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Opting Out of the SBAC Field Test

by Jonathan Pelto from Wait, What

Anger and frustration on the part of parents, teachers and supporters of public education is bubbling over.

Rather than protect the rights of parents and local schools districts, elected and appointed officials are inappropriately using their positions to mislead, lie and scare parents and teachers into believing that parents DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT to opt their children out of the standardized testing fiasco that the Governor, Commissioner and legislature have created.

As Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor and public school superintendents know, Connecticut law fails to provide for ANY penalties or punishment for parents who opt their children out of these inaccurate and unfair standardized tests.

However, rather than provide parents and teachers with the truth, Commissioner Pryor sent out a memo in December to all public school superintendents instructing them on how to mislead and lie to Connecticut’s public school parents and teachers.

However, hidden in that memo was the fact that parents do have the fundamental right to opt their children out of these standardized tests.

Readers can read the memo for themselves by clicking on the following link:

The memo was sent out to public school superintendents and posted on the State Department of Education website. However, once news spread about the memo, Commissioner Pryor’s office removed the document from their website.

The memo lays out the strategies superintendents should use to mislead parents but concludes with the following language:

[If] Parent writes back to the district a letter explaining that they have read and understood the district’s letter, but insist that the child not be tested.

[Then] In these cases, the district generally does not test the student and the student is counted as “absent” (for purposes of testing)

Furthermore, when it comes to the Common Core Smarter Balance Assessment Field Test, the truth is that this new test of a test is NOT A MASTERY TEST as defined by Connecticut State law.

Connecticut law reads:

“Sec. 10-14n. Mastery examination. (a) As used in this section, “mastery examination” means an examination or examinations, approved by the State Board of Education, that measure essential and grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing, mathematics or science.”

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium reports on its own website that, “The Smarter Balanced Field Test will take place from March 18 – June 6, 2014. The Field Test is a trial run of the assessment system…”

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium goes to say, “The field test will evaluate the performance of more than 20,000 assessment items and performance tasks—as well as the performance of the online testing system. For test developers, the Field Test will show which questions work well and which ones need to be improved so that they contribute to a fair and accurate assessment of student achievement.”

A test of a test IS NOT a Connecticut Mastery Test under the law.

There is absolutely no way that Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor and Public School Superintendents fail to recognize that it is unfair, inappropriate, unethical and immoral to tell parents and teachers that they can’t opt their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test.

And if it the elected and appointed officials wanted to pretend that the Common Core Field Test was a Connecticut Mastery Test, these officials know perfectly well that parents still have the option to opt out their children without fear of reprisal and retribution.

There is still time for Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor to set the record straight on this vital issue.

Until then, any public school superintendent who inappropriately sends out Pryor’s model letter to parents or creates a version of that letter to scare and mislead parents, they will earn themselves a place on the “Wall of Shame.”

When all is said and done, Superintendents are responsible to their local boards of education and the students, parents, teachers and citizens who make up their school districts.

It is time that more Connecticut public school superintends must find the courage and conviction to do what is right.

Wait, What? Readers: Please email or fax any copies of letters you receive from superintendents or principals about this spring’s standardized testing.