To test or not to test: Should parents be able to decide whether kids take state exams?

testing (Medium)Should parents in Georgia decide whether their children take annual state exams?

A reader told me that her daughter was showing signs of test anxiety because her elementary school was already in the midst of prepping for the April CRCT.

So, the parent asked, “Can we legally opt-out?”

No, says the state Department of Education, which sent me this response:  “Given both state and federal law require all students test, we encourage parents to discuss their concerns with their local districts. Some districts have policies above and beyond state policies.”

When I last wrote about testing concerns, a parent posted that Georgia students can get around taking the CRCT, although the subterfuge seemed extreme to me and likely to cause the child even more stress.

The parent wrote, “All that is required is that you withdraw them from school and home school them through the two-week window of testing. As long as the student had done well in all core subjects the entire year, there is no way for a school to justify holding a child back. Know your rights. If there are problems, there is an appeal board that usually consists of the parents, teacher, principal. We did opt out  last year. Took child out of 8th grade for week of testing and the following week (used to retest) and then re-enrolled child after two weeks of home schooling.”

I am not sure how many kids would be comfortable formally withdrawing from school for two weeks.

But should there be a process under which students can win a reprieve from testing? Should the decision be based on student performance? Should students with exemplary grades be exempted from testing, as they often are in college classes?

FairTest has information on the growing opt-out movement.

I am pulling out a comment from this post from our resident testing expert Jerry Eads:

Most of the entries above assume that the CRCTs and EOCTs are a measure of something worthwhile. Au contraire. The tests only tell us whether a student “met” or “exceeded” totally arbitrary points on one minimum competency test that has one thing in common with the space program: low bid. The information sent back to the schools is of virtually no use to teachers or students as to what they might do better; the tests are of no use for instruction.

For too many students, the tests have driven schooling to be nothing more than trying to memorize factoids to regurgitate and then forget as quickly as possible. Learning quickly becomes drudgery instead of the joy that it should be. Effectively, students learn virtually nothing on the way to becoming citizens. Students (and teachers) learn to hate school, radically increasing the dropout rate for students and the attrition rate for teachers (particularly the good ones).

By the way, the ONLY purpose for the SAT and ACT is to predict FIRST year survival in college, nothing more. Even though they are two of the best made tests in the world, they don’t do that very well at all, and are of hardly any use to colleges in guessing whether a student will be successful.

I think it’s a great idea for parents to keep their kids away from the state minimum competency tests. Perhaps sooner rather than later the state would end this cruel enterprise that does little more than drain resources and worthwhile learning from schools.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

124 comments Add your comment

Diane

January 28th, 2013
1:58 am

If the kids are doing the work & earning good grades then, what is the point of testing them?!?! If the work shows they understand the material, it makes no sense to have them repeat it in a stressful situation by making them recount an entire year’s worth of work. In addition, they have been tested in increments throughout the year. A better idea would be to use their incremental test scores as their final test score and MAYBE have them review and retest on the material they didn’t do well with. Some children do great in the schooling, but are terrible test takers.

fjeremey

January 28th, 2013
5:26 am

I don’t know about CRCTs, but a student does not have to pass the EOCT to pass the class. If the student’s grade is high enough to compensate. And with weighted grades that’s not too difficult. EOCTs count as the final exam and are generally weighted at 20%, but that is only in the final exam category. The EOCT/final category gets weighted against the averages of the other categories; tests, quizzes, projects, homework, classwork, etc. If the student has done their work and passed their other tests it is likely that they could get a 65 or 60 on the EOCT and still pass the class. So relax and sit for the exam. You probably know more than you think.

That being said, I agree that there is too much testing, and too much emphasis placed on too expensive, poorly written exams that have little to do with authentic student learning. Projects and portfolios are the way to go. Assign students numbers and distribute the portfolios/capstone projects (in electronic format) evenly throughout the teachers in the state for grading. Teachers from the students school do not grade their own schools portfolios. We can do it instead of finals week.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

January 28th, 2013
5:56 am

I fully support parents doing what is best for their children, een if that means pulling them out during testing. However… they need to also be aware that doing so can be damaging to a school and district. Those test scores, fairly or not, are used to make judgements about how well teachers, schools and districts are doing. Money is tied to those test scores. If too many high performing students do not take the tests, then the school looks to be underperforming. The teachers and adminstrators may be reprimanded, replaced or have even greater accountability measures put in place. There are a plethora of mandates tied to those tests… Parents need to be aware of the unintended consequences of such a decision.

