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Third Grade Stand Strong

In spite of the students we know of who opted out of the FSA – AND HAVE NOW BEEN PROMOTED to the Fourth Grade based ONLY on their report cards (and we are learning of more each day)… THIS is what is going out to parents from school districts now:

Hey, Third Grade Opt Outers! We still want your data to rate your teachers.  Don’t give us your crap excuses, You didn’t cut the mustard!  SAT10 for you… THIS week!

Last week, school districts in Florida began releasing Third Grade FSA scores.

Then almost simultaneously, an odd thing happened.

Parents who opted out their Third Graders this spring began to receive letters and notices (for some with no notice… it will just be a surprise), informing them that because their child had no FSA score, upon which to base their promotion, beginning MONDAY, MAY 23, they will have a new “opportunity” to forsake their child’s data to the SAT10 Swami or the IOWA Intelligentsia, who could, if they pass, pronounce the child, FINALLY, fit for promotion. Never mind that the kids had a whole year of work behind them, and report cards PROVING that they could indeed “cut the Third Grade mustard.”

Some who opted out, were told they had failed, when, in fact, they had no score at all. This just goes to show how misinformed schools are about testing policies – and how quick they are to disseminate bad information, without verification.

We are already seeing that Third Graders who opted out ARE being promoted WITHOUT alternative assessments. This underscores that it CAN be done.

Informed parents have been courageously withstanding the pressure to allow their children to take the alternative tests.  Their children would more than likely pass these tests. The issue is less about the test itself, than that further testing is completely unnecessary and unwarranted.

Subjecting children to further testing in order to declare them fit for promotion goes against everything we fight for – an authentic education. It negates the student’s body of work for an entire year, a teacher’s time with the child, all the teaching and learning that has happened over the course of a year  and reinforces that a single test score is all that counts. And we cannot support this position.

Third graders without a reading deficiency should be promoted on the same basis as a Fourth grader is promoted to the Fifth grade. The threat of retention was meant to apply to students WITH a reading deficiency. There is nothing in Florida Statute to inform the promotion decision of Fourth graders or Fifth graders… The same goes for Third graders without a reading deficiency.

If there is no threat of retention, there is no need for a good cause exemption to justify promotion.  Parents may insist that the report card be used for promotion decisions. They should insist on that. It is the tool, which schools use for documenting progression and promotion in all other grades and indeed should be the tool used for Third graders without reading deficiency.

If you are being told that in order to be promoted to Fourth grade, your child must take the SAT10, IOWA or the series of forty-two (yes, 42) secret, mini-FSA tests that the district is calling a portfolio…

Don’t you believe it!

If your child is a good reader – and if you trust that their report card correctly represents a year’s work – and is a better measure of your child’s fitness to be promoted to the Fourth grade, than a test score on a single test, then YOU, as the parent, will have to decide if you will allow your child to be subjected to still more testing, just because your district says so, even though the law does not require it.

In the absence of an FSA score, which the state says, is not the sole determiner for promotion, by demanding another test score, is your district saying that your child’s work for the entire year counts for NOTHING?

Here are the possible scenarios:

  1. If you opt out of the alternative assessment (SAT10 or IOWA), the school will be forced to use the actual record of your child’s body of work for the school year.
  1. If your child takes the SAT10 or the IOWA, and fails it, this will provide your school with the documentation to retain your child in the third grade – the same as a failing score on the FSA.
  1. If your child takes the SAT10, IOWA, or the “portfolio” tests and passes, your child will be promoted. However, you will also have relinquished your child’s data to the system, by which to rate and rank their teacher, perpetuating the high stakes attached to testing, which is, hopefully, why you opted out in the first place.

Parents can choose to stand up to the bully districts and opt out of the alternative assessments, which are not needed to prove grade level mastery. If your school incorrectly insists that your child must be retained, this could provide a valuable opportunity to test the system.

IF your child does NOT have a reading deficiency and the district insists on retaining him/her, you can request every single piece of data from this year. That data could be evaluated by someone other than the district for proof that grade level mastery has been obtained (see “Actions of Last Resort” below).

IF the statement can be made and proven that your child is NOT deficient, retention would seem to violate his/her right to a free and appropriate education, as your child would be unable to grow to the next grade level, as that has already been accomplished… your child would be forced to stagnate by district decision and that would be inappropriate instruction.

WHEN school districts realize the quicksand they’re in and CORRECTLY promote the children, with NO deficiency, AND with NO FSA score, you may help to set a precedent, by which other districts can see that children ARE in fact able to be promoted, based solely on the basis of a satisfactory report card.

Already, children, whose parents opted them out, are being summoned to the SAT10 or the IOWA test – and some parents are seeking legal counsel, because districts are saying, essentially, that they are prepared to retain children with NO documented reading deficiency.

Parents have leverage now.  If districts retain kids without a reading deficiency, parents can take this fight to the next level and force a decision in a court of law. Parents have the ability to be the game-changer.

While nothing presented in The Opt Out Florida Network is to be construed as legal advice, this document, “Analysis of the statutory provisions pertaining to the 3rd grade threat of retention” is important reading for all Third Grade parents and offers thoughtful insight into our position on the “threat of Third Grade retention.”

It is ALWAYS your option to withdraw your child from school at any time and register him/her as a homeschool student.

  • If you are confident that your child has mastered the Third Grade, you can compile a portfolio of all of your child’s work for the year (you may need to get some classwork from the teacher) and have it reviewed by a certified teacher (we can help you to find one).
  • Gather ALL of your child’s work, and organize it in a 3-ring binder, in date order, separated by subjects – ELA and Reading, Math, Science and Social Studies. THIS is your child’s portfolio, NOT the 42 separate and secret mini-FSA-tests that the state calls a portfolio.
  • If the portfolio is satisfactory, the teacher can certify your child as having met the requirements for the Third Grade. Your child would then be promoted to the Fourth grade and you can then register your child in the Fourth Grade.

If your child attends a magnet or a charter school, withdrawing your child could relinquish your child’s space at that school and there is no guarantee that you could re-enroll there.
NO more testing 3rd grade

If you have already been told that your child will be retained, or is at risk of retention, please read Opt Out Third Grade 101 in its entirety.

Helpful resources to keep you informed. Please share widely
* Navigating the Threat of 3rd Gr Retention: http://bit.ly/Gr3RetentionThreat

Although testing season is just about over, you can find local help and support in these groups. Get informed and organize with us as we prepare for next year!
* Special Opt Out group for Third Grade here: http://bit.ly/OOFL3rd
* Find your local Opt Out group: http://bit.ly/LocalOptOutGroups

Suggested reading:

Notable research on the practice of third grade retention:

  1. Grade Retention – Info for Parents – Jimerson
  2. Grade Retention – Guide for Parents – Jimerson
  3. Grade Retention & Promotion- Guide for Educators – Jimerson Renshaw Skokut
  4. Grade Retention – Fact sheet – Jimerson
  5. Grade Retention’s Negative Effects – Ineffective and possibly harmful
  6. Alternatives to grade retention – Jimerson Pletcher Kerr
  7. 10 Strategies to Fight Mandatory Retention – by Sue Whitney for Wrightslaw
  8. New Research Suggests Repeating Elementary Grades – even Kindergarten – is Harmful – Education By The Numbers
  9. Position Paper on Grade Retention and Social Promotion – National Association of School Psychologists

05/20/2016: Students at risk of failing because of FSA test – WFLX – Video
04/04/2016:  Florida Standards Assessments ‘never’ sole factor in promotion, state says – TB Times