Leah Peterson: Look Into Opting Your Children Out Of Testing

A group of concerned parents participated in the St. Patrick’s day parade downtown Fargo this past Saturday. The sun was shining brightly and it was a beautiful day to raise awareness about opting out of the upcoming state assessment for 3rd-8th and 11th graders. The school districts have been less than forthcoming about the assessments regarding their content. Even the Department of Public Instruction has been lacking transparency.

Did you know that North Dakota signed onto a new testing consortium called Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC)? Many questions have gone unanswered thus far in terms of the legality of such a consortium but North Dakota dove in head first. In Missouri, the constitutionality of it was challenged in court. The “judge ruled that Missouri’s membership fees to the federally funded Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is unconstitutional under the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution as well as under “state and federal law.” You can access more about that decision here.

Has your school district been forthcoming with this alarming information? Why are parents not being given the information to make informed decisions on whether or not they want their child to be subjected to this experiment?

A simple search on SBAC will tell you, even by their own website, that there is no scientific research or validity to support the claims they are making that the test is supposed to accomplish. Has your school notified you that your child will be testing for hours on end, for days, even weeks? They estimate the test will take 9-10 hours. Many of us have children who have taken the practice tests at home found at www.smarterbalanced.org and our children are taking twenty plus minutes to answer just one question. They are experiencing stress and anxiety because these test questions are developmentally inappropriate. They are stressed that they aren’t going to be able to finish the test in the allowed time or do well on the test. Have you ever stopped to wonder what these tests are even used for? We assume they are being used to help our children, but our teachers do not even get the results back before the end of the school year to make changes.

Some North Dakota teachers have anonymously admitted they are frantically drilling their students because they are worried they won’t get a passing grade. The cut scores adopted by SBAC in November 2014 prior to the tests being complete are set to fail between sixty and seventy percent of our students. Has your school district been forthcoming with this alarming information? Why are parents not being given the information to make informed decisions on whether or not they want their child to be subjected to this experiment?

Did you know that you have the inherent right to direct your child’s education and that includes refusing the state assessment? Often, as parents, we think we are “in charge” of our children. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we are witnessing a rise of an ideology, a statist mindset that actually believes that “expert” agents of the state can make better decisions for your child than you can.

We’ve chosen to opt our child out of all non-teacher generated tests this year. It’s been an eye opening experience fully understanding how much time is spent teaching to the test and prepping for the tests and then the hours spent testing. We received pushback from the school but we stood firm and held our ground. Who’s child is it anyway?! Many parents who have opted to refuse the upcoming state assessment have been “reprimanded” or “threatened” through various forms of bullying by the district superintendent or principal. You need to hold these people accountable. Go to your school board and request reprimand, unless your school board condones this type of behavior, they should address the issue. If they refuse to address the issue, take it up the chain of command. Write a letter to the editor using their name raising awareness of their behavior.

It does not matter how you decide to notify the district that you are refusing the test. You have the inherent right to direct your child’s education regardless of the opinion of the principal or superintendent of your school district. I would recommend getting it in writing and if you’d like more information, including an opt out form, visit www.optoutnd.com. Additional information on why you should make an informed decision on opting to refuse the state assessment can also be obtained from this website.

There is no better time than now to claim authority over your child’s education. There is no better expert than a loving caring parent. This is our responsibility to our children. Help reclaim your child’s classroom and stop the over use of standardized testing in our schools on the backs of our children.

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