This week, students in grades three through eight began the eMPowerME test, which assesses students in mathematics and literacy. Contrary to popular opinion, these tests are required by state and federal legislation. Unfortunately, this puts the school district at odds with certain parents who desire to opt their students out of testing. I know that I speak for every member of the staff and school community when I say that students have the potential for greater success when the school and parents work collaboratively to support student success. Just as we have made the decision to respect parents’ wishes about whether their children participate in the testing, it would also be nice if parents would understand the position that the school district is in with respect to the testing.
In today’s world, unfortunately many people would rather express ideas in the court of public opinion (read: Facebook or other social media) rather than seeking to develop an informed opinion. As I said earlier, this testing is required. We, as a district, do not have the authority to grant an “opt out” for students, although we have made the choice to honor parents’ requests by not forcing students to take the tests. To say students aren’t required to take these tests is similar to the claim that there really is no speed limit. While we may not lose funding, that threat is just as real and possible as the notion that a police officer may only give you a warning for exceeding the speed limit by fifteen miles per hour. Not getting a ticket doesn’t mean there is no speed limit just like not taking the test doesn’t mean the test isn’t required.
Sadly, when parents allow students to opt out of tests, it makes it impossible to use the test results in any meaningful manner. When all students participate, this gives individual parents an outside assessment with which to compare their child’s performance in the same way that the test allows the school district to evaluate the effectiveness of its programs and any potential areas of strength and weakness. When only pockets of students take the test, there is no ability to evaluate our programs and the performance of students.
Additionally, while many parents have strong reasons about opting students out, many others do not. While I would never question the decisions parent make for their own children, when I hear that some parents are opting students out because the students feel the test is boring or because their friends aren’t taking the test, I wonder what such decisions teach students.
In conclusion, I would encourage any parent with questions about the testing to contact his or her child’s building administrator to discuss the testing. Quite frequently, having accurate information about what the test is and what it isn’t may help to dispel certain perceptions that aren’t based in fact. I am hoping that by honoring parental requests and by maintaining open lines of communication that we can maintain a positive, collaborative relationship with parents, which is essential for student success.