Archives for category: Parents

The Oregon legislature passed a bill requiring audits of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests (SBAC), the tests of the Common Core standards funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Oregon chapter of Parents Across America conducted its audit and determined that the tests are outrageously expensive in money and time. And, while so much attention is devoted to testing, the opportunity to spend time and money wisely and well are lost.

Here is a small sample:

Actual invoice costs of SBAC

Former Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton has been quoted as saying the actual dollar amount spent on SBAC is anywhere from $12 million to $27 million dollars, a sizable increase over the previously administered OAKS test said to have cost $7 million. What is the true dollar amount spent on SBAC for each of the years the test has been given in the state of Oregon? Include the per pupil cost of the test itself, proctoring, grading, retesting, communicating results, and in addition, itemize other cost directly related to the test.

What is the cost of resource materials purchased for both teachers and students to support SBAC?

What is the actual dollar amount spent to train teachers on how to proctor the test? Include any “professional development” that teachers are required to participate in to administer the tests.

What is the cost of substitute teachers for the test-related hours (days) classroom teachers were out of class?

In January, 2016, OEA president Hannah Vaandering told Symposium attendees that the SBAC was neither valid nor reliable, but the consortium had been invited back to “fix” that. How much does the fix cost? If such a thing can be fixed, how much has the state been billed? Was the test fixed before it was given in the 2015-2016 school year? If not, what is the cost of giving an invalid test?

Skyrocketing Technology Costs

What are the technology costs related to SBAC testing? How much is spent on computers to support testing?

Computer labs and entire libraries are dedicated to SBAC during testing season at many schools. What is the cost in lost learning when students can’t have access to books and the Internet because of weeks and months of testing?

There seems to always be money for technology and software when there is money for little else. Is the testing culture dictating school and district spending? How do we calculate the opportunity costs related to the favored testing agenda?

Poverty, Race, Cultural Bias, and Pushouts (Suspensions and Expulsions)

The Impact of Poverty, Race, and Cultural Bias on Educational Opportunity (July 2015) (PAA) presents data that exposes the price children pay when standardized test scores are the key measurement of success.

The basis of standardized testing is embedded in eugenics and is unfairly biased against students of color. (More than a Score) by Jesse Hagopian.) How do you put a price tag on that?

The correlation between poverty and school achievement cannot be denied. Numerous studies show that providing children with the necessities of life including housing, food stability, and healthcare are imperative to assure success at school. Covering the cost of these services to level the “testing field” seems to be a fair and logical step in assuring that all students are prepared for success at school. Should those costs be considered?

Testing has not closed the “achievement gap” between African American and white students. Since the mantra of the USDOE/ODE has consistently been that rigorous standardized testing is needed to close the achievement or opportunity gap, when do we finally stop and say, “Enough is enough! We will not waste another cent on this folly.” SBAC is not valid, reliable, or fair. Over 100 Education Researchers Sign Statement Calling for Moratorium on High-Stakes Testing, (SBAC/California Alliance of Researchers for Equity in Education.)

Rebelling against the test curriculum results in many more students being suspended or expelled from school. The number of kindergarten suspensions has skyrocketed — especially for African American boys. Wages lost and the cost of alternative childcare arrangements is an extra cost that parents cannot afford and is directly related to the testing curriculum.

High school students who do not pass the SBAC are more likely to drop out of school. The cost of completing a GED or attaining further future education can be attributed to punitive standardized tests.

Inane standardized testing policies have contributed to a school-to-prison pipeline culture. The costs of incarceration amounts to much more than properly educating a child. This cost may be an unintended consequence of SBAC, but it is a cost related to the test nonetheless.

Many parents and educators are outraged by the over-testing and misuse of testing that has been embedded in federal policy since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002. No high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year in grades 3-8, as we have since the passage of NCLB.

Young children sit for exams that last up to 15 hours over two weeks. The fate of their teachers rests on their performance. Parents remember taking tests in school that lasted no more than one class period for each subject. Their tests were made by their teachers, not by a multinational corporation. Parents can’t understand how testing became an endurance trial and the goal of education.

