Click HERE for a list of Senators, including contact information, who voted No to SB1455, the Parental Opt Out bill. With the end of this legislative session coming up in mid-April, we have little time to change their hearts and minds. Please call them. Email them.
Because these senators voted No, parents who are adamantly opposed to subjecting their children to AzMERIT, and who are Refusing to allow their children to be tested, are being treated like traitors to their children’s teachers, principals, and schools. In some cases, the children themselves are being taunted and ostracized by fellow students.
It’s important to understand why parents oppose AzMERIT, and why the schools are so rabid in coercing them to comply.
Why Parents Refuse to Allow their Children take the AzMERIT test:
AzMERIT is aligned with "Arizona’s English Language Arts and Mathematics standards" (aka Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards aka Common Core). Governor Doug Ducey expressed his opposition to Common Core when he ran for Governor, and he continues speaking out against Common Core. Why support a test that aligns with and supports it? The only thing "Arizona" about the standards is the name. It’s still Common Core. See Governor’s edict changes name of Common Core and Common Core name changes, standards remain.
There is nothing Arizona-specific about AzMERIT. How could there be? They align with the national Common Core standards, which were adopted by many other states. On November 3, 2014, just a few months before testing was to begin in April 2015, the Arizona State Board of Education abandoned AIMS in favor of AzMERIT. Arizona, along with Florida and Tennessee, paid Utah to borrow their SAGE test. Arizona paid $2,223,000 for the use of SAGE materials for one year, with the option to renew for an additional two years. See Cashing in: Three states to pay $10M for rights to study Utah’s SAGE tests and AZMerit Is Not So Unique After All.
Teachers aren’t even allowed to see the AzMERIT test questions. They must sign a "security agreement" vowing not to look at them. This is one of the reasons they spend so much time in the classroom preparing students to take the test, hoping they cover the waterfront of the Common Core standards. Three weeks of "prep" time is not uncommon. Then, more time is spent taking "practice tests." Then, in many cases, 4 more weeks is spent coordinating schedules for all students to take the 7-hour computer-based test.
AzMERIT wasn’t developed by "Arizona teachers." The company responsible for creating Common Core-aligned, standardized assessments for Arizona and many other states, including Utah’s SAGE, Florida’s FSA, and Tennessee’s TNReady, is American Institutes for Research (A.I.R.), one of the largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations in the world. They are very familiar with data mining techniques. See AIR’s "Project Talent"
None of the standardized tests aligned with Common Core have ever been validated. It is out of the norm for tests to be given to children that never have been validated in a formal, scientific, peer-reviewed way. This “dataless decision making“ means that the test is as likely to harm as to help any child. See Dr. Gary Thompson’s $100,000 Reward For SAGE Common Core Test Validity Reports and Letter dated Feb. 21, 2016, to the Utah State House of Representatives.
AzMERIT and other "standardized tests" are highly secretive. Parents and teachers may not see test questions, not even years after the test is over. Nobody at the local level ever sees the graded tests. Ever. The only organization that has access to the tests completed by students is A.I.R. Instead of receiving the graded tests, students receive a "Family Score" Report several months after taking the test. This report advises the student if he/she is "proficient." Students never know which answers they got right or wrong. They don’t know specifically where to improve.
AzMERIT can easily mine students for information about their attitudes, behaviors, and their family’s attitudes and behaviors. The readings that are used to generate essays from the students can "shape" their attitudes. The test itself asks for the student’s Name, School/ID#, and School District /ID#. However, since no one at the local level knows the questions, they have no way of knowing the sophisticated methods used by one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations to siphon very private information. An Arizona sample essay question asks a 3rd grader about clutter in his/her home. You will see this statement: "Your refrigerator door (magnets) can tell you more about your family than you might think." A Utah high school student took a screen shot of a SAGE reading that promotes video games over book literacy. Another Utah student filmed an essay on his SAGE test that promoted e-books, digital education, and Tablets over textbooks.
Governor Ducey and many legislators believe that HB2544, the Menu of Assessments bill, removes the need to pass SB1455. They confuse a school’s rights with a parent’s rights. The Menu of Assessments gives schools the right to choose a test other than AzMERIT. This bill does not, however, give parents the right to opt their children out of any test that they consider invasive of their privacy, worthless, and psychologically damaging. Parental authority must be respected, and HB2544 does NOT do that. See How Standardized Testing Damages Education.
There are many more useful assessments which advance fairness, accuracy, quality, and equity: evaluations such as the Learning Record (analysis of students’ learning over time by a teacher who knows them well), work sampling over time, structured and informal observations and interviews, performance and exhibitions, audio and videotapes, portfolio and journal assessments, and evaluation including input from teachers, students, parents, counselors, and principals.
Do you now understand that AzMERIT and standardized tests like it have literally nothing to do with properly evaluating or helping our children improve their learning or education?
Why are the local teachers, principals, and superintendents so adamant in persuading, even coercing, parents and students to take AzMERIT?
Not this year, but next year, teachers and schools will be "evaluated" on how well students do on the test. Governor Ducey signed SB1289, which is a moratorium on using AzMERIT to evaluate teachers and schools. The best students, the ones most likely to provide the highest test scores, are the ones who are successfully avoiding taking AzMERIT. They and their parents are the most knowledgeable about the Truth about AzMERIT, High Stakes Testing, and "standardized" tests.
Not this year, but next year, AzMerit be figured into the students’ grades. See SB1289
Schools are afraid that, if as few as 5% of students opt out, the school will lose its Title I federal funding or its rating in the state’s accountability system. "Taking Title I money away from the neediest students in order to punish parents who are boycotting a testing system that is out of control is not defensible." On Feb. 18, 2016, Dr. Karol Schmidt, Executive Director of the State Board of Education, without the authorization of the SBE, testified to the Senate Education Committee , referencing the federal government’s threats in a 12/22/2015 letter many states received from Ann Whelan, on behalf of the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. This letter advises states on how they can punish schools with low testing participation rates. Dr. Schmidt handed copies of this letter to the members of the Senate Education Committee, and likely swayed some senators against SB1455.
As you can see, the federal government’s power reaches into our local classrooms, and into our own homes. "Local control" does not exist when it comes to nationalized standards and nationalized testing.