My Opt-Out story.
By Angela Schroath
I have a daughter that is a junior at Centennial High School in the Meridian School District.
I wanted to opt out my daughter from taking the SBAC test this year, especially because for her grade the test will yield no results, and is not required for her to graduate.
My daughter has 4 AP classes this year and the AP tests are given the first week of May. I would rather she spend her time studying for these tests, that could give her college credit as opposed to taking the SBAC test that would have no bearing on her future.
The first step on my journey to opt her out of the SBAC began with the Idaho State Department of Education. I was first directed to Cathy Salas the SBAC Teacher Involvement Coordinator, she then directed me to TJ Bliss the SBAC K-12 State Lead for Idaho.
I spoke with Mr Bliss on the phone and told him that I had heard that the Junior class that would take the SBAC this year would not receive any results. I asked him if my daughter would need to take the SBAC in order to graduate from high school next year. Mr Bliss said “no”. I asked him if there would be any results from the test given to myself, my daughter, or any of her teachers. Again he said “no”. I asked Mr Bliss if my daughters grades would be affected if she did not participate in taking the SBAC test. Mr Bliss said “no”. Mr Bliss went on to explain to me that in order to receive federal funds, the children of the State of Idaho are required to take a State end of the year test. The Idaho State Department of Education received a waiver from the federal government from having to follow this rule for this year only. Because the State of Idaho has not given the SBAC before they requested the waiver so they could ‘field test’ the SBAC the first year and have results to compare with the Junior class for the following year. Mr Bliss told me that basically the Junior class would be doing the state a “service” by taking the SBAC test this year. Mr Bliss told me that in order to receive federal funding, 95% of the students (across the state) need to have taken a year end State test. I then asked Mr Bliss how my daughter could be one of the 5% and what steps I needed to take to opt her out of the SBAC.
I explained to Mr Bliss that I would prefer my daughter spend time preparing for her AP tests which she could easily do during the SBAC testing time. He told me that he agreed with me, that the Junior class was especially affected by the test this year as it would not be of any benefit to them—but it is a benefit to the State to have them do this as a “service” and provide a benchmark for the Junior class to be compared against next year.
He said that they have the 5% set aside for those such as myself that do not want their child to take the SBAC. Although without outright saying it, he did imply that they would not want everyone opting out their child—just those who felt strongly about their child not taking the SBAC or for people like myself that have children who are Juniors this year.
Mr Bliss said I would need to contact my school district to find out when the testing for my child’s school would take place and talk to them about opting my daughter out. Mr Bliss gave me Jackie Thomason’s phone number and I next contacted her.
Jackie Thomason is the Director of Assessment and Testing for the Meridian School District. I called and left her a message or two and she returned my call after a few days. I explained to her that I had spoken with TJ Bliss and that he gave me her number. I told her I wanted to know who I should speak to about opting my daughter out of the SBAC. I also told her my reasons for wanting to opt my daughter out of the test. She too agreed with my dilemma (of the Juniors this year not getting any results) but also asked if I had any younger children at home and suggested to me that if my daughter took the SBAC this year she would be doing a great service for her younger siblings. I told her that I do not have any other children at home as she is my youngest child. Mr Thomason then said that I would need to fill out an ‘official’ type of Opt-Out form then I would need to take that form to my daughter’s counselor at Centennial.
I printed the Opt-Out form from the Idahoans for Local Education website, filled it out, and added to the bottom that I would like my daughter to study for her AP exams during the SBAC testing time. I signed and dated the form and went to the school.
I spoke with my daughter’s counselor and explained to her that I had previously spoken with TJ Bliss at the Idaho State Department of Education, and with Jackie Thomason the testing and assessment director at the district and they had directed me to bring her my Opt-Out form so my daughter would not have to take the SBAC. I the counselor I would like my daughter to study for her AP tests during the SBAC time. The counselor told me that on the day of the SBAC she would have my daughter taken out of class and allowed to study in the library during the testing periods.
I had a very positive experience in opting out my daughter! I believe the following things helped the process of opting out of the SBAC go smoothly:
1. I researched the state graduation requirements and understood what was expected of my child.
2. I started with the Idaho State Department of Education to understand why the junior class was required to take the SBAC and the effect that the test would have on my child.
3. I was always polite, yet firm and focused on my child and what I felt was best for her.
4. I continued to follow the ‘chain of command’ by contacting my district before my school.
5. I made sure to speak to those by phone (not email) that are directly involved in testing and assessments at every level— state to district to my child’s school.
6. I had the proper form and a specific solution for what my child would do during the SBAC testing time period.
I may be somewhat of an exception to the rule because my daughter is a Junior this year, and she has no younger siblings. But what I learned from this experience is that there IS a way to opt your children out of the SBAC test, especially this year. The State will lose NO federal funding if more than 5% of the children do not take the SBAC test. It is my hope that in the coming year 2014-15, the State of Idaho will realize that the Common Core Standards and SBAC assessments are bad for Idaho! Please help elect leaders who will put the education of Idaho children back into the hands of Idaho parents and educators.
State of Idaho Department of Education
SBAC K-12 State Lead for Idaho
Meridian School District
Assessment and Testing