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by Sandy Stenoff

We have now been opting out for years in Florida and schools are increasingly familiar with the concept of opting out. Administrators are growing in awareness of our motivations and hopefully, understand that we are not working against them, but against the system. When parents communicate their wishes respectfully, schools may be more willing to work with them about opting out, within district rules.

Many students with exceptionalities or learning disabilities qualify for Exceptional Student Education (ESE) accommodations in a 504 or an IEP Individual Education Plan (IEP). Those accommodations may include extended time for testing.

In some cases, however –

Parents and teachers have reported that some students opting out have been made to “sit and stare,” or threatened with “sit and stare” for the entire allowable time for testing, even when the student has indicated that they’re finished with their test. And for some students, extended time can last the entire school day.

Here’s a great article on what Extended Sit and Stare looks like for kids taking the test, particularly for kids who opt out:
‘Sit and stare’ — what some kids who opt out of tests are forced to do

“…the policies are vague in an effort to intimidate parents into not opting out. She also said she has heard about at least one case in which children who have been granted double time to take exams because of a diagnosed disability or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have been told that they will have to sit and stare for the entire extended time they would have used to take the exam.”

That’s abusive and it’s NOT what the rules require.

In a comment on that article from “Jupiter Mom”:

“This isn’t anything new for Florida. Kids already have the “sit and stare” policy – test or no test. It’s awful for 3rd graders to have to sit in their desks with hands clasped and feet quiet while their classmates finish their tests. Kids are not allowed reading material, paper to doodle on or anything. When a student completes their test, they must just sit and stare. Kids are frustrated by this. And for a child who needs more time to complete their test (have this accommodation written on their IEP), it’s tortuous. These kids are not only given more time, the additional time is mandatory. Parents must decide how badly the kid needs more time because they will have to sit in their desks for the full, maximum allowed extra time – no matter when they complete their test. Kids with this accommodation are often ones with attention issues so this is more than abusive. Currently, all kids take the test- they must if they show up for school.  
But this is just one reason why high stakes testing is so destructive. We must end this nonsense that benefits no one except rich dudes in ed testing corporations.”

Jupiter Mom is correct… except for one thing. Although it may be mandatory to allow extended time, it is NOT mandatory to force the student to sit there in front of the test for the entire allowable extended time.  When the student says they are finished, they are finished.

According to the 2018–2019 FSA Accommodations Guide – page 6:

“A student may be provided extended time to complete a test session. Extended time must be provided in accordance with the student’s IEP or Section 504 Plan. Extended time is not unlimited time; it should align with the accommodation used regularly in the student’s classroom instruction and assessments. The student is not required to use all of the extended time that is allowed and may end the test session prior to the expiration of the extended time. Each test session must be completed within one school day.”

Therefore, if you notify your child’s school that you will be opting him/her out of testing and they indicate that they must still sit for the entire allowable extended time, because of an IEP or a 504, please share this document with them and let them know that, just as you want your child to be respectful at school, you expect your child to be treated respectfully.

They already have the Accommodations Guide and they know what the right thing is to do. But they may need to know that you know too.

And now you do.