(Phoenix, State Capitol)—Senator Sylvia Allen today urged local school leaders and administrators to work with parents, be respectful and not retaliate against a student for choices that parent may make.
It is that time of year again when Arizona schools are administering the statewide assessment to our students, also known as AzMERIT. Unfortunately, another legislative session is coming to an end where a parent’s right to make educational decisions for their children are not being recognized in our state laws. Senator Allen sponsored SB 1455, which would have allowed parents to opt their children out of the AzMERIT assessment. This year Congress reauthorized the federal education law that gave states the flexibility to develop their own opt-out policies, but Senator Allen was unable to get it through the legislative process this session.
Among the horror stories of teachers and local school administrators who intimidate, lie to, and bully their students are stories like this one. Rusdon Ray shared the following letter that his young son received from his teacher. According to Mr. Ray, "This letter was written by his good teacher who clearly recognizes and is doing her best to combat the psychological damage to her students by too much high stakes testing in schools with tests such as the AZ Merit. You can feel the love and concern this teacher has for her 3rd grade students and her desire to help them even though teachers’ hands have been tied. Take a moment and read it."
Some Arizona parents, disgusted with the diabolical determination of their local schools to bully their children into taking the highly controversial AzMERIT exam, are considering online education for their children.
Think again. Online charter schools are worse. The extra harsh treatment is completely legal, based on ARS 15-808(B). The online charters are merely "following orders" as dictated by Arizona’s legislators. "If a pupil fails to comply with the testing requirements and the school administers the tests pursuant to this subsection to less than ninety-five percent of the pupils in Arizona online instruction, the pupil shall not be allowed to participate in Arizona online instruction."
According to Facebook comments from several parents who refused to allow their children to take AzMERIT, their children were "locked out" of learning. They couldn’t log on to their computers.
April 5. This parent posted: "Received a call from K12 (Arizona Virtual Academy, where ‘students come first’) at 3:10 pm -she said if we did not call her back before 3 pm today..AND if we did not show up tomorrow at the testing site- they would lock our account. Meaning student could not do his work..meaning they are dropping us from the school. IS THIS legal?"
The parent did not call, nor did she and her 3rd grader make the long drive to the remote testing site. The trip would have required her to take off work, over a period of 3-4 days, for a few hours each day. (NOTE: The "online" school doesn’t administer AzMERIT "online." One parent stated that she would have to drive 120 miles to the testing site nearest her home.)
April 6. Parent received the following email:
Even though Arizona legislators are to blame for causing the ugliness, humiliation, undue stress, and mental anguish experienced by parents and their children who dare to reject AzMERIT, it is the teachers, principals, and administrators who are inflicting the pain. Unless you have pushed back against this unvalidated, secretive, Common Core-based "high stakes test," you have no idea what it feels like to see the ugly Truth behind the "friendly teacher" mask that pretends that educating your child is the school’s number one priority. The Truth is that the best interests of your child isn’t in the best interests of the dysfunctional school system. If your child doesn’t "take the test," the schools are afraid that: 1) They are violating Arizona law; 2) They will lose Title 1 money from the federal government; 3) They will get a poor ranking from the Arizona Education Department; 4) The teacher will get a poor evaluation.
Your child is merely a pawn being used to serve the bureaucratic nightmare that our state’s education system has become.
We’ve been reading facebook posts and emails from parents and even some high school students telling us their experiences in dealing with their schools. The stories you will read below are not unique. They are legion. They are representative of how the schools are treating kids whose parents opt them out of insane testing.
Theoden: I will not risk open war.
Aragorn: Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Voices from the School Battlefield:
The following email was sent to Arizona’s senators. It is published with permission of Ms. Lisa A. Hudson (LD23), member of the Mommy Lobby. NOTE: The best response to threats to the test resistance movement is to focus your efforts, as Ms. Hudson has done, on policy makers. See These are the Senators Who Sneer at Parental Authority
As a follow-up to Ms. Christy’s earlier email attaching a response to baseless threats by the Secretary of Education, John King, I would like to add a few more comments. First, I’ve attached another link to the press release issued by Senator Tom Reed’s office. The content of the press release is very important to this discussion and I am confident all of you will take the time to read it.
Reed Stands with Students, Parents
Several other facts should be noted. First, there was some concern at the Senate Education Committee hearing that the Federal Government would withhold funding if states failed to meet the 95% threshold. That is simply not true. Pursuant to ESSA, the decision to render punitive measures for failing to meet the threshold is left entirely to the states. States decide how to deal with particular schools, including making the decision to do nothing. Note, also, under NCLB mandates, the Federal Government has NEVER withheld funding from any school. It is extremely unlikely the state would deviate from that path. Withholding education funding from Title 1 kids would be political suicide for any official hoping to survive an election cycle.
The following Senators voted NO to SB1455, the bill that gives parents the right to opt their children out of statewide assessments, such as the wretched AzMERIT, and others like it. These Senators believe that parents have no right to determine what is in the best interest of their child.
Time may be very short until sine die (end of the legislative session), but if these Senators really want to change their vote and pass SB1455, they can make it happen!
This is not a partisan issue. Please call them, email them. Endlessly. Do it for your kids!
On 2/16/2016, the executive director of the State Board of Education Dr. Karol Schmidt, without authorization from the Board, testified before the Senate Ed. Committee quoting from a 12/22/2015 letter from the U.S. Department of Education. She reiterated threats in the letter signed by Ann Whalen, which indicated certain financial and other punitive measures that Arizona could use against schools in order to force at least 95% participation of students in academic assessments. Dr. Schmidt’s "message" was loud and clear to Arizona Senators: Do NOT allow parents the right to Opt their children out of AzMERIT! If your child has been coerced by teachers and other school officials into taking AzMERIT, this would explain one of the many reasons for it.
New York Congressman Tom Reed, who had voted for the new ESSA law and disagreed with Ms. Whalen’s interpretation, decided it was important to send a rebuttal, reasserting parents and students’ right to opt-out of high stakes federal testing. That rebuttal, which follows, was signed by 19 U.S. Congressmen, including Arizona Congressman Matt Salmon.
If you are a parent who has been denied your right to opt your child out of taking AzMERIT. If you are a parent whose child has been bullied by the school into taking AzMERIT, send this post to them. Send this post to the Arizona Senators who voted NO to your right to opt out of AzMERIT and any other standardized test based on Common Core (aka Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.) Click HERE for a list of Senators, including contact information, who voted No to SB1455, the Parental Opt Out bill.
Click HERE for a screen shot of the letter, which follows. Click HERE for a screen shot of the signatures to the letter.
Click HERE for the press release Reed Stands with Students, Parents from U.S. Congressman Tom Reed. Click HERE for a news story Reed Supports Parents’ Right To Opt Out Of Testing.
See below for the letter.
Click HERE for a list of Senators, including contact information, who voted No to SB1455, the Parental Opt Out bill. With the end of this legislative session coming up in mid-April, we have little time to change their hearts and minds. Please call them. Email them.
Because these senators voted No, parents who are adamantly opposed to subjecting their children to AzMERIT, and who are Refusing to allow their children to be tested, are being treated like traitors to their children’s teachers, principals, and schools. In some cases, the children themselves are being taunted and ostracized by fellow students.
It’s important to understand why parents oppose AzMERIT, and why the schools are so rabid in coercing them to comply.
Why Parents Refuse to Allow their Children take the AzMERIT test: