Opt-out movement needs a state response, LFT says

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(Baton Rouge – February 5, 2015) A rising movement calling for parents to opt their children out of taking high-stakes tests is just the latest sign of chaos in the Baton Rouge education bureaucracy, and a signal that the state education board must take decisive action and give parents, teachers, and local school districts a sense of direction, according to the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.

With PARCC-like testing slated to begin on March 16, LFT President Steve Monaghan restated the union’s position that all consequences of these high-stakes tests should be delayed until all stakeholders have a clear understanding of what is expected of students, teachers, and parents, and the resources to properly implement the new testing regimen.

“Until the state gets its act together, we believe students, teachers and schools must be held harmless,” Monaghan said. “The burden is on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Education to promulgate uniform rules and procedures for students who either choose to opt out or refuse to take these tests.”

While the actual depth of the opt-out movement is unknown, the passion behind it is strong enough that several school boards have asked BESE for guidance if significant numbers of students do not take the tests.

There is nothing in state law or policy addressing students who opt out. Reportedly, students who refuse to take the tests are to be given a grade of zero. BESE has announced that no student will be held back this year because of low scores on the tests. And even though the scores are not supposed to count against individual teachers this year, they will be counted against schools and districts.

That could bring down the school and district performance scores, leading to the state seizure of schools and even entire school systems. In the future, the effects on teachers, schools, and school systems are frighteningly unclear.

Thus far, BESE President Chas Roemer has stated that local school boards are in control of how to treat students who opt out of tests. He has refused requests to convene a special meeting to discuss the issue, saying that it could be on the agenda of the regular March meeting.

“It is BESE’s duty to children, parents, teachers, and to local school systems to provide clear, plainly stated guidance,” Monaghan said. “It’s time for the state’s highest education board to provide everyone with the information they need.”