Friday, March 25, 2011

Students opt out of CPS tests

Grumpy Note;  As most of you know Sandra in Brevard has been working really hard to keep us informed about the pro and cons of Obama's RTTT Merit Pay Scheme.  As a result of her research and blogs she has contacted and been contacted by people from across the country with an interest in the subject.

One of these people was Sharon Schmidt, Sharon is the managing editor of Substance News, a Chicago publication dedicated to the teachers and the public school system.  Substance News is pro union and pro teacher, not so pro Obama or Arne Duncan.  In a comment Sharon made on Sandra's blog Parents Opt-Out of Standardized Testing, she asked people to read what she is doing to keep her own son Sam out of the tests.

The story is reprinted here with her permission and at her request. 

Students opt out of CPS tests  Sharon Schmidt - March 06, 2011

For more than a year, my husband George Schmidt and I have been opting out our son Sam from the Chicago public schools’ excessive testing program. Any student may opt out of the Scantron Performance Series tests, Learning First math and reading benchmark tests, KLT tests and other CPS tests

O.A. Thorp fourth grader Sam Schmidt began sitting out most of the required CPS testings in third grade, instead reading a number of books (some shown above). Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt

According to a March 25, 2010, letter sent to us by Barbara Eason Watkins (then Chief Education Officer), parents have the right to opt out their children. At the close of the two-page letter — which covered testing schedules, availability of copies of tests, rubrics and scoring materials, information on the Scantron Performance Series, validity, reliability and fairness studies — Eason Watkins addressed the issue of opting out. “Parents are not required to sign releases for their children to participate in any assessment,” Eason Watkins wrote. “If parents choose to exclude their children, the school has no obligation to provide an alternate activity. Your child will be asked to engage in a silent, self-guided activity.”

Copies of the letter are available in the article "How to Opt Out." See§ion=Article

Logistics of opting out

We kept Sam at home during administration of the Scantron Performance Series in February 2010 prior to receiving the letter. Eason Watkin’s letter confirmed to us and to the principal that it is within our rights to opt out of testing and have our child remain at school during the tests.

Sam, who is now in the fourth grade at O. A. Thorp elementary school, now sits in the school office instead of taking tests. At the time he began sitting out the tests, he was in third grade.

We opted out Sam from the three-part May 2010, September 2010 and January 2011 Scantron tests. We opted out Sam from the school’s administration of the May 2010 Reading Benchmark Assessment and Math Benchmark Assessment. In addition, when a university research team came to Sam’s school in October 2010 to study a science curriculum, he skipped the pre, during and post study standardized tests the researchers administered. While he still took part in the ISAT last spring, he opted out of over 20 hours of additional testing this year. During that time he read silently from books of his choice. He also wrote and drew pictures in his journal.

Helping my son

Until I asked my son’s principal and Board officials for specific test information, I didn’t know how many tests Sam would be forced to take. Like most Chicago public school parents, I received no information. Once I learned the extent of the testing it was an easy decision to say no. The tests rob my son of the learning and joy I want him to experience at school.

Instead of laboring over unnecessary tests, he reads and enjoys and learns. 

See three additional stories:

It's the right thing to do": Q and A with Sam Schmidt

100+ unecessary tests (CPS testing schedule)

How to opt out

Editor's Note: The article above (and three others linked in this article) originally appeared in the February 2011 print edition of Substance]. 


  1. What a wonderful blog, I wish it were viral.

  2. That's a whole lot of tests! No advisory to parents....? How many tests do Brevard kids take?

  3. Good question Anonymous, I don't have an answer, I know thanks to Obama, and the Legislature the number went up a lot

  4. Will teachers get merit pay if they administer all the tests in a superior fashion? They should, 'cause there won't be much time for teaching subject matter.

  5. They presently take 1 test..the FCAT Annually. a test..tell me what is wrong with this source?

  6. And Countless pre FCAT prep tests, when the schools have to beg grandparents to volunteer tudor... and set up special after school classes just for FCAT, somethings wrong... when

    I tell my grandsons school he's moving and they ask if they can keep him until after FCAT, because the school needs his score, somethings wrong.

    When the legislature passes a bill that will encourage more of this and they have no money to pay for resultiong in an unfunded mandate tax payers will end up eating, something is wrong

    When part of the purpose is to allow the Microsoft and others, to data mine person records and identifible data for commercial and government use down the road, we might as well take a magic marker to the Fourth Amendment and the Privicy Act desiigned to enforce it

  7. Short answer: The wikipedia reference is incomplete. It does not include all the testing requirements under NCLB. It does not include the information in State statute. The reference did not indicate that there was one and only one required standardized test.

  8. Interesting article, part of it talks about Portugal's issues but there is "Comparison Chart of HS Dropout Rates.. I know that at least one of the countries with a low dropout rate doses or did put non academic students into apprenticeship programs, taking them out of any sort of regular High School, I wonder how that is factored in?

  9. TO Gpabud: I recall you posted earlier this year that your daughter (?) had spent weeks giving math tests and no time to teach. What tests were these?

  10. The Chicago mom's letter to opt-out was well done. Among her many objections, she noted the lack of reliability in the tests. That is a factor in Florida to the extent that Hillsborough is spending $500,000 on the Stafford-10 to double-check the FCAT, due to widespread anomalies last year. The Stafford-10 has been used nationwide for a long time, with no complaints as far as I can tell.
    Double-check means double money.


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