Stories of the SBAC Field Testing From Across South Dakota

Parents from all over the state of South Dakota have been contacting me in the last week sharing their experiences with the SBAC tests and their efforts to prevent their children from being used for research for SBAC.

I’m going to start with responses from schools and the SD DOE to parents requests to opt their child out of the field test. I am going to preface this with this statement. “It is not illegal to opt our child out of a field test”.  The state knows this. Therefore several parents have been told by the DOE that the state will not be enforcing anything punitive on parent or child for not participating in field test. The state has chosen to let the local school district face the music of upset parents. Oh wait, I take that back. The state has not “chosen”, they know they have not a legal leg to stand on. They know they are breaking the law by administering this field test as a replacement for the DakotaSTEP. You see the law requires “schools to administer the same assessment to all students to measure academic progress”. Given that the field test is choosing from 30,000 questions, no two children in a classroom will get the same questions. Given that parents, teachers and schools will not receive results from this field test, no academic progress is being measured. The state has done this saying the US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has given us a waiver so we don’t have to double test students. The subtle threat that this could be worse. WHAT? A member of the federal government can say the South Dakota schools don’t have to follow South Dakota law? When asked about opting out of the field test, both the South Dakota Secretary of Education, and Governor Duagaard never answer the question. It’s a dodge every time. We continually hear that this is an opportunity to “test the test”, to make sure every item is fair. Standardized testing has been happening in the United States since 1965. Are they seriously trying to say that in almost 50 years of standardized tests, they have not figured out that when children in Chicago hear the word elevator, they don’t think of a grain elevator?

So parents have gone to their local schools to stand up for the rights of their children to not be used for research without parental consent. Here is where the results run the gamut.

In some districts, superintendents and/or principals have been willing to work with parents and are allowing children to not participate in the practice tests and the actual field test itself. They are providing a place for the child to go to read a book or work on other activities.

Then there is the school that has said the child can go to the office and sit during the testing. Grrr.

A school, after receiving direction from parents that their child was not to participate in the practice tests or the field tests, forced a child, who said that his parents told him not to take the test, to take the practice test. This mother went directly to the school, asserted her rights, and her child is not being forced to participate in the practice tests or the field tests. Oh and just a quick question – How DO you practice for a field test?

There is a district who refused to allow parent to opt out of the field test. So parents instructed their children to answer the same to all multiple choice questions and answer gibberish to essay questions. This was definitely not the parents first choice, but they were backed into a corner. For the students who finished the test in a few very short minutes, they were handed a packet of work to be done at home. The very same day, the superintendent of that district sent out a memo saying that teachers were not to do anything punitive to students who did not spend time on the field test. Those students are now not required to do the extra work packet.

Stories from students – I am only going to share one, well, maybe more.

My friend’s grandchildren are going to Disney World next week. As she and her granddaughter are talking about this trip, grandma says something to the effect of how great it will be to miss school for a week. Then her 9 year old granddaughter laments that they are on their trip during the assessments, so when they get back they will have to make up the assessments. This girl is 3rd grade. Her testing will be 7 hours. They are going to pull her from 7 hours of instructional time to do a field test? Seriously?

On Tuesday,  I stopped at the grocery store on the way home. The cashier asks how I am and I ask how she is doing. She tells me that she is glad that two days of testing is over. They have these new tests. They no longer do the DakotaSTEP test. It’s some kind of smarter thing and boy is it awful. It is all done on the computer. She proceeded to tell me the essays questions require 4 to 5 paragraphs, the computer will not let them go on until they have answered questions. And that you can’t skip a question you need some time to think about and then go back to it. She reiterated that the test was awful. The girl who was bagging my groceries, is now a senior and they continued the conversation about all the testing and they feel like that is all they do. After all in two weeks the cashier will have to do the paper and pencil science test and she has not taken her ACT’s yet. What stress is this young lady feeling that she unloaded on a total stranger?

There are many stories of children not being able to log on, and systems crashing after a few minutes.

What a waste of teachers’ and children’s time. What a waste of our taxpayer money. All this in the name of the Common Core. And in all this conversation, it seems to have been forgotten that there is no empirical evidence that the Common Core Standards and assessments will raise academic achievement. The whole thing is one giant experiment with our children and grandchildren being the guinea pigs.

To the superintendents, principals and teachers who are working with parents who do not want their children to participate in the SBAC field test, I truly thank you.

To the superintendents, principals and teachers who are insisting that parents don’t have the right to pull their child from a state-run experiment: I find it interesting that the schools are always talking about stopping bullying, yet parents and children are being bullied into participating in this field test.

To parents. I encourage you to stand with your heart. I truly believe that you have every right to insist that your child not be used for research without your consent. If you feel so led, please share your experiences with the testing, opting out or anything else related to the field test in the comments.

 Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. I have no law degree. Nothing in this post is legal advice.

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