Dc

January 28th, 2013
6:18 am

Or maybe it’s a good idea to have them take it so they can begin to overcome test anxiety?? Unless of course you plan to have them skip the SAT as well……

KIM

January 28th, 2013
6:28 am

No, If a person does not choose public education, then either home school or seek a private school that meets their needs.

hssped

January 28th, 2013
6:43 am

Are you kidding? And then they can skip SATs, job entrance exams…hey…how about a doctor that skips his state boards? Parents need to get over it. If they freak, then their kids will freak. Just take the test and deal with the fall out. That’s life.

Cindy Lutenbacher

January 28th, 2013
6:45 am

Without the right to opt out (a right that many–most?–other states have), parents are more disempowered than ever. We need that right. We need that power. If enough of us united in opposition in such a way, we might be able to restore something of a voice. Right now, parents are easily ignored by policy makers.

mountain man

January 28th, 2013
6:50 am

“If the kids are doing the work & earning good grades then, what is the point of testing them?!?!”

The point is that there is no PROOF that they are doing the work and that the grades are really “earned” and not “given”. How many kids have been passed along to the next grade with a “C” when it is clear that they have no knowledge of the subject matter? If Georgia mandates that children be socially promoted, at least promote them after giving them an “F” if they deserve it. No more “No scores below 50%” and “no F’s allowed to be given”. What do you think CAUSED the testing craze? Social promotion and grade inflation!

catlady

January 28th, 2013
6:52 am

Research by the AJC a few years ago, how kids do on the CRCT as individuals doesn’t matter–they are virtually NEVER held back! CRCT is not predictive, eiher. Kids have little reason to try to do well, and the results show it. Finally, the child can fail the CRCT and somehow, by magic, after 3 weeks of additional instruction, pass it? Give me a break!

And I have told this before–I had an ELL child who almost passed the reading portion! This was a kid who had been here for a matter of months but she matched the words in the question to the words in the story and almost passed!

mountain man

January 28th, 2013
6:54 am

Parents want to “opt” their children out of testing. Why not just “opt” them out of education altogether? Just home school them all the time, teach them nothing, let them fail. If a child has been even an average performer in the class, he/she will have no trouble with the test. Test anxiety? Sort of like ADD, everyone has it these days. Get used to taking tests! They are here to stay.

Grob Hahn

January 28th, 2013
7:05 am

I bet if we just cancel all testing entirely that none of the children will ever have to suffer from test anxiety again. What a marvelous world that will be. We can raise our children with NONE of the normal stresses they will have to deal with in real life. That way they’ll be totally unprepared when life hits them in the face and will have us to thank for it. This is a stupid subject. Only a fool wants the tests to go away. Or a crooked politician. Or Beverly Hall!!!
Grobbbbbbbbbb

Might

January 28th, 2013
7:25 am

So will parents demand the kid skip the ACT of college exams? It is a test folks. It is not surgery or pulling a tooth. Get over it. It happens once each year.

What's Best for Kids?

January 28th, 2013
7:37 am

@fjeremey,
Although students don’t have to pass the EOCT to pass the class, they are required to pass one EOCT in each core subject area to graduate.
For Class of 2016, there is no more GHSGT, so the EOCT in one subject is actually necessary for the student to receive his or her diploma.
I have said before that there is too much testing.

What's Best for Kids?

January 28th, 2013
7:39 am

…hit send too soon.
Getting rid of the GHSGT is nice, though. Right now, the average 11th grader is tested 18 times in one year. That’s 10% or more of his or her school year, depending upon counties and their school year calendars.

AlreadySheared

January 28th, 2013
7:43 am

Apart from how easy the CRCTs are, the worst thing about them is that all learning essentially stops after they are administered. That’s around 4 weeks instruction that just vanishes from the end of the school year. Combine that with 2 weeks of CRCT cramming before the test, and you have yet another argument for private education.

