Is It Time To #OptOut In North Carolina?

In New York, 190,836 students opted out of the state’s Common Core ELA aligned test.

It’s so widespread in New York that the state’s department of education is having to compile the numbers for the first time ever:

“The State Education Department is compiling information regarding the number of students in New York State who opted out of the Grades 3-8 English Language Arts Test and the Grades 3-8 Mathematics Test,” Dean T. Lucera, superintendent of Eastern Suffolk BOCES wrote in an email to dozens of school officials. He asked that attached surveys be returned to him by Monday via email. – NewsDay

The Opt Out rate at Nathan Hale High school in Seattle, Washington for the SBAC test was 100%. The entire 11th grade glass didn’t show up.

There is test dumping going on In Jeb Bush’s Florida. Miami-Dade, which is the fourth largest school district in the nation, has just announced cutting the state assessments to the bone, including end of grade assessments or EOG’s in elementary schools.

Washington Post reported:

The superintendent of the nation’s fourth largest school district, Alberto Carvalho of Miami-Dade public schools in Florida, just announced what he called “the most aggressive decommissioning of testing in the state of Florida, if not in the country.” He said on Thursday that he was cutting the number of  district-developed end-of-course exams from 300 to 10 — including all for elementary school — to “restore teaching time” and “respect the educational environment.”

[…]

On Facebook, he wrote:

Today, @MDCPS announced the elimination of nearly 300 District-Developed end-of-course (EOC) exams, including all elementary school EOC exams. We have taken a responsible and logical approach to assessing students, in order to restore valuable teaching and learning time. We were joined by UTD and PTA/PTSA leadership, who were instrumental in voicing the concerns from students, parents and teachers.

Here in North Carolina, the State Board of Education’s Summative Assessment task force has been looking into the idea of reducing the number of tests by eliminating End of Grade tests (known as EOG’s or EOC’s).

The main idea behind the proposed revamping of the tests in North Carolina is to improve reliability of the data they produce and thereby making them more valuable and have immediate impact on instruction in the classroom.

Wake county Superior Court Judge Manning held a hearing earlier in April to determine what impact the of the work the State Board’s task force is doing would have on the Leandro case.

Dan Way reported on the hearing, Leandro and Manning’s position via NC SPIN:

In Leandro, the state Supreme Court ruled that every student in North Carolina has a constitutional right to the opportunity to obtain a sound, basic education. At the opening of Wednesday’s hearing, Manning spent more than 30 minutes in a scathing commentary, noting that 44 schools identified in 2006 as failing that mandate still do not meet it, despite spending $1.7 billion on intervention programs since 2009.

“That remains an ongoing problem,” Manning said. “If you were GE, or Google, or Microsoft, you wouldn’t be supporting any of them. You would have closed the plant down or either fired everybody in the school and got somebody to get the job done.”

Read the whole article.

Arguably, part of Manning’s interest in the testing stems from the Department of Public Instruction altering the scoring system or ‘lowering the bar‘. This ‘bar lowering’ came in the wake of horrendous score results showing a 37.3% drop statewide for the 2012-13 testing year. The media utterly failed at reporting this story accurately.

This drop in scores came the same year the Common Core was implemented for the first time and nearly double the drop in test scores from when North Carolina changed up standards in the past.

The change in scoring made comparing past results to current ones nearly impossible. Having said that , it was figured out that in 2013-2014, scores in North Carolina scores saw less than a 1% improvement.

Lindalyn Kakadelis of the John Lock Foundation noted that, The overall third through eighth grade reading and math scores increased 0.8% from 2012-13 to 2013-14.  At this rate, it could take us 30 years to reach 70% of our students being at the college & career level.” 

This past week, Judge Manning issued another hearing notice for a meeting to take place on July 21, 2015.  The notice lists the purpose for the hearing as follows:

The purpose of this hearing is for the Court to review a definite plan of action from the State of North Carolina as to how the State of North Carolina intends to correct the educational deficiencies in the student population as evidenced by the measures of output extant in the K-3 assessments, not reading on grade level by the third grade, and the other measures of student achievement evidenced by the EOG, EOC and ACT tests. Such plan shall identify the actions necessary to address the State’s fundamental constitutional obligations as established by this Court and affirmed by the Supreme Court to provide (i) competent, certified teachers in every classroom, (ii) well-trained, competent principals in every school, and (iii) the resources necessary so that all children, including those at-risk, have an equal opportunity to obtain a sound basic education. 