Politicians claim that the tests are necessary to inform parents and teachers and the public how children in one state are doing as compared to their peers in other states. But this information is already reported by the federal test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Parents have figured out that the tests don’t serve any purpose other than to rank their child. No one is allowed to see the test questions after the test. No child receives a diagnosis of what they know and don’t know. They receive only a score. In every state, the majority of children have been ranked as “failures” because the testmakers adopted a passing mark that was guaranteed to fail close to 70% of children. Parents have learned that the passing mark is not objective; it is arbitrary. It can be set to pass everyone, pass no one, or pass some percentage of children.

In the past 14 years, parents have seen the destruction of neighborhood schools, based on their test scores. They have seen beloved teachers fired unjustly, because of their students’ test scores. They have seen the loss of time for the arts, physical education, and anything else that is not tested. They have seen a change in their local public schools that they don’t like, as well as a loss of control to federal mandates and state authorities.

In the past, testing companies warned that tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. Now, these corporations willingly sell their tests without warning about misuse. A test of fourth grade reading tests fourth grade reading. It should not be used to rank students, to humiliate students, to fire teachers and principals, or to close schools. But it is.

Communities have been devastated by the closing of their neighborhood schools.

Communities have seen their schools labeled “failing,” based on test scores, and taken over by the state or national corporate charter chains.

Based on test scores, punishments abound: for students, teachers, principals, schools, and communities.

This is madness!

What can we as citizens do to stop the destruction of our children, their schools, and our dedicated educators.

Opt out of the tests.

Use the power of the powerless: Say NO. Do not participate. Withdraw your consent from actions that harm your child. Withdrawal of consent in an unjust system. That’s the force that brought down Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Vaclav Havel and Lech Walensa said no. They were not alone. Hundreds of thousands stood with them, and the regimes with their weapons and tanks and heavy armor folded. Because the people said no.

Opting out of the tests is the only tool available to parents, other than defeating the elected officials of your state (which is also a good idea, but will take a very long time to bear fruit). One person can’t defeat the governor and the local representatives. But one person can refuse to allow their child to take the toxic tests.

The only tool and the most powerful tool that parents have to stop this madness is to refuse to allow their children to take the tests.

Consider New York. A year ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo was in full attack mode against teachers and public schools, while showering praise on privately managed charters. He vowed to “break the monopoly” known as public education. The New York State Board of Regents was controlled by members who were in complete sympathy with Cuomo’s agenda of Common Core, high-stakes testing, and evaluating teachers by test scores.

But in 2015, about a quarter million children refused the state tests. Albany went into panic mode. Governor Cuomo convened a commission to re-evaluate the Common Core, standards, and testing. Almost overnight, his negative declarations about education changed in tone, and he went silent. The legislature appointed new members, who did not share the test-and-punish mentality. The chair of the New York State Board of Regents decided not to seek re-appointment after a 20-year career on that board. The Regents elected Dr. Betty Rosa, a veteran educator who was actively supported by the leaders of the opt out movement.

Again in 2016, the opt out movement showed its power. While official figures have not yet been released, the numbers evidently match those of 2015. More than half the students in Long Island opted out. Federal and state officials have issued warnings about sanctions, but it is impossible to sanction huge numbers of schools in middle-class and affluent communities. The same officials have no problem closing schools in poor urban districts, treating citizens there as chess pawns, but they dare not offend an organized bloc in politically powerful communities.

The opt out movement has been ridiculed by critics, treated by the media as a front for the teachers’ union, belittled by the former Secretary of Education as “white suburban moms” who were disappointed that their child was not so bright after all, stereotyped as privileged white parents with low-performing children, etc. There are indeed black and Hispanic parents who are part of the opt out movement. Their children and their schools suffer the greatest penalties in the current testing madness. In New York City, where opt out numbers were tiny, parents were warned that their children would not be able to enter the middle school or the high school of their choice if they opted out.

