Monthly Archives: April 2016

Repercussions for districts and students who opt out of state tests

APRIL 11, 2016 – Parents Opt Out of Georgia Milestones
Kay Draper Hutchinson, a former school counselor, recently published these thoughts and instructions on how to opt out of the Georgia Milestones.

MAY 15, 2014 – Georgia’s movement to opt out of high stakes tests gains momentum
A small but increasingly vocal group of parents in Georgia are urging state leaders to give their children the choice to “opt out” of taking the high-stakes tests in schools without being penalized for doing so.


School administrators ask students to take the Georgia Milestones

standardized testing
Georgia Legislation

Last year the state did not enforce Georgia statute requiring grade level performance on the state standardized tests for graduation or promotion to the next grade in 3rd, 5th and 8th grades. It is unclear if the state will waive those requirements again.

While school district administrators want to serve the public, they must also follow the law. The path of least resistance is to encourage students and parents to not opt out of the Georgia Milestones standardized tests.

Tim Jarboe, director of assessment and accountability for the Clarke County School District, makes a plea to the public to not opt out of the Georgia Milestones.

In Georgia, state law has authorized heavy penalties for those who don’t take the tests, according to Jarboe.

Laws are changing, but for now, the old rules remain in effect.

In high school, the so-called “Georgia Milestones” end-of-course tests count as final exams, and are worth 20 percent of the course grade, Jarboe told a recent meeting of the Clarke County Parent Advisory Board.

If students don’t take the test, they lose those points, and “such a student would receive a grade that does not reflect his or her true achievement,” Jarboe said.
In elementary and middle schools, students in grades 3, 5 and 8 who opt out of testing in reading and math are counted as failing, though parents can appeal.

Opting out can also affect the scores teachers, administrators and schools get in a grading system the state has instituted, Jarboe said.

Test scores count for 50 percent of a teacher’s grade and 70 percent of an administrators’ grade; students opting out of testing could affect those scores either up or down, depending on whether the students opting out might have scored high or low on the Milestones.

And schools where fewer than 95 percent of students take a test can’t get any “achievement points” from the state in that particular subject area. Those achievement points are part of a complex formula the state uses to gauge how well schools are performing, called the “College and Career Ready Performance Index,” or CCRPI.

“Low CCRPI scores can lead to the federal designation as a “Focus” or “Priority” school, which creates a layer of mandates that the school is required to implement or can lead to the placement on the “Opportunity School District” list if the OSD constitutional amendment is passed next November,” Jarboe wrote in an email.

Neither the Georgia Department of Education nor the local board of education has the authority to waive the testing requirements set forth by the legislature, Jarboe said.

School principals will work with parents who want to opt their children out, he said.

“Public school leaders are literally ‘caught in the middle’ as they are technically required to follow federal and state mandates in regards to student participation in state testing programs and working with parents to honor the parent’s concern about the socio-emotional welfare of their children and how high-stakes testing affects their child,” Jarboe said. “Our principals work very hard to make sure that the decision about testing does not negatively affect the child.”

And according to the Georgia Department of Education website, it’s important for students to take the standardized tests:

“State tests are critical for measuring student learning and ensuring that all of Georgia’s students receive a high-quality education,” according to the Georgia DOE. “The results from state tests provide the public with much needed information about how all students are performing. Student test scores are the foundation of Georgia’s College and Career Readiness Index (CCRPI) and district/school report cards, which are designed to show parents, taxpayers, communities, and school leaders how well students are achieving. Allowing for comparisons between districts and schools is important given the amount of public tax dollars spent to support Georgia’s public education system.”

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Parents Opt Out of Georgia Milestones

standardized testing
Georgia Legislation

The Georgia Legislature passed SB 355 this year allowing parents to opt out of the Georgia Milestones for medical reasons.  Georgia statute says 3rd, 5th and 8th graders must pass a portion of the state standardized tests to be promoted to the next grade.

However, the promotion requirements have always been routinely ignored says state education department spokesman Matt Cardoza saying, “Students who failed those tests in the past could appeal to local panels, which often approved the students’ promotion”.

If you withdraw your child or homeschool them, they don’t have to pass any tests for promotion.

Kay Draper Hutchinson, a former school counselor, has co-founded a group called “PACT with Tact,” laying out what she believes are misconceptions about the exams and the concerns that she and other parents have about them.  She recently published these thoughts and instructions on how to opt out of the Georgia Milestones.

By: Kay Draper Hutchinson

SPRING BREAK has come to an end, and TESTING SEASON in public schools now begins in earnest. You may not realize how much the testing culture has taken over, but it has. If for any reason you do not want your child to participate in the Milestones testing that stretches over several days, you can refuse the tests on your child’s behalf without consequence (not true for high schoolers because the state legislature ties the mandated tests to each course grade to the tune of 20%).

In Georgia, state-administered tests begin this week for children in grades 3-8 who attend public schools. Thanks to mandates from the state legislature and enticements from USDOE (all in cooperation with profiteers with their eyes on the money to be made in the public ed sector), the focus of early childhood and middle years education is now on these and other tests. The children are increasingly seen as data and the teachers, principals and other employees struggle to maintain conditions that are good for kids when the high stakes attached to all this data affect their very livelihoods. Some parents across the country, all in similar circumstances, have decided to opt out or refuse this testing in order to decrease undue stress, protest the overzealous and punitive system, and lobby for a return to common sense, low stakes assessment as a minor piece of a child’s school experience (see NY for massive opt out movement).

