On Monday, March 10, 2014, I presented to the Sioux Falls School Board during the 5 minute open comment period, regarding the SBAC Field Test. I simply read the email I had sent to all board members earlier in the day. And I promise, each letter was personally addressed.
March 10, 2014
Dear School Board Member,
With the adoption of the Common Core Standards comes a new assessment. This spring children of the Sioux Falls School District along with all South Dakota children, will participate in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) assessment field test. So what does that mean? We are told by the department of education, this is an opportunity. Who is this really an opportunity for? The children who will sit in front of a computer for 7 – 8.5 hours, with the computer choosing from 30,000 questions? From questions that teachers don’t even know. Most children want to do well on tests. I question putting a child through the anxiety of a test that teachers could not have possibly had the opportunity to teach what is on the test.
Our schools have been taking away from instructional time to do practice tests, and another 7 – 8.5 hours will be lost on this field test. Teachers, parents and schools will not receive results from this assessment. Only SBAC will receive results from this research. The people of the Sioux Falls school district do not send their children to school to assist a taxpayer funded consortium with research to write an assessment. To be honest, if SBAC cannot complete their agreed to task of writing an assessment with $160 million of taxpayer money, without using my grandchildren, that in and of itself is troubling.
Children experience anxiety beyond what most of us can remember with testing. Why would anyone want to put any child through that just for research purposes? Best case scenario is to not conduct this research using my grandchildren or any children in Sioux Falls, or for that matter any children anywhere.
I also am aware that the Dakota STEP test is not aligned to the Common Core Standards that Sioux Falls children have been taught for two years. So to offer students the Dakota STEP test as an alternative to the SBAC research field test would not be a good option from the standpoint of child stress. And besides, Governor Daugaard has said the the Dakota STEP measured an “arbitrary bar”.
I’m asking that the Sioux Falls School District provide parents with information regarding their child participating in research for SBAC and to obtain their informed consent.
I am asking that you allow parents to exercise their parental rights to direct the education of their child and allow them to choose whether or not they want their children to participate in the SBAC field test. And to allow parents to make that decision without repercussion for child or parent/guardian. I ask that you, the members of the school board, set the following policy and direct our school administrators to:
- provide an alternative setting for students whose families choose not to participate in the field test. This setting will have educational activities available and will not be punitive – such as sitting in the office while other children take the test.
- establish a formal policy in our schools that children are not to be badgered or coerced into taking the test by anyone on staff.
- ensure educators will not use a family’s decision to opt their child out of field testing to influence grading or future classroom placement.
- honor and uphold a family’s right to make educational and emotional decisions for their child and will work with them as partners in their decision making.
Thank-you for considering the needs of our children above that of SBAC. Again, thank-you for your service to the families of Sioux Falls.
Here is the video of that presentation.
Today I received a response from Superintendent Homan stating that the Board had directed her to respond on their behalf. She referenced the failed HB 1187, a bill introduced in the House of Representatives that would have allowed parents to opt out of state assessments. That since that bill has failed, parents are unable to refuse the assessments. She stated that she has no authority to allow exemptions from the state mandated test and since the test will be taking place over a period of days, if parents chose to keep their children home during testing, they would be subject to unexcused absences and truancy laws. I thought maybe she misunderstood what I was asking for. So my reply was:
I appreciate your quick response. I’m not sure I understand your response. The answer you have given me is in regards to the actual assessment which will not be ready until 2015. HB 1187 would have had nothing to do with this year’s field test. Even if the bill would have passed, it would not have taken effect until July 1. I am not asking that parents be allowed to opt out of the actual assessment.
My request of you and the board is to allow parents to decide if they want their children to participate in research for SBAC through the field test being given this spring. South Dakota law requires schools to administer assessments to measure student academic progress. Academic progress is not being measured with the field test. The only one receiving results this year is SBAC. I am asking you and the Board to provide parents with information regarding the field test. And then to obtain their informed consent for their child to participate in this research project, just as you would for a simple field trip.
I understand that the testing will take place over a period of days. I am not looking for parents to be able to keep their child home. I am also asking that if parents choose for their child to not participate in this research project that an alternative educational activity be provided for the child at the child’s school.Thank-you for your consideration in this matter.
The answer I received back, was that her original response stands. I am truly disappointed that the members of the Board have chosen not to respond individually. It’s time to contact the Sioux Falls School Board members. Their job is not to represent the school or state. Their job is to represent you, the parents who elected them to their position.