Thus far, the opt out movement has not been discouraged or slowed by these tactics of ridicule and intimidation. The conditions have not changed, so the opt out movement will continue.

The reality is that the opt out movement is indeed a powerful weapon. It is the one weapon that makes governors, legislators, and even members of Congress afraid of public opinion and public action. They are afraid because they don’t know how to stop parents from opting out. They can’t control opt out parents, and they know it. They offer compromises, promises for the future, but all of this is sham. They have not let go of the testing hammer. And they will not until opt out becomes the norm, not the exception.

In some communities in New York, opting out is already the norm. If politicians and bureaucrats continue on their reckless course of valuing test scores more than children, the opt out movement will not be deterred.

Save your child. Save your schools. Stop the corporate takeover of public education. You have the power. Say no. Opt out.

This is one of the strangest stories of the week or year. Back in 2008, a group of parents at the Agora Cyber Charter school in Pennsylvania began questioning the financial affairs of the corporation that owned it. Agora was paying rent and management fees to another company, the Cynwyd Group, which June Brown, the founder of Agora, also owned.

In January 2009, the owners of Agora filed suit against the parents:

As parents tried to gather records and sort out the business relationships at Agora, they circulated emails expressing their concerns. They also complained to the state Education Department when the school did not provide information they requested.

In the suit filed in January 2009, Brown and Cynwyd Group charged that the parents had made statements that defamed and libeled Brown.

The complaint also alleged that the parents’ group had tried to interfere with Cynwyd’s contractual relationship with Agora “by spreading untruths about Dr. Brown and by implying that she had improperly used public funds.”

Brown and Cynwyd sought more than $150,000 in damages from the six parents for libel, slander, and civil conspiracy.

The parents denied the allegations and said they had merely sought information about the taxpayer-funded school their children attended.

Brown said the parents had defamed her and she had to defend her reputation. The parents had trouble paying for legal representation.

The suit dragged on, but in 2012, “federal grand jurors indicted Brown and charged her with defrauding Agora and her other charters of $6.7 million.”

The case against the parents remained active, to be addressed after the conclusion of the criminal trial. Brown’s criminal trial ended in a hung jury in 2014, and a retrial was canceled in 2015 after Brown’s lawyer said that she suffered from dementia. So, she escaped legal action, kept the money, but the parents were in limbo, still facing the charges of defamation that Brown had lodged against them.

Earlier this month, the charges were dismissed. The parents were relieved. One had used the family’s mortgage payment to pay a lawyer and lost her home fighting the lawsuit.

It does seem unjust that the parents were dragged through legal proceedings for more than seven years, accused of defaming Brown, even while she was under federal indictment for defrauding her charters of millions of dollars.

One of the hotbeds of opt out in New York was centered on Long Island, which consists of Nassau County and Suffolk County. Fully half of the students eligible for state tests did not take the tests. Reporter Jaime Franchi surveys the movement and asks, “what’s next?”

A year ago, parents were battling a combative Governor Cuomo, facing a hostile State Education Department, and rallying against Common Core. But what a difference a year makes. Now the Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, Betty Rosa, is an experienced educator who is sympathetic to the parents who opt out.

And the movement has larger goals:

The struggle came to a head during this spring’s testing season, culminating in a giant win for Long Island Opt-Out, a parent-led group that organized an historic number of test-refusals this year with almost 100,000 students—more than half of the student population in Nassau and Suffolk counties—opting out of state tests. Their message has been effective: No more Common Core. Despite incremental fixes promised by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his so-called “Common Core Task Force,” they are still demanding concrete changes.

Yet, it remains to be seen how this evolving protest movement will improve or replace the current education agenda.

According to local public education advocates, the answer is multi-tiered. It includes elections: first at the state level and then at the local school board in an effort to tackle education policy from all sides. The goal is a shift away from schools’ increasing test-prep focus almost exclusively on math and reading skills—eschewing the arts and play-based learning—to a comprehensive curriculum that addresses what some advocates call the “whole child.”

