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by Sandy Stenoff 

PARENTS can grant consent – or withhold it.

Test scores are in. And the letters are going out.

From a parent:

“I am so upset. Please can you help me? My daughter is going into 8th grade and has received Straight A’s in all her advanced classes for 2 years in a row and in 5th grade. She also takes high school courses with A’s. She got a 2 on Reading FSA and now they are telling me she has to take Reading which will remove one of her high school classes in 8th grade. I never want her to take this test again. How do I get her out of Intensive Reading so she can take her high school electives and her Honors Algebra?

I feel that I should have known about opting her out. She came home the first day of the Writing FSA an absolute wreck. I will never put her through this again. After the 3 hours of FSA testing, her classes gave work, reading assignments, projects and more tests. It was an awful week returning from Spring Break and it took a toll on her.

Since test scores were released a few weeks ago, The Opt Out Florida Network has received many such messages from parents from all over the state, some far more egregious.

Remember, you are the parent and the final authority for your child’s education rests with YOU.

FSA scores were released on June 15, 2018 (herehere and here) and many parents are being informed that their child is being denied electives or class placement because he/she received a low FSA score. Some parents are being informed now. Others will learn of this at the beginning of the school year with surprise schedule changes. Students in Honors or AP classes, simultaneously placed in Intensive Reading, sacrificing electives (Art, Orchestra, foreign language or computers, etc.) based on FSA scores. Makes sense to you, right? Nope, me neither…

This is school or district policy, not state law and parents CAN challenge it. Be informed and take action.

The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) is clear (bold and underlined for emphasis):

“…the statewide, standardized English Language Arts assessment is not the sole determiner of promotion and that additional evaluations, portfolio reviews, and assessments are available to the child to assist parents and the school district in knowing when a child is reading at or above grade level and ready for grade promotion.” (https://info.fldoe.org/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-7208/dps-2014-128.pdf – Page 6) 

There are many more moving parts to this issue of poor class placement. For one thing, IF there is a deficiency, the school is obligated to provide written notice to parents earlier in the school year.  The school cannot simply remediate a child because of a single test score at the end of the year. There are other data that must be considered in that decision. If a child is actually deficient in reading, that deficiency must be identified and addressed. So parents should never just take anyone’s word that a test score says “your child must be remediated.”

There are only two scenarios:
1.  The child DOES NOT have a reading deficiency, just a low test score.
The parent’s input must be considered. If the school recommends remediation, the
parent may decline.
2.  The child DOES have a reading deficiency. The deficiency must be identified and
addressed with parents. There is a specific evaluation process that must happen.
Don’t let them off the hook.

When the school tells you that they have no choice because it’s the law, ask them POLITELY to provide it in writing – the law – the statute – or the district policy.
They will not. IT DOES NOT EXIST.

For those students with no FSA score because they opted out, there is no actual basis for these decisions, but that is no guarantee that districts and schools will not try to remediate these students – whether out of retaliation or because they are misinformed, it’s still wrong. Someone thinks this is what they are supposed to do. Children’s education is suffering because of this misinformation being passed down from school districts to schools. Without FSA scores, schools should rely on report cards and teacher recommendations for proper placement.

It’s summer and you can prepare now by becoming informed. Your child is relying on you to know your stuff. No one else is looking out for them. It’s up to YOU.

Informed parents do not need to be afraid or intimidated. Just persistent.

Here are some tools that have been proven to work – there is no magic here, just official district or state documents. In the Opt Out movement, these are our “power tools.” Use them to provide your child the education to which they are entitled.

Here is a form used in Broward County.

Other districts have similar forms, but in case your district tells you they don’t have one, you can use this language from the Broward form in your own email. I can recall no instances where a parent has challenged class placement based on test scores and has not been successful. You may need to be persistent, but you can do it!

“I understand why the course recommendation was made; however, I wish to have my child placed in (desired elective) instead of Intensive Reading. I am willing to provide the academic and emotional support my child may need while participating in this course.
Thank you very much for your concern. Looking forward to a great school year!

Or you can simply state:

I wish to have my child placed in his chosen elective(s), (list them here) and I am willing to provide the academic and emotional support my child may need while participating in this course.”

Use the information in this post with your child’s school if you need to. Send them the links to the material from the DOE.

Remediation based on FSA scores has not been a state requirement since 2015 and it has been successfully CHALLENGED many times.

Information on House Bill 7069 May 18, 2015 – Slide 11

Information on House Bill 7069 May 18, 2015 – Slide 12

From the Orlando Sentinel on HB7069 (May 8 2015): 

“HB 7069… ended the requirement for automatic “intensive” reading or math classes for students who scored below “satisfactory” on the tests, or less than a 3 on the 5-level exams. The Florida Department of Education in a memo today outlined the change for school superintendents. Schools, the memo said, must still provide help to students who struggle on the exams — and that could mean remedial classes.

But they can “make decisions that are in the best interest of each student regarding course enrollment and instructional support,” wrote Chancellor Hershel Lyons. Educators have long worried that the required remedial classes eliminated electives for many students, robbing them of a chance to take courses of interest or that might set them on a career path.”

You can read the entire article here.
Please read the memo in Resources below.

Even for Third Grade promotion, there are Good Cause Exemptions spelled out clearly in the FLDOE’s Promotion to Grade 4 Technical Assistance Paper (TAP) – to avoid retention and to progress without remediation. For more information on avoiding retention, please click here =>>: Third Grade Opt Out Toolbox.

If a child is to be retained legitimately, much more is required of the school than for the child to simply “do it all over again.” In the rare instance that a student actually needs to be retained, it should be negotiated with the input of the child’s educational team of parents, teacher, guidance counselor and principal, and with parental consent – there are strict guidelines that must be adhered to and parents should be aware of those as well. This information is also contained in the same TAP, under

Within the Florida education statutes, each school district has some flexibility for how to implement the law. Class placements and student progression are ultimately regulated by your school district’s “Student Progression Plan”. This document is the road map to help you navigate district policy for your child throughout the school year.

To be your child’s best advocate, you should familiarize yourself with the information pertinent to your child before school starts back in the fall.

To find yours, you can simply search the internet.
Example: Google “Seminole County student progression plan 2018”
This is what comes up: https://www.scps.k12.fl.us/_resources/documents/StudentProgressionPlan.pdf

For more on challenging class placement: Parents, YOU are the Boss… and you can say NO.

IMPORTANT – Remember to communicate with your school by e-mail. It is a written record, a timeline and documentation of your efforts to remedy the school’s mistake. Save it. It cannot be deleted by the school and they cannot say they didn’t receive your e-mail. If you use the information provided here and the school is still not cooperating with your request to correct class placement, forward your e-mail correspondence to your school board members and your superintendent and ask for help. CC your local education reporter. Not kidding.

One last note – Give the school staff the benefit of the doubt. Most schools are being given incorrect or insufficient information by the districts. Most will never have seen the information you are provided here. Yes, they should know better. Don’t waste your energy “being right.” Provide them the information so that they can do better for your child and move on.

Save your energy. We have bigger fights ahead.

This misuse of test data, especially when students have a clear record of performing well in school, should be a reminder to all parents that a low test score is always more harmful to children than no test score. All of this underscores just how invalid these tests are, giving no credit to teachers and students for a whole year of hard work teaching and learning.

For our public schools to return to common sense, and genuine teaching and learning, parents must stop feeding the testing machine and do the one thing we have the power to do. Deny the data used to harm our children, our teachers and our schools. Opt Out.

Please share this information. Someone you know needs it.