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Misinformation and Half-Truths: Is This What We Have Come to Expect from Our Education System?

Rick Alonso

Friday, May 9, 2014 • 1:03am


After I wrote my article, A Parent’s Choice to Opt-Out / Refuse to Take NJ ASK, I honestly did not expect to get the amount of emails, phone calls, and posts on my Facebook site (End Common Core in New Jersey) that I received. 

My intent for writing the article was to post a parent’s disgust for what is happening to our children, teachers and education system. I would like to take this time to publicly thank all those parents that have contacted me; I feel your strength and resolve.

I understand how frustrating it can be for a parent who wants to exercise their legal rights and to “opt-out.” Actually, the legal terminology for a parent to use is not “opt-out” but instead “Refuse” their child from taking the NJ ASK/PARCC. For some reason, Administrators, Superintendents, Principals and Teachers in New Jersey (there are some exceptions) have not been educated that a parent has the legal right to “Refuse” their child from taking standardized tests.

According to a source who wished to remain anonymous at the New Jersey Department of Education-Assessment and Evaluation, “Being able to refuse is nothing new. I’ve been dealing with this opt-out/refuse question for four years now and I keep repeating the same thing. Legal guardians have the right to refuse the test.” The person also stated that "districts are allowed to create their own policy, but the policies must coincide with N.J.A.C. 6A:8-4.1(d). The district must administer the test to your child if they are present in school during the time when the test is being given. If the child is not present, the child will be marked absent from the test; not from school.”

There is a big difference between being marked out from a test and being marked out from the regular school day. Being marked out of the test (NJ ASK/PARCC) has no consequences to you or your child as far as the tests are concerned. However, some districts are incentivizing or in reality bribing parents and students to take the test. They claim to use the results of the tests to place your child in accelerated classes or rewards extra credit points towards the following fall semester. This could be a double edge sword. As stated in my previous article, your child may have an off day and they could be labeled negatively and will not get the same opportunity they need. I as a parent find this very disturbing.

I suggest we go back to the days when teacher worked side by side with parent to evaluate and create a curriculum that best fits the child’s needs; not some random test.

To illustrate my point of misinformation, here is one example from The Observer in an April 14, 2014 article written by Ron Leir entitled “Testing Worries Parents:”  

A posting on the North Arlington schools website notes: “Federal government requires districts to test – there is no way for parents to opt out. Schools need 95% subgroup participation; if not met, a corrective action plan will be imposed on schools. State DOE (Department of Education) indicates that parents may not opt out.” And, “… if a parent keeps a child home on testing and/or needed makeup days, these are unexcused absences.”

One needs to ask why the school districts are pushing so hard for these tests? If the ability to “Refuse” is our legal right and the NJDOE acknowledges it - then why don’t the school districts share this information?

As stated above, I received feedback from parents on my Facebook site, (End Common Core in New Jersey) that I would like to share: 

  • “Just called my daughter’s school to let them know I'll be sending the letter and I was told by the superintendent that she will be forced to take the test. And if she is in school [when they re-administer the test], she will have to take it on makeup days.”
     
  • “I've sent my letter opting out/refusing and the superintendent said that all kids need to be tested. I don't want my kids to miss nine days of school. I told my kids to refuse the test on the first day and see how the school handles it and then we will take it from there.”
     
  • “I spoke with my daughter’s principal today and she told me I could not opt-out my child because NJ is not an opt-out state. I’m very confused can you help me please?”

While New Jersey is not an “Opt-Out State,” the state is not informing parents that they do have the legal right to have their child “Refuse” to take the NJASK/PARCC. Threatening parents by stating that they will mark their child out from school (eight or nine days of unexcused absences) if they don’t take the test is disingenuous.

With all the misinformation, here are some typical comments you can expect to hear from parents and how you can advise them to take action: 
  • My child can't opt-out because NJ Law does not allow for you to opt-out.
    • Tell the school it is within your right to “Refuse” (Refuse is the key word ) your child from taking the test
    • Instruct the school to call the New Jersey Department of Education-Assessment and Evaluation at 609-341-3456. They will confirm a parent’s legal right to “Refuse.” 
       
  • If my child does not go to school for the test, they will be marked absent from school
    • Remind the school that they can only mark your child absent from the test, not from school.
    • Instruct the school to call the New Jersey Department of Education-Assessment and Evaluation at 609-341-3456. They will confirm that your child can only be marked absent from the test and not from school.
       
  • When my child’s school reschedules the test again (for those students who were absent when it was first administered) my child will still have to sit in for the test - even though they stayed home the first time it was offered.
    • Remind the school that you already “Refused” the test and that they have no authority to remove your child from their regularly scheduled classes.
    • Instruct the school to call New Jersey Department of Education-Assessment and Evaluation at 609-341-3456. They will confirm that the school district does not have the right to remove your child from their regular scheduled classes for the purpose of making-up the test.
       
  • I submitted my letter and the school approved my request.
    • You will need to discuss with an administrator (most likely the school’s principal) as to what time the testing will be over for that scheduled day. Your child will need to be present in school once the day’s testing is over; this will allow your child to attend their regularly scheduled classes.
      For example, let’s say the testing finishes at 10:30 a.m. - then you will need to bring your child into school by 10:15 a.m

Please note the use of the word “shall’ on page 24 of the Administrative Code - 6A:8-4.1

Subchapter 4. Implementation Of The Statewide Assessment System (c)
“District boards of education shall, according to a schedule prescribed by the Commissioner, administer the applicable Statewide assessments, including the six major components: the elementary assessment component for grades three through five; the middle school assessment component for grades six through eight, the HSPA, the AHSA and the APA for students with severe cognitive disabilities.” 

Subchapter 4. Implementation Of The Statewide Assessment System (d) 
Pursuant to (b) and (c) above, all students at grade levels three through 12, and at any other grade(s) designated by the Commissioner pursuant to (a) above, shall take all appropriate Statewide assessments as scheduled.

It is the above code that school districts most often refer to when contesting a parent’s right to “Refuse.” However, “shall” expresses only an intention; if the word “must” was used instead, that would be a NJDOE mandate.

The word “shall” was specifically chosen because, under in a long line of cases including Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), the liberty of parents has been specially protected by the “Due Process” clause” under Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment:

Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Citing this amendment, the Supreme Court, in the case of Troxel v. Granville, stated that "the interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children - is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court."

Whether we “Refuse” or not - standardized testing is here. I encourage all parents and legal guardians to please learn about standardized testing and Common Core. We owe it to our children, teachers, and our nation to be as informed as we can be. You can start by going to my Facebook site, “End Common Core in New Jersey,” and others like it.

I leave you with a quote from Frederick Douglas:

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

Rick Alonso is a resident of the Caldwells and is presently a candidate for Freeholder-at-large in Essex County, NJ. He can be contacted at Rick.Alonso@myaoaconsulting.com.

 

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