Testing

A sign at Hawthorne Elementary School earlier this month encourages students to do their best on state testing. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World

The movement to opt out of field testing has gained momentum at my daughter's elementary school.

From April 10, when the state testing window began, until the end of the year, my third-grader is expected to complete Oklahoma Core Curriculum tests in math and reading (the high-stakes reading test determines whether students can be promoted to fourth grade), as well as the Scholastic Reading Inventory, Metropolitan Achievement Test and Acuity Benchmark Assessment.

Among all of those, students will also be subjected to field tests.

"Field tests are given to a sampling of students by testing companies to evaluate questions for future use. They do not count either in a student's grade or a school's grade," according to a Tulsa World story last month.

Tulsa Public Schools says parents may opt out of any testing, but the following must be in place:

 "The parent must write a formal letter (not an email, text or phone call) to the school principal stating the following:

 "a. The specific test the parent wishes to opt out.

"b. The reason why they want to opt out.

"c. A statement assuming all responsibility for the consequences of opting out.

"This letter must be kept on file in the District Assessment office and should be received prior to testing."

Parents at our school have been told that opt-out letters are due to the school principal on Monday, so she can take them to the District Assessment Office on Tuesday.

Amy Bracher, president of the Zarrow International School PTA and mother of first- and third-graders, is encouraging parents of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders to opt their children out of field tests.

The continual testing takes away from instruction time, she said.

"Out of 180 school days, most students are getting 100 days of instruction. Many of the 80 missing days are due to testing," she said.

She specifically objects to field tests, which help the companies structure and evaluate their tests for the following year.

"Most of the time, people are paid for market research," Bracher said. "My third-grader is tested too much, and then he has to take a test that doesn’t count for anything. The teachers don’t get results, and the school districts are not paid by the testing companies for market research."

Field tests are not mandatory in Oklahoma, and many maintain that there is no consequence for opting out.

Last year hundreds of Jenks parents opted out of field tests for their students, which resulted in an investigation of Jenks Public Schools and Jenks Middle School Principal Rob Miller. Miller has written about the issue several times in his blog, A View From the Edge.

This year, Jenks and Owasso were excluded from field tests. Since the state Department of Education expected large numbers of parents in those two districts to opt out, it went ahead and opted them out before testing began.

With the advent of No Child Left Behind, then Race to the Top and now Common Core, testing has become a multimillion-dollar business. This year, Oklahoma paid $7.3 million for Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests for students in grades 3 to 8 and $6.2 million for end-of-instruction exams, which are administered to secondary students at the end of seven core subjects.

Many of the parents I have talked to want to send a message to the Education Department and the testing companies: Our children are more than test scores.

"Enough is enough. Let the teachers teach and the students learn," Bracher said.