By Vicki Alger, Ph.D.
Author of a forthcoming book on the history of the U.S. Department of Education
Arizona parents are one step closer to having their assessment opt-out rights affirmed, thanks to Senate Education Committee Chairman Senator Sylvia Allen’s sponsorship of the amended SB 1455.
But affirming parents’ opt-out rights could be sidelined because some senators think it’s unnecessary. "Just keep children home ‘sick’ during the test day. What’s the big deal?”
Testing today isn’t what it used to be some years ago. We’d show up at school, spend a couple of hours filling in bubbles, and go home. The biggest worry back then was making sure we brought enough number two pencils with us.
These days, parents and students are lucky if they’re even informed about the testing dates far enough in advance to stay home "sick," since assessment periods can span as much as 6 weeks. So there’s no practical way for parents to simply opt-out in absentia.
But here’s the really big deal based on what parents and children endured last spring when a similar opt-out protection bill failed in the Senate by one vote.
Many parents were told that if they kept their children home, their children wouldn’t be allowed back into their classes until they took the assessment.
The Assessment "window" can span several weeks. Students shouldn’t be robbed of precious instructional and learning time at the schools their parents chose for them trying to avoid testing times.
Many parents work outside the home and simply cannot afford to take time off or pay for child care.
Let’s not forget, parents who object to statewide assessments want their children in school and learning. But many of them who tried to send their children to school with assessment opt-out forms were put through the ringer last spring.
Their children were still forced into taking the AzMERIT—a terrible position for children who are taught by their parents to respect and obey adults, especially ones at school.
Many parents were intimidated into having their children take the AzMERIT—an un-validated test that gathers all sorts of non-academic, personal information. These parents were (mis)informed that:
Their children could lose class credit for not taking the test.
Their children could jeopardize their chances at college unless they take the test.
Their children might be banned from participating in after-school extracurricular activities.
Still other parents learned from their children that opting-out meant spending hours in front of a computer doing nothing and missing classes.
Expressly affirming parents’ assessment opt-out rights is the cure for all of these ills. Telling parents to take a sick-day “aspirin” and call the Senate in the morning isn’t.