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Parents Leading Push To Opt Out Of Standardized Testing

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Students  around the state are taking the first round of standardized testing using the new assessment known as the PARCC. But   parents are leading a movement to boycott the tests.  Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.

 “I’m done watching my kids stress out. I’m done seeing parents posting that their kids are crying and you know they’re throwing up they don’t want to go to school that is absolutely unacceptable and ridiculous.”
Sarah Lewis is a mother of four who says standardized testing has gone too far in Ohio. The Celina woman opted to pull her kids out of taking the assessment this year and she wants every parent to know that they have the right to do the same thing—to opt out.

She’s part of the driving force behind the Facebook group—Operation Opt Out Ohio—which now has more than 8,000 followers. The group believes the latest round of assessment tests—known as the PARCC—forces teachers to spend all year “teaching to the test” and that it’s too difficult for students.

“This is what we’re turning our schools into. I want my child to go to school I want him to love school. I want him to love learning. I want him to love getting an education and when you’re pounding in their heads that the most important thing of their school career is being able to pass a test I think that we have gone grossly off track,” said Lewis.

PARCC—spelled P-A-R-C-C—is short for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It was created to assess if students are picking up the new standards taught in school—the already controversial standards known as the Common Core.

The Common Core has faced opposition for several years—but mostly from far-right conservatives. But the call for boycotting the PARCC seems to be expanding past just the usual anti-Common Core crowd.

“I really want to lead the charge against the PARCC testing.”

That’s former House Representative Bob Hagan of Youngstown, a Democrat who now serves on the state board of education. Hagan was commonly-known as one of the more liberal leaders in the Statehouse. He agrees with Lewis and Operation Opt Out by saying the tests put too much stress on students, the school districts and teachers.

“The bottom line is I think it just flies in the face of what we want our teachers to do and that is to teach instead of always testing,” Hagan said.

Opting out could come with consequences according to John Charlton—a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Education. He mentions that 3rd graders need to pass the reading test to move on to 4th grade and that high schoolers need to pass the graduation test to get their diploma. But those are other state assessment tests—not necessarily PARCC. Right now it’s unclear exactly what could happen to students who don’t take the PARCC.

The House recently passed a bill creating what’s known as “safe harbor” which would essentially ensure that students are protected if they do opt out.

Even so, Charlton says there are penalties that come with not taking the tests.

“Districts and schools will receive no credit when a student doesn’t participate in state testing that could negatively impact a district’s overall report card ratings. Teachers are evaluated based—in part—by student test scores so if a student does not take a state test that student’s growth will not be included in a teacher’s evaluation,” said Charlton.

Sandy Morlock is a mother in Lorain County who—just this week—decided to pull her 5th and 7th grader out of the tests. She echoed claims that the test is putting too much stress on students, teachers and school districts. Morlock says she did her research before making the final decision to opt out which includes talking to her district administrators.

“While there are some consequences they are hoping that those will be waived as well that it’ll be safe harbor that this opt out movement and the parents taking a stand is going to make a difference,” said Morlock.

Charlton says the state doesn’t know yet how many parents have opted out of the tests.

Morlock, Hagan and Lewis see it this way: if enough parents opt out of the tests then it’ll send a strong message to the state that it needs to dump the PARCC. But that doesn’t solve their problem. The state would still need to find an assessment that matches the new Common Core standards.

As for that safe harbor bill that passed the House—it’s now being heard by a Senate committee.

 

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