“Opt Out” groups are pushing back against what they say is too much standardized testing in Florida. The tests are changing as the state transitions to Florida Standards - an offshoot of the Common Core standards being implemented around the country.
Two-dozen groups have been formed at the district level to help parents learn the procedure for opting their students out of the tests. By following a specific procedure (which may vary depending on the district), the student’s test is invalidated. The result is that the student doesn’t fail, school grades and teacher pay aren’t impacted, and the district is forced to find an alternative means of assessing what the student has learned.
Cindy Hamilton, co-founder of Opt Out Orlando, talked with StateImpact Florida’s Gina Jordan about why she wants an end to so much testing and what she’d like to see happen instead.
Specifically, what kind of tests are you opposing?
Tests with high stakes, punitive consequences. These are tests that have too much power in regards to what happens to the student if they don’t do well on the test. They are tests that are not formative. They are tests that measure teachers, and not students, and they are not useful in the education of our children.
Critics say the students are being given too many assessments. They question how good these tests really are at assessing kids. They wonder how the results might be used. What else are you concerned about?
We’re concerned that students’ futures are being determined by one test. Kids should be assessed using multiple measures that include with equal weight our teacher-developed and delivered assessment. Our testing system has ceased to be about evaluating a student, and it’s all about comparing our students to other students across the country and across the world.
This country tests everyone. We test kids who don’t speak English. We test kids who have learning disabilities. Those other countries don’t test the same way that we test.
Why do you think the anti-testing movement is gaining traction?
We have had so many new assessments all being implemented in one year. We have a brand new test replacing FCAT that nobody has seen. We are implementing a new accountability system for teachers - the end-of-course exams. These kids are having to take hours and hours of tests, which means less instruction time.
Ultimately, what do you want to see happen in schools with testing?
The Opt Out movement was never about convincing districts to opt out of tests. The Opt Out movement has always been about teaching families how to opt out their own students. What we need the districts to do is get out of our way. The Opt Out movement is about protest through not taking the test. Our goal is to bring the testing machine to a stop.
What do you think useful and worthwhile testing looks like?
I think that useful testing is an assessment that a student does that the teacher gets to really evaluate the gains and growth of the children in their classroom. What we want to see happen is for our students to be evaluated using authentic assessment, and that means we would like for teachers to be able to weigh in on evaluating students with equal weight of a test. We would also like to be able to see the test once it’s been graded.
Until we can see the results of the test, we aren’t going to take them. There’s just no reason to have a student denied a diploma based on a test that they can never, ever see the results of.