Jessica

January 28th, 2013
7:50 am

@mountain man,
By law, homeschool students have to take standardized tests starting in third grade, and they generally do well on them. I’m sure there are a few lazy parents out there whose idea of homeschooling is to teach their kids nothing and let them fail, but that’s not the norm.

Jerry Eads

January 28th, 2013
8:07 am

Most of the entries above assume that the CRCTs and EOCTs are a measure of something worthwhile. Au contraire. The tests only tell us whether a student “met” or “exceeded” totally arbitrary points on one minimum competency test that has one thing in common with the space program: low bid. The information sent back to the schools is of virtually no use to teachers or students as to what they might do better; the tests are of no use for instruction.

For too many students, the tests have driven schooling to be nothing more than trying to memorize factoids to regurgitate and then forget as quickly as possible. Learning quickly becomes drudgery instead of the joy that it should be. Effectively, students learn virtually nothing on the way to becoming citizens. Students (and teachers) learn to hate school, radically increasing the dropout rate for students and the attrition rate for teachers (particularly the good ones).

By the way, the ONLY purpose for the SAT and ACT is to predict FIRST year survival in college, nothing more. Even though they are two of the best made tests in the world, they don’t do that very well at all, and are of hardly any use to colleges in guessing whether a student will be successful.

I think it’s a great idea for parents to keep their kids away from the state minimum competency tests. Perhaps sooner rather than later the state would end this cruel enterprise that does little more than drain resources and worthwhile learning from schools.

Atlanta Mom

January 28th, 2013
8:09 am

Our family loved testing week. No homework!
That said, I didn’t understand about all this test anxiety until my oldest child, in first grade started acting so weird I went to the school to talk to her teacher. Turns out her teacher was soooooo stressed because they were testing the next week. Her stress infected my child. It was crazy.

Simmer Down

January 28th, 2013
8:29 am

If your child can not pass the CRCT due to stress or lack of knowledge you as a parent need to know this so it can be addressed. Folks – the CRCT is a joke as far as content. It is so simple. If you however take away any real standardized form of measurement then you will end up back where we started which is just pushing kids through to the next level. Just pushing through kids to the next level has got to STOP. I agree with @alreadysheared that once the test is given there is virtually no instruction for the rest of the year because the year is over in the minds of many. It is not. If you do not plan to teach then let me have my kid back for that month and give us a longer summer with them.

Cindy Lutenbacher

January 28th, 2013
8:35 am

Thank you, Jerry Eads. You nail it.

ABC

January 28th, 2013
8:37 am

My youngest gets test anxiety, ONLY because of the enormous pressure the school places on those kids. He is an excellent student in a high performing school and has absolutely ZERO reason to get anxious. But the teachers get so freaking stressed out about the results that all they do for weeks on end is pound the kids about testing. It downright enrages me. Over 95% of the kids in that school have no reason to worry about that stupid CRCT. They could probably take the test at the beginning of the year, pass it with flying colors and get it over with. But oh noes..they have to freak out for two months until they take it.

I don’t think I can go through the extreme of withdrawing my kid for two kids, mostly because all that will do is hurt the school and district. As things stand now, the federal govt holds school responsible for the results of that moronic test and if enough high performing kids do this, the results will be disastrous. But I wish there was a way of requesting that my kid get tested now and get it the freak over with.

mifted

January 28th, 2013
8:41 am

ABC – This is a teacher problem and a Principal supervision problem. This should never happen.

Pride and Joy

January 28th, 2013
8:41 am

We absolutely HAVE to test ALL the students for this purpose: we cannot measure how well our schools are performing without them. To allow exemptions INVITES the school to cheat. The schools will absolutely unenroll and “encourage” parents of poor-performing students to opt out so that the school’s scores appear improve or even falsify the kids as being home-schooled for two weeks.
However…
Let’s get real here. It’s not the test that actually causes this anxiety, which is real. It is the teachers and the schools who put the anxiety on the kids because they know the test measures how well they teach.
When I took standardized tests, I was told to get a good night’s rest, eat a good breakfast and bring two number two pencils to school…that’s it.
Today kids are constantly berated to do well…not for their own sake…but for the benefit of the teachers and the school systems’ scores.
So, when children are experiencing test anxiety, don’t blame the test…blame the teachers and the schools who are creating inappropriate and harmful pressure on the children and when appropriate…litigate.