The opt out leaders have been shrewd. They have elected nearly 100 of their members to local school boards. They threw their support behind a candidate for the State Senate and he eked out a narrow victory. They regularly schedule meetings with their representatives in Albany.

Opt out leaders want a sweeping change in education policy, from scripted lessons and high-stakes testing to child-centered classrooms, where children are really put first, not test scores.

The Dallas Morning News published an editorial praising high-stakes testing. The News thinks the tests are necessary and valuable, even though parents don’t.


You can tell that no one on the editorial board has children in public schools, because they can’t understand why parents object to the state’s obsession with standardized testing. They congratulate patents got not opting out. They say nothing about the billions of dollars cut from Texas schools in 2011.


They just love that data. The kids, not so much.


They write:


“Dallas Morning News education writer Corbett Smith reports that only about 2,000 Texas families refused the test in 2015-16. That number is tiny compared with New York, where 240,000 opted out of the assessment, or Colorado, where 100,000 didn’t take it.


“Opting out of STAAR tests isn’t easy in Texas — but it is possible. So the low number leads us to hope that, despite the massive dislike of accountability exams, parents recognize STAAR’s importance.


“This newspaper shares that belief. That’s why our goals for 2016 include advocating for accountability and making a renewed case for the importance of testing, despite the system’s flaws. We have pledged to listen carefully to critics and bone up on best practices so we can urge reform that works.


“The first cleanup falls squarely on the state’s new testing vendor. New Jersey-based Educational Testing Services, which won a $280 million contract from the state, has left campuses mired in computer glitches and exam flaws. Just Thursday, it was accused of losing all the elementary and middle school tests in a small Central Texas school district.


“Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath assessed the mess this way: Those problems are “unacceptable” and must be fixed.


“But the solution isn’t to throw out the whole system, and it’s encouraging to see that most families and school districts get that.


“Families deserve to know how their students are progressing against the state standard; without a consistent scorecard, too much is left to chance. That can be a special problem as children move into the later years of elementary school and into middle school, where students most often slip.


“Likewise, school districts need to know not only how their students are performing, but how to evaluate teachers and help them grow to be the best possible educators.”



Parents in Kansas are disgusted with Governor Sam Brownback’s massive budget cuts. The cuts were inevitable after Brownback and the legislature enacted the biggest tax cuts in the state’s history in 2012 and 2013. They must have been following the Reagan playbook of trickle-down economics, but it didn’t work. The State Supreme Court ordered the legislature to enact an equitable and adequate plan to finance the public schools.

And now parents are gearing up to fight for their public schools.

The struggle over school funding in Kansas reached a new crisis point when the State Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the Republican-dominated Legislature had not abided by its constitutional mandate to finance public schools equitably, especially poorer districts with less property wealth. The court, in an effort to force legislative action, reiterated a deadline that gave the state until June 30 to fix the problem or face a school shutdown.

The ruling exacerbated tensions over budgets enacted by Mr. Brownback and the Legislature that education officials say have led school districts to eliminate programs, lay off staff members or even shorten the school week….

Of even greater concern to many parents is a sense, they say, that the state leadership does not support the very concept of public education.

“People are saying, ‘This is not the Kansas I know,’ and ‘This is not the Republican Party I know,’” said Judith Deedy, who helped start the group Game On for Kansas Schools.

As in other states, the effect of reduced funding varies from one district to another. In poorer districts like Kansas City and Wichita, students are crammed into deteriorating buildings with bloated class sizes. One district in southeast Kansas, facing a budget shortfall, recently pared its school week to four days.

Parents who are Republicans feel betrayed by Governor Brownback and some plan to run against their incumbent representatives.

Educators are struggling to meet the needs of their students:

In Kansas City, school officials say they have been shortchanged by tens of millions of dollars over the past five years because the Legislature has not taken into account their needs when financing poorer districts like theirs. Ninety percent of the students in the Kansas City school district qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and 40 percent are nonnative English speakers.

