CRIST LAW OFFICE
Marjorie E. Crist
Attorney At Law
Opting Out of the PSSA Test
The holidays are over and children all over Pennsylvania have returned to school for the second semester. For some students facing PSSA testing later in the semester, school as they know it has ended. The push is on for test prep! Much of this prep derails regular curricular activities. If your child has an IEP or GIEP you must be especially vigilant to ensure the school remains in complaince with your child's IEP or GIEP directives.
If you are concerned about the impact of PSSA high-stakes testing on your child personally, or his or her education, or the impact it has on public education in America, you do have options and rights as a family when it comes to the test and the system behind the test.
I've been told my child is required to take the PSSAs is this true?
Under Pennsylvania law, all children in certain grades are required to sit for the PSSA's. The law, however, grants parents/guardians the right to review the test and opt their child out of taking the PSSA' for religious reasons. Some parents will explain in great detail how the PSSA's offend their religion and belief system while others do not. Simply stating you object on religious, ethical or moral grounds is all that is required. Once informed by you that you wish to opt your child out, the school should have a process to allow this to be done.
The PSSA scores impact my child and decisions about his schooling like class placements and grades, don't they?
No. The PSSA scores are reported late into the Fall of the following school year making them logistically a rather poor tool for making placement decisions (a claim some schools will make to convince you to not opt out). The PSSA's do not impact grades, whether a child moves on to the next grade or college admission (children have reported being told these things by those administering the test).
If I opt my child out, I'm afraid there will be negative ramifications toward my child by the school and his teacher.
Your child will not get a 0% score but rather a report that says "no score" so you child will not have an impact on the overall scores of the school. If over 5% of the testing population in your school opts out of the PSSA, the school will be noted as not meeting AYP - Annual Yearly Progress. This is one aspect that reflects the flaws of the whole system becaue you can have a school scoring in the 80 and 90 percentiles of proficient and advanced yet not making AYP if a few students do not take the test. Keep in mind that unless waiver is granted to Pennsylvania, by 2014 all schools not reaching 100% grade level proficiency of all students will be labeled failing.
On an emotional/social level negative ramifications cannot be predicted. Some parents have had full support of teachers when opting out. Some have professional leadership in their district and school who ensure the child is treated fairly without negative ramifications. In one school a child was permitted to help out in his little sister's kindergarten during testing. The school is to provide an alternative academic activity. Some, however, have had intimidating pushback from school authorities. Legally, you and your child have a right to not be retaliated against, even if subtly, and the school is obligated to always act professionally and fairly toward your child.
Doesn't this review system promote better schools and better teachers?
No. The system is designed to dismantle public education and privatize this most foundational American institution. The goals of the system are to bring all so-called non-proficient students up to proficiency by 2014 and impossible goal. This is includes children who will never be able to read or do math on grade level. Millions of educational dollars have been shifted from enrichment, arts, foreign language, library resources and other important components of good schools to meet this race to proficiency. The negative impact on rich and deep curriculum is significant where all schools are goaled to meet middle ground standards and no school is rewarded for excellence beyond proficiency. Teachers are now highly scripted to teach to the test and text books have been replaced by test prep worksheets. This actually allows for mediocre or even underperforming teachers to remain in the system because there is no need for the teacher to demonstrate anything other than teaching test prep material. The system destroys the traditional teacher student relationship where what counts is the raw data produced on tests versus a meaningful and personal mentoring relationship.
I want to opt my child out of PSSA testing, how do I do this?
For 2013, the tests are already being administered but some specific tests have not started such as the 4th grade science PSSA. Next year, contact your principal sometime in March and inform them you want to opt your child out of testing. The school will set up an appointment for you to review the test and sign paperwork including a confidentiality agreement.
Sites of Interest:
"When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.
When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment,
and I told them they didn't understand life."
~ John Lennon
As a family, opting out is something you can do for your child, for your public school. If you need help or have questions beyond the resources provided here, please contact us. Crist Law Center does not charge for helping families opt their children out of the PSSA.