bootney farnsworth

January 28th, 2013
8:42 am

actually, I like the idea. it needs to be made clear to the parents this act could have negative blowback on their kids later, and sign off on it. and don’t come blaming the system later for the decisions they made if it blows up in their faces.

myself I think CRCT is the single most stupid thing in education right now, and we’ll all be better when it goes the way of the Dodo. everyone in education knows it, including the idiots in DC and the lobbyists who pushed it.

the best reason for letting kids take the stupid thing is simple: we all have stupid crap we have to do in life, and this is a introduction to that concept.

bootney farnsworth

January 28th, 2013
8:46 am

@ mountain man,

I’m a long time supporter of making public ed optional after middle school.

Mother of 2

January 28th, 2013
8:47 am

I agree with Atlanta Mom. We also loved testing week. My kids were having fun, but their teachers were definitely stressed. Parents of children with test anxiety have the elementary years to help their kids deal with the anxiety. My kids were so used to taking standardized tests that they were very calm sitting for the SAT. While I agree that we over test our kids, I think that many of these tests are here to stay and parents need to help their children deal with the stress they impart. Students who can’t handle the tests should probably be in a different type of school environment (private or home school). It’s important to match the learning environment with individual student needs.

bootney farnsworth

January 28th, 2013
8:52 am

@ ABC

in all genuine sincerity:

if your child has that level of test anxiety, I strongly suggest you take him to a mental health professional. I’ve been in higher ed longer than many here have been alive, and the trend is for more and more of these kinds of stupid do nothing tests.

and the higher he goes in education, the more intense the real tests get as well. not to mention how this might manifest in the work world when faced with tight deadlines and imbeciles for supervisors.

if you can start working with him now, it may do a lot towards helping him out in overall life later.

A reader

January 28th, 2013
8:57 am

I wish I could opt out of work anytime things get stressful. These “clever” parents who have found a way to opt out of testing by taking their child out of school for 2 weeks are essentially teaching them then when things happen that you do not like, well just stay home. That is not a good strategy to get through life.

Centrist

January 28th, 2013
9:13 am

Poor babies have to worry about “test anxiety”.

O.K., fine – parents who have the need to coddle their children should be able to keep them home and exempt them from being tested on their knowledge and comprehension. We need more waiters and waitresses anyhow.

KIM

January 28th, 2013
9:14 am

I hear the many helicopters. Pretty soon we will have everyone feeling good again, and no measure of who will lead us in the future. And no one will have to work to be the best. But we’ll all feel really good. I mean, after all, those silly tests are just a waste of time…and, I don’t want anyone to feel bad if he or she does not do well. I don’t want them to have to do the homework either, because it stresses our family. When I come home from work I don’t want to have to help my kids do the math or the language….and I don’t want them to have to read so much. We can’t do the video games we want to do because they are having to read. And don’t correct my child. He will learn from his parents how to behave and he will become responsible and able to compete with the world from us. We have been sooo successful.

bootney farnsworth

January 28th, 2013
9:14 am

@ Atl Mom

oversimplified, here’s why the faculty was so crazy.

-faculty know CRCT is useless. and they resent the imposition it has on actual teaching time. they are supposed to get XYZ accomplished in the classroom. benchmarks set based on classroom days, but not taking into account nearly 1/3 of the year gets eaten up by CRCT in one way or another.

-admin types go crazy because CRCT means money and recognition. and in the business of education, this is the most important thing of all. even when blessed with on site management who actually cares about education (most don’t) they report to somebody who does.

Google "NEA" and "union"

January 28th, 2013
9:14 am

So in this case Maureen’s for “parental choice” … if it helps traditional public schools evade accountability.

Whirled Peas

January 28th, 2013
9:19 am

If kids are going to a poor school, should parents have to pay for it?

