SAVE PUBLIC EDUCATION (A message from Rhode Island

George McLaughlin is an educator and Rhode Island based education blogger

Parents have a legal right to have their children opt out of state standardized tests.  In Philadelphia, teachers are being threatened with disciplinary action if they tell parents that they have the right to opt out  (see the Philadelphia Teacher Action Group link below).

PARCC is the new standardized test that will be administered in eleven participating states in 2015: Rhode island, Ohio, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Louisiana, Illinois, Colorado and Arkansas as well as the District of Columbia.  In the New England states, PARCC is taking the place of the discredited NECAP test.  The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC is produced and generated by the Pearson company, an outfit which has made millions on pro “reform” school department contracts.  The “reformers” intend to eventually use the PARCC test results as a graduation requirement for high school students and as the basis for evaluating teachers.  Bill Gates and his foundation have heavily backed the development and implementation of the PARCC test. Coincidentally, almost all of the students taking the PARCC test will be taking them on…computers.

Although parents can opt out of the testing, school committees and  city and state education departments are bullying teachers and parents into student participation against their better judgment. (see recent statement to school superintendents from Commissioner Deborah Gist on Rhode Island PARCC below)

Dear TAG community,

Last week, we wrote about the overwhelming growth of the Opt-Out Movement at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences. Around 20% of their parents have decided to opt their children out of standardized tests. They’ve received support from City Council members, organizations across our city, and, of course, other teachers and individuals who see the damage caused by high stakes testing. This is a major victory! Teacher Action Group stands in solidarity with the staff at Feltonville and we ask you to do the same!

Unfortunately, teachers and staff at Feltonville are now being investigated for utilizing their LEGAL right to inform parents and families about their right to opt out.

Please help us support the staff at Feltonville! Three things you can do:

1.      Sign this petition!

2.      Attend their Opt-Out Organizing Workshop! February 5th at 5pm at Liberty Choice Diner (1947 Front Street, Berks & Norris)

3.      Join TAG’s ItAG about Opting Out! Details below.
And, if you haven’t signed this petition in support of the ASPIRA staff organizing for a union, please do so! They’re requesting that ASPIRA remain neutral in their efforts to form a union. For more details see

Thank you!

Notes from Commissioner Gist

1.      RIDE updates PARCC participation FAQs

Thank you for your comments and feedback during and following our webinar yesterday (Thursday) on PARCC participation. As the RIDE team noted in the webinar, we will use our 2015 PARCC results neither for school classifications, graduation decisions, nor student-growth scores. The 2015 PARCC results will set a baseline, and we will communicate the baseline information so that everyone feels comfortable going forward.

As we communicate about PARCC, we want to be sure that what we are saying at RIDE supports what you are doing at the local level. Administration of these new assessments has raised a number of questions, and by keeping the lines of communication open we can help ensure that the PARCC administration goes smoothly. All of us want an assessment that supports the instructional process and provides us with useful information about student achievement and about school performance. Working together, we can attain that goal.

We continue to update our key message points and to add to our PARCC Frequently Asked Questions list as new inquiries come to RIDE. Here is the current version of our key message points and PARCC FAQs.

Key message points:

We expect all students to participate in state assessments, which are part of the process of education in Rhode Island public schools.

There is no formal procedure for parents to remove their children from participation in any school activities, including state assessments.

We encourage school leaders to meet personally with parents who express a concern about state assessments in order to communicate benefits, to correct misinformation, and to encourage participation.

We expect that students attending school during days of administration of state assessments, including make-up days, will participate in the assessment process.

Here is our list of current FAQs, including some questions and responses from yesterday’s webinar:

Can we require students to participate in PARCC assessments? 

Yes. School districts can have policies requiring participation. For example, school districts or schools can decide to use PARCC participation as one part of determining a student’s grade in a course. At least for this school year, school districts and schools cannot use PARCC scores or achievement levels as components in determining a student’s grade because these results will not be available during the current school year.

Can schools or school districts use PARCC as a graduation requirement? 

