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by Sandy Stenoff

Testing begins again tomorrow and will last through the month of May. 

Schools and staff are mandated by Florida law to administer the FSA. They are not obligated to accommodate parental wishes to opt out, even when they agree with our reasons for doing so. Proctors, teachers, and staff may not facilitate your decision to opt out. If your child decides, for whatever reason, to take the FSA against your wishes (it happens), that is between you and your child. The school cannot intervene to make sure your child opts out, under any condition.

This was shared with us by a teacher. Parents should pay attention.

“I want to share what our school’s testing coordinator told us about Opt Out.
Verbatim. In writing. From the district.

“Opt Out – all letters must go in your bin. These kids may or may not sign the testing agreement – that is okay. DO NOT FORCE them to sign it.

a. Paper Based Opt Out – they will break the seal on the test and put their heads down/slide the test away.

b. Computer Based Opt Out – they will login and once the test is released they will end the test and possibly close their laptops. That is okay.

c. NO letter, but kid said Momma told them not to test?

Notifying the school or teacher well ahead of time is very important. I can assure you that an email sent to me the morning of the test might not be read in time. We are prepping our rooms, filling out forms, etc. Plan ahead. 

Unfortunately, we can’t just take your child’s word that they are opting out. This has been a problem with secondary students. Mom didn’t agree – and the teacher, who wanted to be kind and supportive of the student, got in trouble.

These are the testing rules read to students

Remember that your child must first sit through the required script to actually get to the test. That process including passing out packets and verifying information on the label can last 20 – 25 minutes or so. The script might sound “mean” to younger children because they aren’t used to their teacher talking like that! It might help if you prepare them for what can sound like a firm lecture. 

In particular, computer based tests can add extra time, if there are technical issues. Your student has to get to the test release point before they can start and immediately end their test session. They have to login. This is one reason why it is sometimes difficult to get a precise start time from the office.

Not all schools and test coordinators are the same, so my comments may not be universal. It’s one school in one county. Parents should not read this and think that it has to apply to their school in the same way. It may or may not. The advice from our testing coordinator was how our school chose to handle Opt Out.

(We teachers are actually pushing for an Opt Out room where those students are placed into the same testing group.)

One of my main points was that if you are just now deciding to opt out for tomorrow and you haven’t yet notified the school, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t go well.

Please consider that most students are not opting out and it is disruptive and discourteous for your child to break the rules (like pulling out a book or a cellphone). (And in extreme cases could invalidate some other child’s test.) I wish there were an easier process. 

Elections have consequences.”

We appreciate this teacher for sharing her perspective and this helpful information.

A very important point here is that parents MUST communicate to their children, as appropriately as possible, WHY it is that they have decided to opt out of the FSA. Make your reasons clear to your child, so that they will be able to opt out with confidence, knowing that you are their advocate and will be there to back them up.  They are, after all, the ones doing the opting out. If you are having a hard time starting the conversation, this article may help, especially with younger children: If I Didn’t Opt Out, I’d Be A Liar

In years past, there were times when we had to suggest that parents not give the schools too much advance notice because some schools had been bullying parents and students over the issue of opting out. Today, most schools are aware of opting out and this year in particular, we have seen districts be far more open and cooperative than they have been. For the sake of the kids, parents should work with their schools for the most peaceful opt out possible.

We urge parents to send in their opt out letters as a courtesy, so that schools can plan accordingly. It’s Opt Out Eve again, so if you’re just sending in your letters, a brief email is a good idea.
Link: Sample letters
Subject: Opting Out May 1

At the very least, send in a BRIEF signed note with your phone number, so the school can verify that opting out is YOUR decision, not your child’s.

If your child is urged more than once to take the test, he can simply give the note to the proctor and the school will call you.

If your child’s tests don’t start for a few days, you may have time to schedule a brief meeting. A polite, face-to-face conversation like this between parent and teacher or Admin might go a long way toward ensuring that your child will achieve the smoothest opt out possible:

“Mrs. Crabtree, I realize that you have a job to do – to administer the FSA to all students. I’m asking that you please keep in mind that I also have a job to do – to make the decisions that I believe are in the best interests of my child’s education. How can we work together to make this happen smoothly, with as little disruption as possible?”

If you’re comfortable, share your reasons with them. You may be surprised to learn that they feel very similarly about these high stakes tests.

Remember this. Our schools are not our enemy. Neither are we theirs. Parents, teachers and schools have to work together cooperatively and respectfully if we want to achieve true assessment reform. And that will happen when enough parents opt out and shut down the data highway to Tallahassee.

Remember why you’re opting out.

In case you need a few reminders…

Complete 2019 Opt Out Guide
2019 Opt Out Pocket Guide – Opt Out Fact Sheet and How To
Sample Opt Out letters
Opt Out Toolbox
Third Grade Opt Out Toolbox
Your school’s testing calendar should be available on your school’s website.