Cindy Rose BOE testing appeal 1

Cindy Rose is seen with her attorney, Shawn Cavenee, at her appeal hearing in August.

The Frederick County Board of Education is considering a policy to guide county schools when students refuse to take state standardized tests.

At least three members of the seven-member school board have already signaled their support for such a policy. Supporters on the board hope a policy would codify parents’ right to refuse tests on behalf of their children.

Discussion on testing refusals has intensified, largely due to the recent implementation of the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam, which is aligned to the state Common Core Standards. The first-ever statewide results for PARCC were released in late October, and were generally poor across the board.

While Frederick County Public Schools permits a child to refuse a test without consequence, the local school board has expressed frustration that the Maryland State Department of Education has not provided direction for what students should do in place of the test or how to treat parent refusals.

The Board of Education has heard conflicting responses from MSDE.

One parent, Cindy Rose, appealed to the school board in August on whether the school system could test her children without her permission. A document made public during the appeal process, on Maryland State Department of Education letterhead, stated that MSDE has advised local school systems to decline requests for refusals and to not provide alternative instruction during test times.

No state law or regulation exists pertaining to testing refusals.

The school board formally requested in mid-October that the state school board clarify its position on testing refusals. Board Vice President Liz Barrett said board members have repeatedly asked for guidance.

MSDE was closed on Wednesday for Veterans Day, and a representative could not be reached for comment.

For an item such as the refusal policy to be added to the school board’s agenda, one board member must submit a formal written request, with two other members signing off that they support discussion.

Board member Colleen Cusimano wrote the refusal policy request. Barrett and board member April Miller added their names.

Cusimano said she would appreciate feedback from the state, but characterized that as unlikely. Her goal would be to formalize a policy before the spring state standardized testing window opens in March.

The school board would discuss the policy in February, President Brad Young said.

Cusimano said in a separate interview that she hopes the board moves quickly in enacting a policy.

She said PARCC will eventually be a high school graduation requirement, but the state likely will offer alternate routes for graduation, as MSDE currently does if a student can’t pass the previous testing regiment.

Some students have testing anxiety, she said, and not performing well on a single exam shouldn’t prevent them from getting a high school diploma.

“So many students are very successful students who don’t perform well on an individual test,” she said.

No consistent practice has been applied when a student refuses to take a test, Cusimano said. In an October email to The Frederick News-Post, school district attorney Jamie Cannon said FCPS has advised schools to let children who refuse remain in the classroom. Students who refuse to take the PARCC may read a book, Cannon wrote.

Not all schools follow this suggestion to the letter, Cusimano said.

According to school district spokesman Michael Doerrer, 22 Frederick County students refused the PARCC in 2014-15.

In Washington County, the school board has not discussed testing opt-outs or locking in opt-out procedures, district spokesman Richard Wright said. He said he was surprised Frederick County would have such a policy, given the state’s “strong stance on it.”

Carroll County Public Schools revised its assessment policy in June, according to Gregory Bricca, the district’s director of research and accountability.

Carroll officials intentionally left out language pertaining to whether children must be assessed, Bricca said. That was partly because only a handful of “fairly insistent parents” expressed concerns about their children being administered the PARCC, he said. Some parents opted out by keeping children home during the test.

“We didn’t track every kid down and make them test, but if they were in school, we did assess them,” Bricca said.

Young was concerned that establishing a policy might jeopardize state or federal money. State and federal law mandate that the school district administers these tests.

Superintendent Terry Alban echoed Young’s worries.

“It will come down to the way it’s written,” she said.

Barrett called PARCC “a sham.” The initial idea failed to standardize testing, so students across multiple states could be compared, she said.

Other states in the consortium that adopted PARCC have developed their own scoring system, Barrett said. Both parents and students should be able to refuse a test they might not want to take and that is “developmentally inappropriate,” she said.

“I’m kind of tired [of] being patient about waiting for the state,” Barrett said. “I’d like to move in an advocacy direction and a policymaking direction, and I’m eager to do that.”

Board member Katie Groth, however, said that adopting a policy would conflict with the state’s recommendations. She said the board has a lot more to address in the school district than a refusal policy.

Some, like Cannon at the Rose hearing, have argued that a policy would encourage students or parents to refuse. In an interview, Miller said the policy would let students who can’t speak for themselves be represented by a parent and reduce anxiety among students and parents.

“You might have a really good student, and to refuse a test, they have to confront an authority figure and say no,” Miller said. “That should be a decision between a parent and the child.”

Follow Jeremy Bauer-Wolf on Twitter: @jbeowulf.

(2) comments

colleen_cusimano

There is a long list of state requirements for students to graduate from High School. All of the working adults functioning in the US today are doing so without the benefit of these universal high-stakes, winner-take-all test results. The stress from tests has been manufactured in our kids. The love of learning has never left the human race - try as we may to kill it.
Many, many students manage to fulfill graduation requirements and move on to college (often at earlier ages) after being home-schooled or private schooled. For the Gates Foundation and USDE to believe they have found the secret clues to brain development and the universal test to measure it would represent quite a level of delusion. Something they may have to admit now that the one-size-fits all test has resulted in a each-state-decides-their-own-measure outcome.

MAVRICKinc7

Does it really matter how much more we want to dummy down education, pass out graduation certificates to anyone one who wants and desperatly needs one to mount on their kids wall but with no accountablity for their futures or ours? After all, whose going to care for these parents and children opting out over the lame excuse that testing is too much pressure for their kids to cope with? Where are these kids going to be hidden away from the real world AFTER getting their diploma of merit in an educational system destined to MEDIOCRITY and made so abundantly clear by the PARCC scoring results we are trying so hard to cover up with MORE EXCUSES and not preparing them to deal with any other reality other than a parent's singular version of accountability and in perpetuity for the rest of their childrens lives.

Is a high school diploma (piece of paper) going to make a difference between advancing their children or just incubating and nesting them for the rest of their lives without knowing what its like to flap their wings or have any ability to fly on their own?

When PARCC becomes a stand of measurement for graduation, why not create a copout list of parents and their children who can attend graduation, get a diploma by default and carry on with the rest of their STRESS FREE lives, student and parent alike looking for somthing (as yet UNKNOWN) for nothing, but showing up and being counted as any other herd of cattle would be counted.

Recently, one of our commenters claimed that "people are not disposable" when in actuality they are and have been since the beginning of time. Isn't this latest round protest and complaints more about adding to the next herd of cattle branded for the slaughter pens, while sorting out prime beef from 80% lean and 20% fat?

If this is what the Maryland State Education Board and Frederick City and County Education board members want, then let segregated intellect come back to the REGION AGAIN, combine the 5 different tiers into two different populations, multiply it by the number you get with a white ratio against those of people of color. divide it by two and GUESS what the next PARCC test is going to reveal, having never lifted a finger to change or address the problem over the last decade, while pointing our fingers in all other directions but our own.

World markets are looking and wondering how long it will take for EDUCATION in the U.S. to be nothing more than a blip on their radar screens. If the TAIL continues to wag the dog, what chance do we have of ever making it back to the MOON or even Mars? Or, maybe we can send another chimp to outer-space like we did in the beginnings of space travel and consider that achievement, but without a high school education, other than by default?

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