Sunday, April 23, 2017

PARCC Refusals and Doing the Right Thing

Last month, I wrote about some ridiculously punitive actions being taken against students whose parents had refused PARCC and the PARCC practice exercises. You can read about 3rd graders in detention here. As it was last year, as soon as the PARCC testing window began, so did the stories of intimidation by administrators to force students to participate in PARCC. Some examples of last year's craziness can be read here and here.

But what about districts who treat parents and students with just simple, common decency? Fortunately, those stories are out there too. They tend to be quiet. I certainly cannot blame any administrator for not wanting the punitive NJDOE spotlight on them. 

Here are just a few quotes from parents. I am not naming parents, students, or districts on purpose. Thanks to the parents who came forward to share their experiences. I hope their stories serve as examples to follow for the districts who are not treating students and parents like this. 

From Union County:
"I know there are lots of angry posts about treatment by opting out of PARCC, so I'd like to share positive experience... yes I said positive.We have a 4th grader in the XYZ district and we have opted him out of PARCC testing this coming week. We met no resistance from his teacher and none from his principal. In fact, his teacher provided us the following details so that both my son and I could be prepared for the testing week:
1. Exact testing time so that if we wished to bring him to school late we could, but he would be marked tardy for all days late to school (fair enough)
2. Where he would be while testing would be conducted
3. What he would be doing/allowed to do during the testing time: His teacher has gone the extra mile to give him work sheets and assignments on areas that he has needed a refresher on (not busy work) and reading assignments that are aligned with his reading enrichment teacher. In addition he may bring reading material, word searches crossword puzzles etc to do if he has extra time.
4. Pack a snack and a water bottle.
I know this is typically not the norm and I feel that this organization is more on the part of the individual teacher rather than the school administrators, but I appreciate the fact that we were met with zero resistance and so far no unpleasantries from the start of the opt-out process to present. Maybe it's because we discussed this with his teacher first, expressing our concerns about PARCC, then sent an email to both his teacher and principal, and finally the formal written letter as requested by the school.Thank you for letting me share our experience so far..."

From Essex County:
"There are other districts with humane and respectable practices. I live in one. It's important to note that it can be done if the administration is competent, courageous and ethical."
From Somerset County: 
"I have a positive experience with teachers, and administration in XYZ district. I sent written request.. it was approved n teacher told me that the school is having a separate room for opt-outs! Superintendent office tried to non-pushy to tell me why I should opt-in but I said no thanks n they said ok."
From Morris County:
"Positive experience in XYZ district. Even skipped most of the school form they provided (you're supposed to initial next to various statements (I understand and agree that Parcc is not a high stakes test, etc). Last year I attached a second file explaining why I wouldn't initial them. This year I just left blank and waited to see if they pushed back. Received a confirmation email from our elementary principal for our 3rd grader, and a phone call and email from the Asst Super for our 6th grader. I do think the call was in part to feel me out on how confident I was about refusing (just a hunch), but when she said 'I'm calling in regards to your refusal for Parcc for student name removed', I said 'Okay great, thanks' and then she stumbled over some words and said she was calling just to confirm."
From Cape May County:
"Positive experience here as well, in Cape May County. This marks the 3rd year for refusing PARCC (8th, 9th, and 10th grades; both intermediate and high school) and I've had nothing but pleasant experiences. This year, I was actually notified that I could bring my son into school after testing was complete for the day. I enjoyed spending the extra time with him, and driving him into school, for once. 
Everything has always been kept hush-hush in our particular school district and I believe it's because they realize the more resistance the school creates, the more students that figure out you can actually refuse PARCC. Unfortunately, the parents in our district aren't well informed, or simply don't care. I'm not sure which, probably a bit of both? But, each year, my son usually 'spills the beans' and has a couple groups of friends asking me how to refuse PARCC. 
I just simply direct their parents to the SOS, NJ, website to find the pre formatted refusal letter." 
The link to the Save Our Schools NJ (SOSNJ) information about refusing PARCC can be found here. In 2015, 233 districts were handling refusals without incident. SOSNJ created a list which can be found on their Facebook page here. Delran and Bloomfield Boards of Education were early leaders on this.

Our kids deserve more like this. 

If you have a positive story to share, please post in the comments. 

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