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by Sandy Stenoff

Florida’s schools are preparing for the high holy season in “Test & Punish World” and the pressure is ramping up. Preposterous claims and empty threats are being made and parents are receiving bully letters from districts and schools statewide. This will continue from now until the end of this testing season in May. WHY? Because the DOE wants your child’s data and they will stop at nothing to get it.

Take control of your situation. DO NOT BE BULLIED.

In many cases, teachers and principals are acting only on the information provided to them by the district.  They are not always to blame for the poor information. However, there is no excuse for the bullying nature of the information coming from the state and from the US DOE, which make their way down the chain of command, without fail.

Fight back with FACTS. Here are some important ones:

  • Florida Law says that districts must administer the FSA. They do.
  • Florida Law says that students must participate. When students sit for the test, open the test, and do not answer any test questions, they will have “participated” to the extent required by the law AND they will have opted out. 
  • Once a student has “participated,” they cannot be re-tested.
  • The Law cannot compel students to complete a test. 
  • Third grade students cannot be retained simply for not having an FSA score.
  • Students may be promoted with good cause exemptions.
  • Good cause exemptions make use of alternative assessments (SAT10, ITBS, or portfolios).
  • Students may only be retained or remediated in any grade with a parent’s WRITTEN CONSENT. 
  • Decades of research support the professional opinions of developmental psychologists and experts in reading instruction, who state that the best course of action for struggling readers is to promote them and ALSO provide the necessary intervention and support. 
  • High school students may replace Algebra 1 EOC score with a passing score on the PERT to meet graduation requirements.
  • A passing score on the ACT (19) or the SAT (430) will replace the FSA score for graduation requirements. 

If you are told otherwise, follow this CARDINAL RULE:

In ALL communications with your child’s school or school district, GET IT IN WRITING. Use e-mail and if appropriate, cc at least one other person (child’s other parent, Principal, District Director of Assessment, Superintendent, etc.).

When you are asked to “come in for a meeting,” it is sometimes (not always) because they don’t want to put something in writing. If you choose to have an important meeting in person, feel free to take detailed notes during the meeting. Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat something so you can write it down accurately.

Always follow up important discussions with an e-mail:

“This is to clarify our discussion on (date). You stated that… A, B and C. Is that correct?” (You must ask this so that they will respond, acknowledging and confirming your e-mail.)

Keep it brief. No snark. It may be as simple as…

“Dear Principal,

Please confirm that if my child opts out of the Fifth grade FSA or iReady progress monitoring assessments, she will be retained in the Fifth grade.

Regards,

A. Mazing Parent”

This is patently FALSE, but it represents an actual threat being thrown around in some schools. Such a threat is easily addressed and requires only a simple response from parents. However, an undocumented claim cannot be officially refuted, so…

…GET IT IN WRITING.

These communications are your documentation. The district cannot lose them, delete them, or claim they did not receive them. They are public records and are, therefore, retrievable under the Freedom Of Information Act. Some districts have official policy that parents must be responded to within a certain amount of time (24, 48 hours, etc.).

In some cases, the communication sent from districts is so egregious, that it warrants being reported to the general public via the press.  The press can be our friend, but only if you have documentation.

Computers crash. Save these e-mail threads.

Remember… YOU are the final authority on your child’s education. 

Get it in writing

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