Should parents be able to pull kids out of testing?

With some parents refusing to allow standardized testing of their children, the Parent Teacher Association is caught in the middle of the dilemma; should parents be allowed to prevent their children from being tested?

Parents argue the tests do not accurately measure the performance of students and teachers, put stress on students, and take up valuable time for administration and preparation.

The Smarter Balance. Test will. E given this spring.smarter balance e is more difficult than previous tests as it is designed to judge student understanding more in depth.


Schools are gearing up to give the Smarter Balanced test for the first time in the spring. The test is tougher the tests taken previously in schools by design, aiming to more accurately judge how deeply students understand concepts.

The percentage of students scoring high enough to be considered proficient is expected to plunge, not because students or teachers are performing worse but because the bar is higher.

Parents are currently not allowed to have their children “opt out” of tests, and education officials say doing so would deprive parents and teachers of valuable information about how their children are progressing, which would make it difficult to address their learning needs.

Caught in the middle is the state Parent Teacher Association. While the group supports the state’s moves to the Common Core State Standards and the new Smarter Balanced Assessment, it has also heard concerns from “a number of parents and educators.”

PTA president Teri Hodges said a small but vocal number of parents have been asking the group to support “opt-outs” for months now. But recently, more parents have started to ask about it.

“Over the last couple of weeks, we have received several requests from our general membership to bring this idea to the table,” Hodges said. “Right now, there are too many unknowns, so as an organization we cannot take a position yet. But we know there is interest, so we are gathering information.”

The group has put questionnaires for parents and teachers on its website asking whether they believe in “high-stakes testing,” whether they think the tests take too much time away from other important activities, and whether the tests actually help teachers in the classroom.

Hodges said the group has gotten an “overwhelming response” to the questionnaires, and also received plenty of e-mails from teachers.

“Just from what I’ve seen, the feelings are really mixed,” she said. “I’ve got some parents and educators who support it, but I also have some who don’t think it’s a good idea at all.”

State leaders say the law currently requires districts to administer the test unless a student has an extreme medical incident, or there are mental health reasons to exempt them. Both require approval from a doctor.

That’s necessary, they argue, because test scores are a vital tool for administrators, teachers and parents.

“This is the primary way we know if schools are making appropriate progress towards educating children on academic standards,” Department of Education spokeswoman Alison May said in an e-mail. “And state testing helps parents understand how their child is doing in comparison to students in other schools. This is important, as grading policies are different across the state and are difficult to use as a comparison.”

Elizabeth Scheinberg, a former Christina School Board member, asked her school to exlude her son, who is in second grade, from the state standardized test. But one day he came home and said he had taken a big test on the computer.

“I didn’t want to make a big deal of it with my son, because I don’t want to give him any reason not to like school,” Scheinberg said.

“But it was frustrating that they directly ignored my wishes as a parent.”

Scheinberg said she has thought the standardized tests are “arbitrary,” even though her son has done well. But she became especially incensed when the state started using scores on them as part of teacher evaluations.

“I’ve teachers who work with my daughter and they are fantastic and total experts in their field,” she said. “And then the state is going to look at scores on a test and tell them they’re not a good teacher? It’s outrageous.”

Scheinberg said she has been paying attention to the opt-out movement as it spreads in other states, and argues it will continue growing until the state is forced to take action.

“This isn’t going away,” she said. “If anything, it’s gaining steam.”

Allowing Delaware parents to exempt their kids from the standardized tests could run afoul of federal rules that require every student be tested, Hodges said. That could cause major problems, including the loss of federal funds.

“We don’t want to take a stance saying parents should be able to opt out without knowing all of the possible consequences,” Hodges said.