Opt-Out parents and children being harassed and terrorized across Louisiana

For the past several weeks I’ve been getting reports from parents in different parishes across the state of Louisiana describing how their school systems are handling parents choosing to opt their children out of the PARCC test.  The opt-out movement started in part because parents have gotten fed up with all the testing parishes are doing in place of teaching, and have chosen to have their voices heard by taking a stand against this abusive practice by refusing to have their children tested in the secret and unknown test that Superintendent John White secretly procured, or produced with in-house staff.  (For simplicity’s stake I will refer to it as the PARCC test, although Louisiana is not currently a PARCC participant and has no direct contract with the vendor that produces and grades the PARCC exam. )

Testing has gotten out of control in public education in our country.  Some parishes may given dozens of different standardized tests to students throughout the year.  Some of these tests help teachers identify weak areas to focus on for particular students.  Some tests, like NAEP, are assigned to students randomly, in small groups, and districts do not spend time “prepping” students for them.  Most parents are not as concerned with those tests.  The test category that has gained much in popularity, complexity, and overuse is the High Stakes test.  These tests are not used to help individual students that take them, they are designed to grade and evaluate teachers, schools and school districts.  Principals can be fired, teachers can be fired, schools can be taken over or closed, and entire school districts can be chopped apart and sold to the highest bidder.  Conversely, principals, teachers and schools can be recognized and even rewarded for top performances on this test.  This arrangement drives the actual curriculum being taught.  This arrangement has resulted in some horrible situations in our schools.

I have had multiple reports from parents in Central School district, Rapides Parish and Terrebonne describing how the school year basically ends after the Winter break and constant test prep begins.  A large portion, or entire portion, of class days are spent taking practice PARCC tests and reviewing sample PARCC questions.  Sometimes children are sent home with tests to practice at home.  Sometimes children are send home with all of their other subject material they could not cover in class because of all the time spent on test prep.  This obsession with pursuing higher and higher scores has crowded out Social Studies, Reading, PE, Art, Music, Computer Lab, Foreign Language and Science.  Those are subjects which are not used in High Stakes testing and not valued as highly, so they have been dispensed with in many schools, or relegated to homework assignments sent home and not reviewed in class.

Regardless of whether we have Common Core or not, the testing craze has got to stop.  Education is more than just a math and ELA score, at least to most parents.  John White actually told LDOE in his first address to the department that in his opinion education is only about Math and ELA scores.  It appears he has gotten his wish.

BESE and LDOE have refused to weigh in on this subject publicly.  However privately I’ve learned that LDOE is sending sending out e-mails and making phone calls to districts to suggest ways to bully or bribe parents into not opting out or changing their minds.  This has led to some crazy and irresponsible messages from schools across the state being sent to parents and children.  Because there is no authoritative guidelines or ruling on this issue, some districts are behaving badly.

When I go to speak with folks about my campaign I spend a lot of the time trying to dispel myths and reassure parents:

  • that their children will not be haunted with zeros for the rest of their lives
  • that they will not be held back next year, that they will not be kept out of advanced work or honors programs
  • that they will not be kept out of extracurricular activities.

I also get contacted through my Facebook page, blog and e-mail with questions and concerns.  I don’t mind doing this of course, but it seems pretty obvious that LDOE and BESE are shirking their duties here.

Some parishes and principals are being downright spiteful.  Take this note from Principal Carol Shelton in Calcasieu Parish.

DES Testing Incentives

In the past, we have given a 30 minute recess to the entire school when we were 100% tested.  Due to the few “opt outs” that I have received, we will no longer be able to do that.  So. . . . we will give a 30 minute recess to all the classes that are 100% tested.

In the past we have given a “free dress” for all students that scored basic and above, we can’t do that this year because test results will not be available until the fall.  So…. . every student that is ‘on time,’completes each day of testing, and tries their best will receive a “free dress” sticker.

She appears to be taunting the parents who are opting their kids out by sending a letter home that it will be the fault of the kids who opted out if the rest of their class doesn’t get a 30 minute recess.  I’m pretty sure this will make the kids opting out the least liked kids in the school and the subject of taunting and bullying.   Carol also makes a claim that they give free dress passes for top scorers, so you can identify the dummies from the smart kids I guess?  Way to be Carol.  Humiliating the struggling kids in your school is what good principals do.   Obviously you take your school slogan to heart “Developing and nurturing the greatness within each of us!” (I wonder if there is a second part to this slogan that involves crapping on everyone else?)

One last thing Carol; ellipses. . .  you’re doing them wrong.  I hope those aren’t on the PARCC exam because you’d fail…. …… .

