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Bullying. It’s happening in Florida and we’re naming names. Our bully state is spawning bully districts and it needs to stop.

No state, district, or school can actually bully parents without their permission. Susceptibility to bullying is only possible if parents are uninformed.



Parents in the opt out movement have only been able to opt our children out successfully because we have become INFORMED.

Commissioner Pam Stewart’s #CampaignofIntimidation will continue as long as parents remain uninformed.  Threatening someone’s children could also be called emotional blackmail and the Commissioner is a repeat offender.

While it is no excuse, it has been our experience that many admins and staff are, themselves, uninformed or misinformed and are, thus, vulnerable to the districts’ and state’s convenient slant on testing. Therefore, in order to protect our children and their education, it is the responsibility of parents to make sure that THEY are informed.

Veteran teacher, parent activist and education advocate, Richard Sugerman says:

“Parents ARE often misinformed, no thanks to gag orders on teachers from local school boards. Parents have the cards stacked against them, and those boards are blaming them? Boards should admit their complicity in the ignorance of parents.”

Children are subject to bully regimes in school, and suffer the pressure and consequences of testing, not only because of the law, but also because schools are acting without the proper guidance and leadership from their superintendents and school boards. They will continue to get away with it as long as parents are deferential to their dictates.

Last year, in Florida alone, the FDOE reported that 20,709 tests were successfully refused. That number represents only the tests that the DOE reported were refused.  We believe that many more were not taken by children who were absent (kept home by parents) during testing. In New York, over 250,000 students opted out.  Altogether nationally, over 650,000 students opted out of the “mandatory” state tests.  So we KNOW that it is possible to opt out. We have been doing it successfully for years now.

We know of NO cases where students have been harmed by opting out.  We do know of many cases where students, teachers and schools have been harmed by students who opted IN.

As more and more parents learn that they can indeed opt their children out of the FSA without consequences, districts are being encouraged, even pressured and threatened to do everything possible to make sure parents get the message that testing is mandatory.

But that is only a half-truth. Do not expect the state to volunteer the whole truth.

From the Tampa Bay Times:

In a conference call with superintendents, Commissioner Pam Stewart made clear the message she wants the districts to promote. Testing is required, she said, just like vaccinations. Like it, or leave.

From her call notes, distributed to all districts:

“We all know there have been questions about opt out and that there were situations where this occurred last year. Section 1008.22, F.S., regarding statewide, standardized assessments, states clearly that participation is mandatory for all districts and all students attending public schools. My belief is that students that do not want to test should not be sitting in public schools, as it is mandatory and required for students seeking a standard high school diploma. Statewide, standardized assessments are part of requirement to attend school, like immunization records. That is our message and what we send to you to be shared with your staff.

Here is such a message from the commissioner via Orange County Public Schools and what follows is what the letter really means.OCPS 031716
If you have received a letter like this, keep reading.  It is nothing more than a bully letter, the kind which the DOE has instructed districts to send to parents. Some are more threatening than others, but they are basically the same form letter.

If parents are to deny the state the data it wants and protect their children from the harms of testing, parents MUST understand what is NOT meant by these bully letters, just as much as what is intended for you to understand.

Here is that bully letter translated into plain English:

Version 2
1- You are not asking permission. Do not ask permission. You do not need it. You may inform them – as a courtesy.  As in other documents, we suggest as little notice as possible if you feel you may be subject to harassment and coercion.

Version 3
2- The district and school are under the obligation to present each student with the state assessment. Your student, by sitting for the test without providing any answers, is participating, yet taking a stand against the testing. Students cannot be forced to answer questions. This is sometimes hard to convey with assurance.  NT vs NR2 is a bogus distinction and we can’t predict how tests will be coded as the DOE is not willing to commit to clarification at this time.

Version 4
3- ‘May’ is the operative word. Every situation is different and the Statute does have specific stakes attached to specific grades and to specific tests. But in general, state assessments are not the only basis on which decisions regarding promotion, remediation and placements are made.

The Statute also states at 1008.25(2) that

‘Each district school board shall establish a comprehensive plan for student progression which must provide for a student’s progression from one grade to another based on the student’s mastery of the standards….’

It is not in the interest of any teacher, principal, or district to retain, remediate, or limit access to courses for any student who has demonstrated proficiency, even if only on a report card or other in-class assessments.

– Specific provisions do exist for 3rd graders with documented reading deficiencies.
– The statute does attach 30% of the course grade to EOC exams.
– The graduation requirement of a passing score on the 10th grade ELA FSA can be satisfied with a concordant score on the SAT or ACT.

Version 5
4- Your student is showing up for the assessment and being administered the assessment. After that, it is in the hands of the school and district to do everything in their power to have your student’s participation count in order to avoid any negative consequences to the school and district.

The DOE has tried to throw a monkey wrench into the opt out process, because parents have been loathe to opt out if they felt it would negatively affect their teacher or schools. Since last year, the DOE seems to have changed some instructions or some information being sent down to districts. Some are saying that if no questions are answered, it will be counted as NT, which would count against schools and teachers. NR2 does not count against participation numbers, or at least they’re not supposed to.

My personal feeling is that if I can help it, I would like my child to get the NR2 code – “Did not meet attemptedness criteria.”  HOWEVER, if schools or districts are bullying students and not even allowing some to “participate,” so they can opt out, but only minimally, then so be it. The important thing is to deny the data. *HOW* that happens is up to districts and principals. Because one way or another, WE ARE OPTING OUT.

Do not get hung up on NT versus NR2. The FDOE will continue to play games with those codes. Deny the data that feeds the test monster.

==>> This needs to be made very clear to principals and superintendents. THEY need to be giving their schools clear directions about how to achieve the NR2 codes and what it means to them if they get a bunch of NTs. This is no longer our problem. The superintendents and districts can take on nagging the DOE for that definition from now on. We are over it.

It is NOT the duty or responsibility of ANY child, of any age, to sacrifice their education to protect teacher evaluations (I did not say teachers) nor school grades (read: real estate values). The adults in Tallahassee need to get THEIR act together and act to protect children from the corporate predators that support their campaigns. (Stupid-think, right?)

Version 6

5- Another empty threat. F.S. 1008.25 requires districts to have district-wide assessments – progression plans, yes, but not necessarily district-wide assessments. The District does have the responsibility to have in place comprehensive progression plans and to monitor progress according to that plan. Again, your student is not preventing the school or district from administering any assessments. No school nor district would benefit from retaining a student who does not have a documented reading deficiency and the absence of a score on any district-wide assessments is not an indication, in and of itself, of a deficiency.

Version 7
6- High Stakes Testing is negatively impacting your child and your school, not you. By taking a stand against the over-testing of students and the flawed accountability system which is based on these high stakes assessments, you and parents across the State have the potential to positively impact children, schools and the education system in Florida.

If your child has no reading deficiency, your child CANNOT be retained based solely on EITHER a failing FSA score or NO FSA score.

Please be sure to check out these resources to keep you informed. Please share widely.

– The fully-stocked Opt Out Toolbox: bit.ly/OptOutToolbox
– Complete 2018 Opt Out Guide (updated 3/24/18): http://bit.ly/CompleteOptOutGuide
– Find your local Opt Out group: http://bit.ly/LocalOptOutGroups
– Why we do this: bit.ly/PositionStatement


Thank you to Marie Claire Leman for her generous help in putting this post together.