Pluto

January 28th, 2013
9:21 am

Isn’t life pretty much a final exam? If you cannot handle the heat then you probably won’t do very well in life either. I guess the assumption you make here is that “most” parents have a lick of sense which is debatable at best.

bootney farnsworth

January 28th, 2013
9:29 am

@ whirled

schools are a reflection of the values of a community. in a sense, they already (past tense) have paid for it.

teacher&mom

January 28th, 2013
9:36 am

“If you cannot handle the heat then you probably won’t do very well in life either. ”

“I wish I could opt out of work anytime things get stressful. ”

Ya’ll realize we are talking about CHILDREN….you know….8, 9, 10 years olds? Who in their right mind expects a 10 year old to handle stress like an adult?

I don’t have a problem with a parent opting out of the CRCT. The info provided by the CRCT is useless. Schools can give short, in-house academic screeners for much less time and money with better results.

EOCT’s are a different story since they count 20% of the final grade. By high school, most students are ready for the “pressure” and can handle it much better.

Me

January 28th, 2013
9:37 am

“blame the teachers and the schools who are creating inappropriate and harmful pressure on the children and when appropriate…litigate.”

No – blame the legislators and policy wonks who dictate that the schools and teachers have to show increases every year and expect even the 70 IQ students to do as well as the 150 IQ students.

Teachers and school administrators have Nothing to do with whether or not your kid has to take the test – they are bound by state laws.

Litigate? Seriously? Against who? Districts are mandated by State and Federal law to give the tests.

Think before you post please.

Batgirl

January 28th, 2013
9:58 am

No, students should not be able to opt out. As someone said earlier, school systems are judged by their students’ test scores, and I fear the only ones left taking the tests would be those students whose parents don’t care enough to sign a form opting their child out.

indigo

January 28th, 2013
9:59 am

“We must be careful not to discourage our twelve-year olds by making them waste the best years of their lives on preparing for examinations”

Freemam Dyson
Professsor of Physics
Institute For Advanced Study
Princton University

northern neighbor

January 28th, 2013
10:14 am

CORRECT – High Stress environment is a superintendent/principal/teacher issue and should be dealt with.
CORRECT – student test anxiety should be addressed by the parent, teacher, counselor and principal. There will always be tests, some more stressful than others. Students must learn to deal with them.
INCORRECT – “The tests only tell us whether a student “met” or “exceeded” totally arbitrary points
— That is a stupid statement. The testing materials are NOT totally arbitrary.
COMMENT – “low bid” Another stupid statement. Even the low bid must meet the bids specs which disqualifies most companies from even bidding.
COMMENT – “The information sent back to the schools is of virtually no use to teachers or students as to what they might do better; the tests are of no use for instruction.” This is probably true regarding the teachers and students, but it does provide a parent a relative indicator of performance, and certainly is helpful to good administrators as one data point they consider in system performance evaluation and planning.

Pride and Joy

January 28th, 2013
10:21 am

Diane asks a fair question “If the kids are doing the work & earning good grades then, what is the point of testing them?!?!”
Because many students who are passing and “earning” good grades…can’t read. They drop out of high school. They become criminals.
Education is political. No school wants to admit they are not teaching well. So nearly everyone gets promoted. Grades are inflated.
And as long as federal money is tied to test scores on standardized tests, schools WILL give them ESPECIALLY if your child can pass them. It’s the cihldren who can’t pass them that get shifted to a “10.5″ grade to hide them or told to go home sick or “transferred” before testing time.
I want standardized tests. I deserve to know what I am getting for my tax dollars and I deserve to know the quality of the school to which I send my child. Education is THE most important indicator of future income and our nation and democracy depend on genuinely, educated citizens.

Pride and Joy

January 28th, 2013
10:28 am

Schools are required to GIVE the test. Schools and teachers are NOT required to harass, bully, threaten and mentally abuse the kids so that a teacher gets her bonus and the school gets its extra twenty helpings of my federal tax dollars.
Litigate where you ask?
Litigate against the school and the individual teacher for child abuse. Mental abuse.
You cannot terrorize children just so you can get your bonus.
And that’s what this is all about — you. Certainly not the kids.