(I’m probably doing lots of stuff wrong but I ain’t no principal of a school neither.)

bribery-bully

 

In West Baton Rouge Parish the system Superintendent is demanding parents meet with him during working hours on the test days, then take their kids home during the testing, and then bring them back after the testing.   It’s not clear why this policy is defined this way.  It appears to be little more than an extra hurdle designed to intimidate and inconvenience parents instead of just having the kids attend a study hall or get in some time at the library.

 

 

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Some other reports I’ve received involved drawings for free iPads and other prizes for students taking these tests, a teacher telling a student who opted out that his mother thinks he’s too dumb to pass the PARCC exam and that that if students like him don’t shape up the Chinese will overrun us , threats of sending truancy officers after parents who keep their kids home, and PR pieces that warn parents if their school’s scores drop their property values will go down.

BESE and LDOE need to put a stop to this nonsense by issuing clear guidance to districts on how to handle these situations.  They are the ones imposing these tests on the children and parents in our state, they should be the ones to clean up the mess.  It’s kinda’ in their job description.   They also need to place a ban on test prep.  How meaningful can these tests be if some districts are gaming the system by force feeding PARCC down children’s throats while other districts are trying to educate their kids?  If this strategy works even a little bit will the takeaway be that all districts should eliminate all subjects but ELA and Math test prep and start on the first day of “school”?  Maybe we could swap out summer reading lists for summer test prep instead?  That will show the Chinese!

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21 thoughts on “Opt-Out parents and children being harassed and terrorized across Louisiana

  1. I have lived in our Great State for 57 years! I love Louisiana! I will be he first one on the line to fight all this crap DC/Obama is trying to shove down our throats!

    We are a STRONG state or Patriots, Veterans and, damn hard working men and women!! We ALL know how to put a stop to this harassment and silly little e-mails!!!

    Get busy and lets show the rest of the Country how REAL CAJUNS work our problems!!!!

  2. Foster, high stake testing was here before DC/Obama came into office. It came with No Child Left Behind. Unfortunately, we are leaving a lot of children behind, because we are not educating the children for the future, just on the past. Everyday technology, science, and new discoveries are found, but we are not educating the children on that. Just check out what is happening with NASA and the Microsoft company. The majority of the children in middle and high school do not know their multiplication facts.

  3. Is it true that IF you have opted out your child from PARCC testing that they will NOT proceed to the next grade level? I have a 7th and 8th grader and this is what is being told to them. Also not to mention that one of my children have to sit outside the classroom while they are preparing and will be taking this test-WTH why not have students opted out read or be given worksheets or something to do or have them all go to library?
    Irriated parent

    1. That is a lie. Yours is a perfect example of the dozens of mini-misinformation campaigns being waged across the state and the punitive and spiteful ways teachers and principals are choosing to handle this situation. They could choose to be supportive or understanding or at least neutral and professional, they are choosing to be petty, spiteful, divisive and intimidating. The LDOE should have provided guidance, but they have been complicit in the intimidation and fear mongering. BESE is probably discussing this issue on the 5th or 6th this week. ( i cannot tell from their published agendas when that will be.) You should contact your BESE member and ask them to bring it up and let you speak on this issue.

  4. It really is appalling. The intimidation will continue to trickle down. Sad to see how some have bought into this incessant propaganda that they need to support institutional child abuse so that their kids might get to someday be drones for Apple or Microsoft.
    Reality check-how many people actually even work for some mega-corporation whose main mission is to beat Chinese competitors anyway??? Yet somehow Fox News has everyone believing the country is going to collapse unless kids are drilled relentlessly with Math and English so they can get careers in increasing profits for the mega-corps.
    The corporate owners of government and society will continue to win but only if weak minded sheep in government and schools give in and put the needs of children below the demands of the powerful.

  5. What are the steps required for me to safely opt my daughter out of this test. We currently homeschool using K12 and through The Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy. I was informed in an email that if my child did not participate in the test, that she would not be able to register next year. While we love the K12 curriculum, I never have liked the emphasis that the LAVCA portion of the school places on standardized testing. They have had what they call mandatory testing “boot camps” for most of the year to prepare for these meaningless tests. My child already has an extensive schedule with completing the K12 curriculum, she has been expected to complete the whole separate curriculum which LAVCA has implemented for the sole purpose of “preparing” them for these tests. We are a single car family and I stay home during the day with the kids while my spouse is attends work. The testing site is more than 50 miles away from where we live. Transportation is going to be a huge problem, and so far there hasn’t been any transportation service offered to us. So am I just supposed to inconvenience my family, use my resources and my time to make sure that I attend the tests so that the School looks good on paper? Until a few months ago, I wasn’t even aware that I had a choice in this matter. Now I have made my choice, but I would like some guidance on the best way to proceed in opting out of these tests. I have found a lot of helpful information, but my sir mutation is a bit unique because of the homeschooling. Any advice or info will be very much appreciated.
    Thanks

    1. You may have an issue depending on State and Parish rules governing homeschooling. You may be required to take tests as condition of homeschool and/or virtual Academy. I will forward you question to one of my colleagues for guidance.