The hearing notice also compels the State Board of Education to produce a ‘plan’ as described by the purpose statement to the Court and Leandro parties no later than June 30th.

The problem Judge Manning doesn’t seem to realize is that the tests he speaks of are just the tip of the iceberg.  So many other assessments are piled onto students outside of the EOG or ACT. In Wake county, Common Core has ‘Blackline Master’ assessments done on a strict schedule. Some Wake schools also use the mClass and Case21 tests.

Should North Carolina Parents Be Speaking Up And Opting Out?

This is a personal decision for each family. If one believes their child is over-tested, then yes, opting out should be on the table. [See: Opting Out Of Tests In North Carolina]

test-memeIn Third grade, depending on the school your child attends, they can encounter up to 95 individual assessments throughout the school year. I base that number on what I learned from a meeting about Read To Achieve held at my son’s school, which included listing every test the kids took in 3rd grade (mClass, Case21, EOG and Read To Achieve).

My frustration as a parent is that it seems like no two schools use the same tests, that these tests are being pushed back into 2nd and 1st grade and that as a parent, we’re told about them as if it were an after-thought.

Quick point of fact that probably few parents realize–  the North Carolina EOG’s have been aligned to the Common Core.

While other states with Opt Out movements are pushing back against the Common Core testing consortium (PARCC and SBAC), North Carolina parents might think we don’t have that problem. We do have that problem and it is hidden in plain sight in the end of grade tests.

Parents should also know the GED, SAT and ACT tests have all been aligned to Common Core as well.  This testing issue doesn’t just mean 3rd graders and up either.

Parents of rising Kindergarteners should be aware of the Kindergarten Entry Assessment or KEA. The KEA was piloted in about half of the elementary schools in North Carolina this past Fall.

Parents were notified their child would be doing this, they were given no option to refuse. This mentality that your child by virtue of being in a public school has to participate in programs with no opt out for parents offered has to stop.

This assessment includes 5 domains and the data and evidence collected will be entered online and be completely digitized.  The assessment will take place the first 60 days of school and can include photos and video — which is a clear violation of SB 815- Protect Student Data Privacy.

According to the literature on the KEA, it is aligned to the Common Core.

While some of the components are useful tools for teachers, some are concerning. Case in point would be the domain concerning “Emotional Literacy” that rates your child on social and emotional levels. Without argument, assessments on ‘social and emotional’ scales is subjective at best when you’re talking about a 5 year-old child.

The KEA will be used to create a ‘digital portfolio’ that will follow your child from the time they enter the school system until well beyond college thanks to the P-20W database. Imagine that random outburst your child had one day in Kindergarten and the teacher recording that as an ‘issue’. Now imagine that ‘issue’ following them year to year and into the workforce. That can happen.

Right now, there is no mechanism in place in North Carolina for parents to view this digital portfolio, challenge its contents or even to opt out of the KEA program — on any level. In fact, I was hard pressed to locate any policy or procedure for parents to request to see a child’s digital record at any point in their school career. That should be setting off alarm bells for everyone.

While data from tests can be useful in some aspects, a large portion of testing done appears to be serving the interest of fulfilling federal requirements tied to grants and other funding. Tests that actually inform instruction and have immediate use for classroom instruction seem to take a backseat to the Fed’s needs.

The application of statistics, summative tests and their results that serve the Fed’s interests are only an extrapolation of the past of any given child. They serve to judge outcomes of programs, not children. No test can really predict the path that a child will take in the future. You can’t measure creativity or human spirit.


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About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor at American Lens. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina and is the founder of LadyLiberty1885.com. Her past writing can also be found at IJ review, Breitbart, FOX news, Da Tech Guy Blog, Heartland Institute, Civitas Institute and StopCommonCoreNC.org. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_
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