Colorado Parent & Teacher Offers Advice & Insights on Opting Out of TCAP

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Guest post by Darciann Samples, Colorado Parent and National Board Certified Teacher

The following is a letter from Darciann to all parents and students in Colorado who are interested in learning more about opting out of TCAP.

Hello,

Here is the first update on our second experience with opting out of high-stakes testing in Colorado, a state with a statute requiring administration of the test to all eligible students.  Students who attend school at any time during the testing window will be tested.

Last year, we sent an opt-out letter the day before testing, and spent the weekend facing calls and e-mails requesting a response.  We kept our ten year old son out of school for three days, were threatened with truancy court, and sent him back to school facing twelve hours of assessments.  The make-up exams were administered in increasingly intimidating circumstances but he held firm and refused to test.  The tests in the classroom were better, due to a kind teacher who recognized his right to refuse.

This year, my son told me he planned to “fake it” so as not to face the wrath of his unpleasant middle school reading teacher.  As a teacher myself, I decided to pay her the professional courtesy of letting her know his intentions.  I wanted to give her the opportunity to simply leave my son alone and allow him to sit quietly in the back of the room during the test.  His “refusal” would not affect her in the same way a failing score would.  I arrived early for my appointment and decided at the last minute to speak with the principal instead.  I had printed a copy of the state’s PowerPoint training for TCAP administration http://www.cde.state.co.us/assessment/documents/training/2013_TCAP_TestProctorTraining.ppt x , complete with the trainer’s notes of how to manage student behaviors.  Basically, teachers may not influence student performance in any way.  I know this, my son knows this, and now he knows we know this.

The principal’s first response was to refuse to discuss opting out, referring me to the assistant superintendent.  I remained calm and persisted through his talking points.  I stuck to my original purpose; that I am coming to him as a professional courtesy so that my son would not give the school a bad score.  After the principal calmed down, we had a rational conversation about the realities of the tests and the district’s response.  It was not until after he calmed down that I shared our participation in the potential class action lawsuit in regard to high-stakes testing in Colorado.  I told him of my son’s “strength of character” and “courage of conviction” while refusing to test under the individualized attention of the principal last year.  I shared my hope that children like mine will be leaders for positive change.  I repeated my original request several times throughout the meeting—simply seat my son at the back of the testing classroom and leave him alone.

I anticipate receiving calls and emails from the district in the coming week.  We met on Thursday and the district is closed on Friday.  I plan to follow the same strategy as last year; I will not respond to calls or emails.  This was effective last year and there were no repercussions.

I share this letter with any parent who is considering opting their child out of assessments.  You do not have to explain why you are following this path.  You do not have to justify physical, emotional, or political causes.  You simply state your case, in a letter or in person, and stand firm.  The less said, I believe, the better.  Don’t give them any openings to break down your thoughts or give you doubt.  You know your child, you know what is appropriate for your child, and you have the right to ensure that your wishes are upheld.

I send you my sincere wishes for a positive outcome,

Darciann Samples

Colorado Parent and National Board Certified Teacher

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