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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