Cynthia Lane, the superintendent of schools in the Kansas City district, said preparations were underway in case schools are shut down, as the Supreme Court has threatened. Schools are usually busy during the summer months, with administrators and members of staff preparing for the upcoming academic year, she said. The first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 15.

“If we can’t pay bills, how do we keep our utilities on, how do we keep our security system on?” she said. “Folks are really frustrated and embarrassed that Kansas is the butt of jokes across the nation. He continues to say things are fine, when they are not fine.”

The Wichita School Board voted on May 18 to eliminate more than 100 jobs and to close an alternative high school, as part of efforts to trim about $18 million from the district’s budget.

At that meeting, Mike Rodee, the vice president of the board, blamed state officials for forcing budget cuts. “We need to look at all the people that are doing it to us,” he said at the school board meeting. “Our legislators, our government, our governor — we are the ones who are fighting to keep the schools alive, and they are fighting to close them.”

Some school principals say they are resigned to making do with what money they have. At Welborn Elementary School in Kansas City, classes are held in two aging buildings and students dash back and forth during the day. Teachers keep a watchful eye on them as they cross an active parking lot between the buildings.

“I don’t need much,” said Jennifer Malone, the principal, one recent afternoon. “I just want a building.”

Governor Brownback has called a special session of the legislature to enact a new funding formula. Just hope that he doesn’t fund the schools by cutting the universities or other public services.

This is one of the best posts ever, written by a Chicago public school parent and blogger.

Julie Vassilatos asks the question: whose schools? Who do they belong to? In Chicago, they are currently “owned” by the mayor and his hand-picked board. In other major cities, they are being given away to boards controlled by hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs, and corporate chains.

In Chicago, the mayor wants to cut the schools’ budget by 39%. Unimaginable!

Julie has a different understanding: These schools belong to US. They are OURS.

She writes:

The public schools belong to us. They are ours. In a very personal way, in a theoretical way, and in an actual, absolute financial way. Chicago Public Schools belong to us, the families who pay taxes to sustain them.

They do not belong to a handful of small-minded men who want to break them down, write them out of their budgets, and sever our communities from each other. They do not.

They. Are. Ours.

Our buildings, some of them historic, we have upheld and gardened and and repainted with our own volunteer efforts. We have papered their walls with our children’s art. We have forged relationships with our teachers, we have worked at this and so have they. We have struggled to get educational access for our special needs kids–struggled to create conditions in which our kid can learn despite draconian state-imposed limits, struggled together with our counselors and caseworkers and teachers and paraprofessionals.

We have chaperoned field trips and ridden on noisy bouncing buses, we have invented, organized, and staffed creative fundraisers, we have helped out in the classroom from stapling papers to reading to kids to finding and putting tennis balls on chair feet.

We have served on PTAs and LSCs, anxious and striving, weeping and sweating, laughing over shared meals and cheering over bake sale profits, working out and forging action on critical things like who our principal is and how we can best allocate our few paltry dollars.

In many cases our kids go to the same schools we went to, and our hearts can be filled with pride over this or with shame that they may be using the same textbooks we used. These schools are ours over generations.

These schools are ours. We pay for them. They are for our children and our society. They are not for the profit and manipulations of a ruler class, some of whom we elected in foolishness, and many of whom are appointed and about whom we have no say whatsoever. These educational overlords have shown that they do not care about our children’s educations. They care about their own children’s educations, as indeed so do we for our own children. It’s comfortable and easy for them, but the costs for this are high–a shrinking Chicago tax base, an exodus out of the city that will soon become a torrent, a generation of kids’ educations in jeopardy, and the moral cost of all the effort to maintain a lower class whose educational opportunities are denied.

Friends, readers, CPS parents, public school parents of the nation, hear this. Your school is yours. Our schools belong to us. Do not forget it. We have some power we need to retake here. We have a district to reclaim.

The Network for Public Education Action Fund has drafted a proposal for consideration by the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee.