      1. I don’t even know what school district we are a part of. Is Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy considered it’s own district? We live in St. James Parish, but all of the testing and meetings take place in Orleans Parish. How do I find out which district we belong to? This has always puzzled me.

        1. It is based in residence. The virtual academy is a statewide charter. You are in St James school district and would probably have to coordinate your homeschooling through them if the charter dropped you… which it can’t legally. Of course our government and institutions do illegal things all the time…

  6. Louisiana Virtual School, like every other public school, cannot refuse to allow your child to sign up for the course because you refuse the test. Besides, they want your money (MFP) . BESE has acknowledged a parent’s right to refuse to test. If your virtual school tells you they will drop you or punish you in some way, get it in writing. Report a complaint to LDE if they threaten. There will be parents filing lawsuits if necessary. Check my Facebook page at Lee Barrios for continuous feed on opting out. ACLU from NY has offered to assist in charges made by parents.

    1. Thanks for the info. It is really coming down to the wire now, with testing starting on Monday. And I just needed to know the right course of action to take. I thought that because Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy is considered a charter school, that they may have been within their rights to deny us re-registration next year. I have always heard of charter schools expelling students on a whim in order to remove “problem students”. I didn’t know if even threatening to opt out of these tests would make them consider my child one of those “problem students”.

      Here is a portion of the email that was sent to me from the LAVCA testing coordinator:

      ” Dear ****** and *******,
      Our spring testing will begin in March, and these are assessments required by the Louisiana Department of Education. Please plan accordingly so that your child will be available for your assigned testing dates. It is imperative that each student completes all portions of the test and be present for all days of testing. The chart below will show your child’s testing time for each tests.

      Testing schedule:*************

      Please understand that this is a requirement of not only LAVCA, but also the state. Students who do not participate in all of the testing will not be allowed to re-register. Participation in testing also is a requirement for promotion to the next grade level. ”

      I did not want to “show my hand” and tell them that we are opting out if they are within their rights to deny us re-registration next year. I was just going to send them an email Monday morning telling them that our transportation plans had fallen through. I doubt that they would try to make transportation arrangements for us to get to the testing site. It is way more efficient to threaten parents upfront and let everything else just fall into place.

      We have been homeschooling using the K12 program for three years now and it has been great. They have wonderful Science, History and Literature courses. They used to have great Music and Art programs, but unfortunately they have been pushed aside to accommodate the bloated Common Core-laden Math and ELA courses and all of the standardized testing prep courses. Luckily, I am an avid musician with a musical theory background and I am a decent enough artist to teach these courses myself.

      If for some reason they do deny us re-registration next year, we are still going to home school. But because LAVCA is the only K12 affiliated school in our area, we would have to give up the program and curriculum that we have become accustomed to over the last three years. The reason we chose the homeschooling option to begin with was for the freedoms that it afforded me and my family. But it seems like those freedoms are becoming fewer and fewer every year.

      Thanks again, to all, for any information that will help me make the right decision for my children and my family.

      1. Thanks for the info Grisley. As usual, that info is false, misleading, and intended to intimidate. The state department is encouraging schools and districts to lie to patents to coerce participation and refusing to acknowledge it is going on or that they bear any responsibility to clear up the cofusion.they created.

        1. Our whole family has come down with the flu, making my decision not to allow my child to participate in the PARCC test a “no-brainer”. I was sent another identical email from the school Friday restating that all students are required to participate….., I guess as a last ditch effort to intimidate any families that are on the fence about the test. I have just sent an email to the principal and the testing coordinator informing them that my child will not be taking the tests due to illness and transportation issues. I asked that they respect and try to understand my decision to keep my child from taking the test. Now I can only hope that they do not deny us reregistration next year. As of right now, I have only decided to keep my child from participating in the PARCC exam, I am still trying to decide if we will be participating in this year’s LEAP tests. I guess I will just keep my fingers crossed and hope that this all works out alright without any repercussions.

  7. My children have grown up and are out school, but if I was a parent of a young child now, I would (now this is just me) either attempt to homeschool them, which can be difficult for many to do, but supply them with a hidden audio recording device to run all day while they are at school.

    This country is getting pretty crazy with so many of these types of stories.

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