing

By Emily Beuter, Opinion Editor — In the past, many parents have complied with schools about their child’s education. However with the new PARCC testing, it’s a different issue. Many parents are questioning the new state testing.

Although I am not a parent with a child taking the test I can understand the confusion. Does my child have to take the test? Can I opt my child out of state testing? If I do, will there be consequences? Opt out policies vary by state, with some states allowing parents to opt their children from tests and others not allowing it at all.

In Ohio students have been allowed to opt out this year; however, there are ramifications for high school students who opt out. Students are required to take the PARCC to earn points to graduate from high school. Currently there is no other way to make up these points.

Although parents may think they are in the minority if they opt out their children, our own district had parents opt out and they have a lot of backing. There is a website called “Ohioans against Common Core” created by a grass roots organization who offer opt out forms. In New Mexico there were hundreds of students who had a “walk” to protest against PARCC and thousands in New Jersey and other states who refuse to take the test. Numerous educators and superintendents have spoke out against the test. At Tri-Valley School District located in Central Ohio 365 out of 3,100 students opted out.

“While I am not (and never have been) an advocate of the PARCC testing, Ohio got into this testing with little to no input from local school officials,” Tri-Valley district superintendent Mark Neal said.

Additionally there was no input from parents or students. PARCC testing was implemented by the government and created by Pearson, an education corporation who makes money by administering the tests. The state has issued consequences if students do not take the tests. There are three main consequences if students do not take the test: third graders will not be passed onto fourth grade, ninth graders will not be eligible for graduation, and English language learners will not be able to exist the English Development program. The Ohio General Assembly passed a bill to provide a “Safe Harbor” for districts meaning that some consequences may not apply to the 2014-2015 school year. However, there are numerous web sites that claim the “Safe Harbour” is not to be trusted and other superintendents who feel strongly against parents opting out.

Cleveland schools’ assistant superintendent Carol Lockhart strongly advocates against opting out and has released a procedure for schools to follow regarding this. Her procedure includes such things as refusing to accept opt out forms, parents to specify a reason for each test they do not want their child to take, and requiring multiple letters to opt out for each test. It is clear that this procedure is purposely making it difficult for parents to opt out. Yet, there is no law requiring a parent to hand over a document saying why their child is not testing.

Parents may want to blame teachers, administrators or superintendents; but they have no control. Districts can not resist the pressure of state laws, which require schools to test their students. The state threatens that the testing could hurt their district scores and, most importantly, cut off funds. Second grade teacher at Avondale, Tracey Case, believes in some testing to provide data about how to help students but says that right now there is too much testing.

“It takes away from instruction and some questions or tasks seem to be developmentally inappropriate for some of the ages being tested,” Case said.

Case also claims that the tests are considered high stakes for students and parents, putting a lot of pressure on them. There are a few parents in the district who have opted their kids out.

“I feel that our district does a great job trying to do what is best for each individual student. I don’t always feel that way about requirements set forth by the state of Ohio,” Case said.

Although school districts may complain, there is not much they can do. It is up to parents and voters. We live in a democracy where we choose who is in power. If we don’t like the policies being set forth now then, as citizens, we need to vote them out of office. Change requires avid and active citizens. Instead of just complying and complaining, make change happen. Get out of the cookie cutter mind-set with a fear of not adhering to the law and just letting the government take care of it. The police aren’t going to come to your house enforcing the testing and no one is going to arrest you for wanting the best for your childs’ education.

This testing happened because citizens have not been paying attention to what’s been going on with our state government. Politicians in Columbus have been working on this for years and the result is out with many complaints from teachers, students and parents. The six weeks of PARCC testing is a result of Ohioans neglecting the activities of their elected legislators.

[Updated Aug. 12, 2017: This article has been reformatted for consistency.]