Pride and Joy

January 28th, 2013
10:35 am

fjeremey you make a good point when you say that “Teachers from the students school do not grade their own schools portfolios. We can do it instead of finals week.”
However, guess who chooses which papers and projects to put into the portfolio? The teacher who has the most to gain form cherry-picking the best of the best instead of the real examples of a child’s work…and…
Maybe you haven’t heard…In Atlanta teachers actually did the work themselves and passed it off as the child’s work. They wrote lovely poems and prose and hung it up all over the school as examples of their students work.
In essence, portfolios make it easier for teacjers and schools to lie and cheat.
What we need to do is have a disinterested third party come in with the exams and give the tests and remove the tests form the school while the entire staff of the school is out of the building and off of the campus to exclude the real chance of teachers, schools and districts manipulating test scores.

Maude

January 28th, 2013
10:38 am

If the test is required everyone should have to take it, parents should not have to right to remove their child. Doing so will only teach the child that they did not have to do what is required of them if they choose not to. Do we want a country where adults think they can pick and choose what parts of being a citizen they want to follow and think they can ignore the rest?

Maude

January 28th, 2013
10:38 am

If the test is required everyone should have to take it, parents should not have to right to remove their child. Doing so will only teach the child that they did not have to do what is required of them if they choose not to. Do we want a country where adults think they can pick and choose what parts of being a citizen they want to follow and think they can ignore the rest?

BehindEnemyLines

January 28th, 2013
10:54 am

People against accountability? AJC readers refusing to cope with reality? {gasp} Who woulda thunk it?

ABC

January 28th, 2013
10:54 am

To the poster that say it is a Principal supervision problem: well, I don’t disagree with that, but the principals are under tremendous pressure as well. If the school underperforms, it invites disaster. All for the sake of that moronic NCLB initiative which has proved NOTHING, except that no one got ahead.

To the poster that suggested I take my child to a therapist: bite me. My kid doesn’t have test anxiety, he just stresses over this particular test because all the teacher does for two freakin months is drill them and pound on them and stress them out over a stupid test that he can pass with his eyes closed.He never stresses over any kind of testing because he is always prepared and because the teachers don’t spend two months stressing them out over it.

I don’t coddle my kid, I don’t helicopter over my kids and sure as he11 don’t pamper him. But no 9 year old needs to be under that kind of pressure over something that means nothing and it is stupid to begin with.

Jerry Eads

January 28th, 2013
10:56 am

Thanks Cindy, but I have very little hope that many will learn. People are bound and determined to stay under the frightful delusion that these tests tell us something useful about a child’s learning. While knowledge ABOUT something is indeed necessary, it’s totally insufficient. It’s what people can DO with it that’s important, and we’ve lost sight of that.

It’s possible, I think, that the “Commond Core” will help that. The CC itself demands higher order thinking and reasoning; it remains to be seen whether we’ll be able to afford that in the testing. And then convince administrators that it’s okay to let teachers let learning be fun again.

Lynn43

January 28th, 2013
10:59 am

On these standardized test, how do we know that the answer the “grader” is wanting is correct. Sometimes there is more than one correct answer. Many, many years ago my school gave a test which no longer exist. One of the science questions had to do with the level of pitch in relation to the amount of water in a bottle. Knowing that this was one of the things I taught, a teacher asked me to review my lesson with her students. When the results came back, all my students had failed. After all of us researched the reason, we found the reason. The answer was based on hitting the bottle, and my students were taught “level pitch” by blowing into the bottle which produces exactly opposite results. Nothing was mentioned in the instruction manuel on how they wanted the sound produced or how to get the answer wanted by the “graders” all of whom were non-musicians. There was a “storm”, and this test was eliminated as one the students in my district had to take. Because educators on the local level have so little access to the test, how do we know our students are being graded correctly and that the grades even adequately reflect what the students really know?

Devil's Advocate

January 28th, 2013
11:02 am

I don’t have a problem with standardized tests. I have a problem with teachers being forced to teach to the standardized test instead of teaching the subject matter in a sensible manner. That said…

Sometimes people complain for the sake of complaining. Often times people game a system simply because they can. Avoiding a test because it is too stressful has got to be the lamest excuse for parenting I’ve heard in a long time.

It’s one thing to complain about curricula being too focused on standardized testing, it’s another to avoid testing because you think it is harmful to the student. This sounds more like parents who often do school work and projects for their kids trying to keep the inflated GPA sham going. Little Johnny or Suzie cannot be subject to proving themselves compared to their peers on a district, state, or national scale. It would crush them if they found out they really aren’t the best student in the world.