No. Schools and school districts cannot use PARCC participation or PARCC results as a grauation requirement until the Class of 2017. Note that if your school or district has a policy requiring participation in statewide assessments as a graduation requirement, you can implement this policy for the Class of 2017, which is the current grade-10 class.

Must PARCC results appear on a student’s high-school transcript? 

Yes. State-assessment results will appear on high-school transcripts. We will not have scores or achievement levels available during the current school year. The earliest PARCC results on transcripts will be in 2017.

What happens to students who do not participate in PARCC assessments? Will they receive a score of “0”? 

On our previous assessments, students who made no attempt to respond to questions were counted as nonparticipants. We are in discussions with superintendents as to whether this will continue to be our practice or whether these students should count as participants with a score of zero (“0”). 

Will nonparticipating students have any effect on school classifications? 

As federal law sets forth, schools without a participation rate of 95 percent or better have failed to meet their annual assessment targets. In future years, a low participation rate could place a school in the classification of “Warning.” For 2015, however, RIDE will not move any school into the status of Warning, Focus, or Priority (our three lowest classifications). 

What happens if proficiency rates go down because of PARCC? 

PARCC is a new assessment this year, and we recognize that proficiency rates may be different under PARCC. We will not measure PARCC results against the results of our previous state assessments. The proficiency rates your child or your school achieves on PARCC will set a new baseline or starting point. Going forward, we can use these baselines to see whether our state as a whole, our schools, and our students are making progress.

Will PARCC affect my child’s grades?

This year, we will not have PARCC results during the current school year, so PARCC results will not affect your child’s grade in this school year. The scores and achievement levels students attain on PARCC assessments this year (2015) will set a baseline or starting point that we will use to measure progress going forward.

In future years, schools and school districts may decide, if they so desire, to use PARCC results as a component in determining students’ grades. For example, schools could choose to use PARCC results as an end-of-course assessment. The use of PARCC results is a decision that schools, districts, or school committees will make at the local level.

Will PARCC results affect teacher evaluations? 

Yes, but not until 2017. The results for this school year will set a baseline. We base evaluations on growth and improvement, so PARCC assessments will not affect effect evaluations until we have three years of results – enough to measure improvement over time.

Will PARCC participation rates affect accreditation for a school? 

We know of no connection between school classifications and accreditation.

Can PARCC participation rates or results affect college acceptance? 

Colleges and universities participated in the design and development of the PARCC assessments, and postsecondary institutions may use PARCC results when reviewing applications. We would not expect postsecondary institutions to use PARCC results in decision-making this year. Further, we see no likelihood that the participation rate for a school would affect decisions colleges make about individual students.

Must all grade-11 students take PARCC assessments? 

No. Grade-11 students will not take the PARCC literacy assessment. PARCC high-school mathematics assessments are course-based and students take these assessments only when enrolled in specific mathematics classes (algebra I and geometry), so not all grade-11 students will take PARCC mathematics assessments, either.

How can RIDE hold schools and districts accountable for nonparticipating students? 

We do not have the authority to disregard federal requirements. If our participation rates are low in the state or in some districts, we will communicate that information to the U.S. Department of Education.

Can districts have policies in place that require students to participate in PARCC assessments? 

Yes. If you have a policy in place and you follow that policy for all students, RIDE will back you up in your actions.

What if parents refuse in writing to have their children participate in PARCC assessments? 

There is no recognized process, procedure, or form to refuse participation in a specific school activity.

Are the only options for parents refusing to participate to keep their children home from school? 

RIDE has agreed to facilitate discussions with LEAs about the best approaches to take on this matter.

George Thomas McLaughlin
B.A., Queens College
M.A., Rhode Island College
P.D., Fordham University

United Federation of Teachers (NYC)
and NY State United Teachers, Retiree
RI Federation of Teachers, Member

Since 2010, when I and all Central Falls High School (RI) teachers
were fired as part of corporate reform efforts by the US Dept. of Education,
the RI Dept. of Education and Central Falls School Committee and Superintendent,
SAVE PUBLIC EDUCATION has been providing updates on regional and
national developments in public education and the struggle of public school teachers
to survive “reform” attacks on their profession and their schools.

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