We call for the elimination of federal mandates for annual testing; for a declaration of support for public schools; for a ban on for-profit charters; for regulation of charters that receive federal funds to assure that they serve the same children as the public schools; for revision and strengthening of the FERPA privacy laws to protect our children’s data from commercial data mining; for full funding of special education; for support of early childhood education; and for other means of improving the federal role in education.

The proposal is in draft form. We will be making revisions. If you see something you think needs fixing, let us know.

Please read our draft proposal. And if you agree, add your name of our petition to the Democratic party. We plan to make the same appeal to the Republican party.

Both parties, we hope, will support the public schools, which educate nearly 90% of the nation’s children. Public schools are a bedrock of our society, in the past, now, and in the future.

I received this comment from a teacher in Manatee County:

Diane – I wanted to give you an update on yesterday’s story and some context about what teachers have been doing. The Florida Department of Education’s attorney has clarified that the portfolio option is available and must be allowed based on state statute. I suspect that the districts involved were encouraged to take the hardline position, particularly based on parts of an email from a DOE official (that the Manatee Superintendent released) which did imply that a test was required or the student would have to go to summer reading camp to build a portfolio. Now the DOE has “clarified” their position, stating that a district may not exclude any of the good cause exemptions (specified in statute) in their local policy.

The FEA Delegate Assembly recently passed a New Business Item advocating for a parent’s right to Opt Out, and the union has used that in lobbying efforts. At our latest Governance Board Meeting, President McCall hosted a panel discussion on Opt Out which included one of our attorneys, Cindy Hamilton from Opt Out Florida ( and Luke Flynt, our Secretary-Treasurer talking about the Opt-out movement and how complicated it is to be a teacher in this political environment. The FEA website has a statement about opt out with both warnings and information including links to the Opt-out groups. (

The union has been consistent in warning teachers not to encourage opting out for the students and parents inside their classrooms because of state law, but we have also shared the complete statutes including all of the good cause exemptions to the required passing score on FSA. We have suggested that, as parents and citizens, teachers do not lose their first amendment rights, but they should be very careful about how and when they choose to exercise them. There is real concern that the department could go after teachers’ certificates if they advocate for opting out on school time or while acting in their employment capacity.

We have also had union leaders sharing the information provided by opt-out groups in their area, but they have also provided warnings about potential consequences particularly for 3rd grade students and for meeting graduation and scholarship requirements. The commissioner has stated several times that the state assessments are required by law, and that opting out is not allowed. She has also stated that parents who do not want to take assessments should find another place to educate their children.

Clearly, the great puzzle is why the Florida legislature is all for parent choice when it comes to “choosing” a school, but opposed to parent choice when it comes to complying with an order to take tests.

Two Florida school districts–Sarasota and Manatee–have warned parents their children will not be promoted if they opt out of state testing.

The only way to opt out of the state test is to take a state test before opting out. Alice in Wonderland?



Even students who have earned high marks all year will be retained in grade.


“Third-grade students in Sarasota and Manatee counties who refused to take the state’s standardized English Language Arts test and a subsequent alternative test will be held back, school officials say.


“District officials have contacted several parents saying that because their students opted out of taking the state test, called the Florida Standards Assessment, they must take an alternative test to progress from third grade to fourth. If students do not take the test, officials said they will have to repeat third grade.


“School districts across the state are wrestling with what to do with third-grade students who refused to take, or opted out of, the Florida Standards Assessments. A state statute mandates that students take the test, but vague language makes it difficult for districts to determine what alternatives can be used to promote a student — namely whether a portfolio can be used in lieu of the tests.


“Counties such as Pasco, Hillsborough and Charlotte have allowed students who took neither the FSA or the Stanford Achievement Test, 10th edition, to progress to fourth grade. But districts including Orange, Sarasota and Manatee require students who did not take the FSA or the SAT-10 to repeat third grade.”


The tests, with all their flaws, are more important in those counties than teachers’ assessments of their students or parental rights.




Parents have the right to choose a new school but not the right to refuse standardized tests.

Here is Peter Greene on the Florida testing mess.