If you don’t want your child to participate, here is what you do-

1) Write the principal and copy your child’s teachers (if you prefer, write them separately to explain that you support them but cannot continue to support high stakes testing). Say the following:

“While I understand that the district must offer the Georgia Milestones to all students, I hereby acknowledge that offer and refuse testing on behalf of my minor child________. Please provide a supervised, alternate location for my child to wait each day while testing is underway. We will provide our child with reading materials and other quiet, self-directed activities. Please forward this email to the appropriate leaders at the district level (In Fulton County Schools, Connie Maggert is the director of assessment). In addition, please acknowledge receipt of this email and provide information I can share with my child about where the students who are not participating in testing will wait.”

2) Prepare your child with a backpack of materials each day of testing: high interest reading material, crossword puzzles/mazes/sudoko, crayons/colored pencils/paper, snacks, cards, etc.

3) Understand that if your child is in grades 4,6, or 7, that is the end of the process. If anyone at the school says not testing could affect placement for next year, let them know that you expect them to use all the other data they have (believe me there is plenty), and that you are aware that parents can waive their children into a different placement if you think it is best.

4) Understand that if your child is in grades 3,5, or 8, you will receive a letter indicating there is a state mandate that students in grades 3,5, and 8 must pass portions of the Milestones in order to be automatically promoted. Therefore, your child’s other performance data will be considered in order to determine promotion. The VITAL INFO in this regard is as follows: IF YOUR CHILD WAS NOT OTHERWISE IN DANGER OF BEING RETAINED, THEY WILL NOT BE RETAINED DUE TO NONPARTICIPATION IN THE MILESTONES.

5) Other thoughts: Some schools are permitting the older children to spend time in a classroom of children who are not taking the Milestones. For example, one child I know will be helping in her former Kindergarten classroom.

6) If you want to know more, like the Facebook page called PACTWITHTACT, search for and join the group Opt Out Fulton/PWT Test Refusal, and search for and join the group Opt Out Georgia. You will see a flyer on PACTWITHTACT page for an Opt Out Georgia meeting tomorrow night in North Fulton area.

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Drastic Changes For Georgia Schools

I would ask the Georgia Department of Education, “Somewhere in Georgia is the worst school district in the state.  What is the Georgia Department of Education going to do about it?”  More money is not the answer.  Spending on education in Georgia has almost doubled per student over the last 20 years.

Georgia’s School Superintendent Richard Woods might very well be as much a knob as Barge.  Woods has become more vocal about coming out against the Governor and the majority Republican legislature.  The Associated Press writes about the direction the Governor and state legislature are taking Georgia.

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s education system could see some dramatic changes in the next two years, as Gov. Nathan Deal shifts his first-term focus on prisons and courts to education.

Voters will decide in November whether to approve Deal’s proposed constitutional amendment to allow the state to take over chronically failing schools. The state’s education and teacher organizations oppose the amendment and are gearing up for a fight.

Meanwhile, Deal has until May 3 to sign or veto a measure passed by the Georgia Legislature that would reduce the number of standardized tests that students must take and change the way teachers are evaluated.

Other measures may also gain traction in the next legislative session, including a new funding formula for state schools.

SCHOOL TAKEOVER

Perhaps the most contested portion of Deal’s education agenda is a constitutional amendment that would give a state-run district control over schools deemed “chronically failing.”

If passed by voters in the general election this November, the amendment would create an Opportunity School District (OSD) that would manage 20 failing schools per year, controlling no more than 100 at a time.

Deal spokeswoman Jen Talaber said in a statement that the potential creation of an OSD has spurred a new sense of urgency in communities and school districts, where many are focusing additional resources on improving failing schools.

The Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Chances (TRAGIC) opposes the amendment.

“This model simply gives up on communities and locally organized schools and its students and hands them over to someone else to manage,” spokesman John Palmer said.

Georgia’s School Superintendent Richard Woods said he agrees that some schools may need some “intensive care,” but his chief concern remains “that we are doing our part to support them and not being an obstacle to their improvement.”

NEW FUNDING FORMULA

An issue that is sure to be on the calendar for the 2017 legislative session is an overhaul of the state school funding formula.

Lawmakers are expected to consider changes to the Quality Based Education (QBE) funding formula, which is viewed by many as outdated. Funding has been central to the education debate in Georgia, and Deal’s office asserts that changing the funding mechanism will benefit students.

Deal was expected to propose changes this year, but teacher organizations’ outcry prompted legislative leaders to question his strategy. Deal held off but told lawmakers he wants them to consider the issue in 2017.

Sid Chapman, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said his organization supports a new funding formula, but will be closely examining the details.

A commission Deal appointed recommends that each district shift K-8 teachers to a pay scale based on student performance. The group also recommended that the state determine funding for schools based on individual students’ needs, factoring in poverty, grade level and enrollment in gifted or special education classes.

The group also advocated for more flexibility on testing, more support to charter schools and letting students advance grade levels when ready.

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

Sweeping reforms were approved to reduce the number of standardized tests taken by students, along with adjusting teacher and principal evaluations.

Education associations from across the state have supported the bill, calling for less stringent teacher evaluations that would allow them to dedicate more time to test preparation. Additionally, the bill would ease evaluations on high quality teachers, who would be rated as such by the state.

Deal has until May 3 to sign or veto the bill. If he takes no action by that date, the measure automatically becomes law.

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