Some students may sit out Georgia Milestones test beginning this week
It’s arguably a question of parental rights.
The Georgia State Milestones Assessment exam begins Wednesday in Hall County, but a growing number of parents don’t want their children to take it.
These parents have notified the Hall County School District of their refusal, but the district is required by law to administer the test to every student in attendance, according to Eloise Barron, Hall County assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.
“We have a state law and state board policy that requires every system to present a test to every child who is present at a school on testing day,” Barron said. “And that’s what we do.”
Gainesville City Schools’ Superintendent Wanda Creel agreed, saying it was her understanding a district must administer the test to every student in school.
Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield said the system has to follow the law, but he is “certainly not going to pick fights with folks over taking a test.”
The Milestones are a comprehensive assessment for grades three through 12 that were implemented for the first time this school year. They will not affect student grades or retention this year. In the future, 20 percent of a high school student’s grade, and whether a student in any grade level can move on to the next grade, will be determined in part by the Milestones.
Many parents were not specific about the reasons they opposed the test but agreed they didn’t want their children to take it.
Christy McDonald is one of several Hall County parents who does not want her child taking the Milestones. She sent a letter to her child’s principal last week with her request.
“I sent in a first refusal letter just stating my rights covered under the 14th Amendment asking them to let my son sit out and do other work,” McDonald said. “I stated the reason why I don’t agree with the test and don’t think he should be subjected to it.”
Hall County parent Lisa Farmer also requested her children not take the Milestones.
“It’s been a very confusing process,” Farmer said. “I did a lot of research and I discovered that there are federal laws that protect a parent’s right to speak for their children.”
Hall parents Amanda Davis and Carie Corry also tried to refuse the test being administered to their children.
Davis said she feels like her son is being used “as a tool to get a statistic.”
“I just want the best education for my children and I feel like we don’t have a say-so anymore,” she said. “We’re not being heard as parents.”
Corry said she objects to the test because it is “experimental at best.”
“We are not able to see or know any of the questions our children will be asked on the test, and that’s not right,” Corry said. “We should know what our children are being exposed to. The reason I am refusing is I have that right as a parent.”
McDonald said she and several other parents received a response from Wayne Colston, director of assessment, stating the district has to administer the test to all children, but the child can choose not to answer any questions.
“Basically, my 8-year-old child has to stand up to an authority figure and tell them, ‘No,’” McDonald said. “That puts him in a bad situation.”
Davis is one of several parents who said she plans to walk her child into his classroom Wednesday and ensure he is not forced to take the test.
“I have printed off refuse cards for my kid to take to school next week when the testing takes place,” Davis said. “I and other parents plan on meeting Monday, coming together as parents to speak up for our children.”
Colston was not able to comment Friday, but Barron said while the schools cannot force a child to take the test, they do have to administer it to them if they are present.
“At their school, if they sit there and draw a Christmas tree instead of take the test, then they can do that,” Barron said. “But as a system, we do not have the authority to say that someone does not have to take the test.”
Corry said many parents want the schools to offer an alternate location for individual study while some students take the Milestones. Farmer suggested students be allowed to sit in the library while testing is underway.
But Barron and Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield said the system doesn’t have the manpower to provide another option for students during testing.
“Every hand in the school is busy administering tests,” Barron said.
A Facebook group called Opt out Hall County has formed, in which about 60 parents have discussed their concerns and desire to refuse the Milestones. All the parents said they believe it is their right to make this decision for their child.
“There is no guideline or protocol that would require a child to refuse,” Farmer said. “In everything we do in our country, parents speak for their children.”
Schofield said he recognizes that the parents are still the ultimate decision-makers in their children’s lives.
“We certainly know that ultimately parents can say, ‘Well my kid’s not coming,’ and that is certainly within their rights,” he said. “And if a kid shows up and says ‘My mom said not to take that test,’ then we ask they bring a book and be quiet. We’ll code that test as ‘present but did not test,’ and the state will have to figure out what to do with it.”
By Kristen Oliver