Our son took the FCAT in 4th grade, and he scored a Level 3 on the math! He was proficient! Wow! Maybe I did something right after all. However, his tics had returned for over a month due to anxiety from all the testing. It was at this time that I learned about the Opt Out Movement. I was fed up with the abusive tests tied to the standards, and wanted to do something to help change it for all of our students and teachers. I asked the school principal what I could do, and she said I would need to go to legislators and the state. She said this isn't coming from the district. That is exactly what I am doing today.
I was very fortunate that my son's school was so tuned into my son's needs by the end of fourth grade, and they wanted to do everything they could to help him his last year of Elementary School. They wanted to try putting him back in full main-stream classes with the help of an assistant. Wow! What a concept! That is what I had been fighting for since he was in Kindergarten.
During 5th grade we learned a lot! What worked? Opting Out of High-Stakes Testing was key!
My son had the most amazing teachers in 5th grade. This is the year we learned how to survive Common Core. I don't want anyone to have to learn how to survive common core. What I want to is to teach parents how to defeat it! These standards are NOT cognitively or developmentally appropriate for our youngest learners. (Note: There is no research that will ever tell you that they are. Please click here for more research that supports this conclusion.)
Here is the quote from the validity study showing that special needs students were not properly accommodated via a conscious decision by FL DOE:
"Given the interpretation of "reading" by FLDOE, use of a human reader is not an allowable accommodation to ensure the construct remains intact.Students who have mild-moderate intellectual disabilities and limited reading skills will have limited access to the passages without the use of a human reader. Students with vision or hearing impairments who also have limited ability to read, including reading braille, will have limited access to the passages without the use of a human reader. When required to read independently, these groups of students will not have the ability to demonstrate their understanding of the text beyond the ability to decode and read fluently. For example, without access to the passage, the students will be unable to demonstrate their ability to draw conclusions, compare texts, or identify the central/main idea." (p. 44 - Emphasis added)
Through it all, Laura kept a good relationship with the teachers and worked hard not to blame them for the ridiculous system being imposed on teachers, students and families:
I am asking all parents to please stand up for teachers! Do not place blame on them. They are suffering too. Not only do they have to teach developmentally inappropriate standards, they have to watch our kids suffer. Our teachers are being micromanaged. There is little time to review things our children do not understand. The curriculum AND the timeline it needs to be taught is set in stone, and our teachers' jobs are on the line if our kids don't do well on these tests.
I have found that opting our son out of the state-directed standardized test (FSA) did not affect his school or his teachers, and, that it couldn't be used against him for placement in remedial classes. It did not hold him back at all! And he didn't have the stress associated with needing to learn so he could pass a test. In return, the rewards were tremendous!
Mrs. McCrary even helped organize a rally in support of the Pinellas teachers as her group UnitED for Florida Children made their concerns about testing at a recent school board meeting:
A special education teacher, Wendy Bradshaw, just resigned from Polk County because of the kinds of things that Laura's son was experiencing. Her resignation letter went viral and here is her recent speech in front of the Florida State School Board:
This abusive treatment of our most vulnerable children must cease!