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PELTO: Bethel Public Schools to Parents: Guinea pigs will be rewarded

My fellow colleague Jon Pelto has been at the forefront of educational matters in the state and recently published a piece regarding events in Bethel.

Cross post from Jon Pelto’s Wait What?

Some public school superintendents and principals are using Commissioner Pryor’s instructions to mislead, lie and intimidate parents into thinking they can’t opt their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test.

Other public school superintendents and principals are sending letters telling parents what a great opportunity taking the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test will be because they will be helping develop a more effective Common Core test for future students.

And yet other public school superintendent are dealing with the issue in a professional, responsible and humanitarian way and allowing parents to opt out their children from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test March Madness. In some cases children will be allowed to go to the library or cafeteria. In local school administrators are taking the rather strange step of telling the parents that their children must sit in the class or computer lab but can read a book while other student take test. (Still haven’t figured out whether that is meant as a punishment to the students who are being opted or to the student’s whose parents didn’t step forward and out their children out of this charade of a standardized test.)

But after receiving dozens of letters from parents who have shared their school district’s letters to parents, the winner for the most bizarre and inappropriate response to date comes from the Town of Bethel.

In a letter dated February 2014, school administrators sent out a letter that begins:

Dear Parent or Guardian:

Bethel High School is one of many in the country participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test this March. Students in Grade 11 will take the online assessment in mathematics and English language arts/literacy. The assessment is untimed, participation is confidential, and your child’s grades will not be affected.

[…]

By participating in the field test, your child will be influencing the development of future Smarter Balanced assessments used in our schools and throughout the nation. Students will be able to try out new, online testing software and innovative question types that will be very similar on future Smarter Balanced assessments. Unless we are able to field test students, we will not know what assessment items and performance tasks work well and what must be changed in the future development of the test. From these field test results, Smarter Balanced will set preliminary achievement standards, and those are important to all of us—students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Therefore, every child’s participation is critical.

And then comes the most incredible statement of all,

For actively participating in both portions of the field test (mathematics/English language arts), students will receive 10 hours of community service and they will be eligible for exemption from their final exam in English and/or Math if they receive a B average (83) or higher in that class during Semester Two.

So if parents allow their students to be guinea pigs for the Corporate Education Reform Industry they will be able to get out of some of their community service responsibilities and will exempt from having to take the tests that actually measure what they are supposed to be learning in English and Math. (Except, of course, for those student who are struggling in which case they will still be forced to take the “real” tests in additional to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test of a Test.

The entire Common Core and Common Core Smarter Balanced Testing scheme has been sold as vehicle to ensure public school students graduate college or workplace ready.

The message to Bethel’s students and parents is that if you agree to be a test subject for the Common Core test of a test, you can reduce your community service responsibilities and skip the tests colleges actually use to determine if you are college ready.

As we seem to be saying more and more here at Wait, What? You just can’t make this sh*t up.