My husband and I are in shock. We have just received a letter from our children’s superintendent and elementary school principal denying our request to opt our children out of their state standardized testing, most notably the NECAP and the upcoming Smarter Balanced assessment.
This, from a NH district (Live Free or Die!) that many families, including our own, move into precisely for their reputation of being a student-centered, community-based, autonomous school that, up until the past couple of years, has maintained that reputation. On the teacher level, thankfully, this is still the case. Lately, however, the administration has demonstrated their whole-hearted embrace of the Common Core State Standards, especially after the hiring of an administrator who played a large role in helping to develop these standards. And now, we realize, that whole-hearted embrace includes all of the garbage associated with those standards, including the blanket administration of state standardized tests to all children within the district.
Let me be clear: our request to opt our children out of standardized testing is not about our children. (They will be fine regardless. They’re a scrappy pair.) Rather, it is about taking a stand against a practice that has proven time and time again to be directly opposed to our deeply held beliefs about teaching and learning. Just as importantly, it is about taking a stand for those children and parents who do not have a voice.
What is most disheartening about this refusal of our request is that we can’t help feeling as though the district that we were so excited to have our children be a part of has been held hostage by this current administration and their unfailing devotion to the Common Core. We had so hoped to be able to share a different opt out story than the ones we read about online every day.
Sadly, it is looking as if this will not be the case.
UPDATE 4/13/14: Yesterday, we received another letter from our superintendent in response to our encouragement that the district “strongly reconsider” its refusal of our request. It reads as though the superintendent, Dr. Morse, is implying that if we explicitly refuse to allow our children to participate instead of asking that they be “opted out,” the district cannot refuse our refusal (ha ha–didn’t know how else to say that). I will post excerpts from the letter exactly as written (mechanical errors and all) below.
So…our next step is to thank the superintendent for his response and to explicitly refuse to allow our children to participate in any state-wide assessments. Our hope is that he does not ask us to keep our daughters home on testing days, as we do not think it would be appropriate to do that, but we shall see. If that does end up being the district’s “solution,” we will fight it.
Here are the excerpts:
“School District counsel has reviewed your most recent letter and informed me that none of the laws you cite would permit me to allow your children to opt-out of the state-wide assessments because you do not believe the state-wide assessments adequately assess their skills. The School District cannot force your children to take the NECAP or other state-wide assessments. You can choose to have your children not participate but I cannot give you permission to do so.”
Later, it says:
“Parents have the right to choose where their children will be educated. However, a parent’ authority over a child’s education is not absolute. The federal government by enacting No Child Left Behind has required states to test all students. New Hampshire has implemented that requirement and provided six exemption categories. Unless your children qualify for one of those categories and are exempted by the Director of Assessments for the New Hampshire Department of Education, I have no authority to exempt your children from the testing.”
Oh…and we have been in touch with the local paper regarding this issue as well. It looks like there will be a story posted early this week. If and when it comes out, I will provide a link to it on this page.
Thank you, everyone, for your continued support!
UPDATE 4/15/14: Here is a link to our local paper’s article regarding our opt out attempts:
UPDATE 5/2/14: Upon coming home from an extended trip out of town, I received another letter from our district superintendent in response to our third letter (this time outright “refusing” to allow our children to participate in state-wide assessment). Seems as though the “refusal” wording is key to ensuring that your child/ren are not administered any state-wide assessments. The letter reads as follows:
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Coppola,
I am in receipt of your letter dated April 13, 2014 that you are refusing that your children participate in any state-wide assessment. As you know, as superintendent I cannot give permission for your children to be excused from the NH state assessment. As a system, ORCSD must report to the state on participation rates of all students. Your refusal to participate negatively impacts the Moharimet Schools aggregate participation rates/scores but has no bearing on their grade or class placement.
What is interesting to my husband and I (and my own principal, who is now experiencing some push back from her own attempt to opt her stepchildren out of state-wide assessment) is that, so far, no one can tell us precisely how schools or districts are “negatively impacted.” One upper-level administrator has implied that the district will lose money due to these refusals, but I do not believe that to be true, and no one has been able to confirm such a notion. Regardless, my family and I will not be made to feel guilty about a system that is clearly lacking in logical thought and moral integrity.
Please share your thoughts below!