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Colorado Opt Out movement has long been a model for rest of the nation

While Chicago resistance leaders greet "More Than A Score" and other recent additions to the Resistance to corporate schools reform (part of which is based on the nonsense bred by high-stakes standardized testing), we need from time to time to remember that for more than 15 years resistance has been building across the USA. In Chicago, the publication of the CASE tests in Substance took place in January 1999 -- 15 years ago! That publication exposed one ludicrous example of Paul Vallas's version of reality, with Chicago Academic Standards Examinations (CASE) as a prime example. And although Vallas hysterically managed to sue Substance for a million dollars (which he brought down to zero rather than face a jury trial in federal court to prove his cost estimate), CASE was later abolished (although they were able to blacklist me).

With the 21st Century Resistance growing, here is one example, from Colorado, of resistance from Colorado.

Welcome to the Coalition for Better Education

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing its stupid.

Albert Einstein

The Coalition for Better Education was started by a group of aspiring educators from the University of Northern Colorado, and has expanded to include teachers, parents and students across the state. Our goal is to expand awareness of the costs and limitations of the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP now known as TCAP) and "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB), and to empower parents and teachers.

Parent refusals have increased every year since high-stakes testing began.

In 2011 there were 1,427 parent refusals for CSAP, 2,070 tests not completed, 594 students withdrew before completion, and 90 listed as incomplete due to extreme frustration.

In 2010 there were 324 parental refusals, 519 tests not completed, 157 students withdrew before completion, 20 were listed as incompleted due to extreme frustration.

Here's a letter from a parent to the school board. We offer it here as a model.

To whom it may concern:

This is written notification that ____will not be taking the CSAP/TCAP this year (or any other year for that matter).

C.R.S. 22-1-123-(5) (a) states that students cannot be tested or evaluated without written consent. I do not give my consent for to take the CSAP/TCAP.

Furthermore, if other students in ____s classroom are provided with snacks then _____gets them too. If other kids in___s class are rewarded with whatever (including but not limited to extra recess) for taking the test then ____gets it too otherwise its known as coercion or, if ___is excluded, discrimination.

As a reminder to our previous meeting regarding CSAP/TCAP and my many reasons for opting my children out of such standardized testing, please know that my occupation is that of an investigator. That said, I have thoroughly researched the issue. One of the things I keep hearing from many uninformed/misinformed people is that____s CSAP/TCAP score of a zero (for opting out) would negatively affect her class/the school/district not so. Please see the following:

There is no federal law prohibiting a parent from opting their child out of CSAP testing. --Jo OBrien, Colorado Dept. of Education

Students who do not test, including those who do so due to parental refusal, are counted as non-participants when determining participation rates for state and federal accountability purposes. Jo OBrien, Assistant Commissioner of Standards, Colorado Department of Education

For calculating performance, non-participant data are not counted as zeroes they are excluded from the calculation... So the calculations are performed on the basis solely of students that took the test and had valid scores on it. Jo OBrien, Assistant Commissioner of Standards, Colorado Department of Education

School academic performance ratings (SAR) will no longer be assigned for Colorado schools. The Education Accountability Act of 2009 (SB 09-163) repealed previous SAR law. Negative weights for Unsatisfactory and No Score percentages are not in effect anymore. --Angela Engel, Family Leadership Training Institute Facilitator, Policy Advisor, past Denver school teacher and administrator

Parental rights are broadly protected by Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents posses the fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Furthermore, the Court declared that the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations. (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere with the power of parents to control the education of their own. (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten "liberties" protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (262 U.S. 399).

As for my reasons to opt my children from CSAP, see the following:

CSAP COSTS COLORADO $50,000,000 PLUS ANNUALLY. $50 million plus is what it costs to prepare, administer and grade CSAP. Why not invest that money in our kids, teachers and schools?

COLLEGES COULD CARE LESS ABOUT CSAP SCORES. Transcripts, ACT and SAT scores count.

Since the implementation of NCLB and CSAP, graduation rates (especially for minorities) have not increased, instead they have declined.

Since the implementation of NCLB and CSAP, more resources have placed into money, time for: preparation, implementation, and updating for CSAP. Yet, the ratio students per teacher are increasing; not to mention cuts to classes such as art, P.E., and music, or diminished time in which students can eat their lunch.

Please know that I have expressed my concerns to my elected representatives as well.

In closing, please know that another parent afforded me the opportunity to read the Districts Administrative memo to principals which referred to Talking Points when dealing with opt-out parents. I was very disappointed but not surprised that District Administrators have issued a script for principals. I will not be coming in for a meeting regarding this issue and I will not be signing any additional papers relating to this matter. As far as I am concerned, No simply means No.

Best regards,

IMPORTANT LEGAL ISSUE:

Parental rights are broadly protected by Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education, so why not in our Colorado state statutes? The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents posses the fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Furthermore, the Court declared that the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations. (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere with the power of parents to control the education of their own. (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten "liberties" protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (262 U.S. 399).

Numerous organizations, including the CBE, view the expanding

School--to-Prison Pipeline as an outgrowth of various factors over the past

decade, including aspects of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (the

current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA).

We expect to have many endorsers from the civil rights,

education, and juvenile justice communities, and we hope that you will join

us in showing our collective support for federal education policies that

better address the causes and consequences of the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

stopschoolstojails@advancementproject.org

January 22, 2010

Open letter to our website visitors from the leadership at the Coalition for Better Education, Inc.

Dear Colleagues:

Yes, you may have heard that the testing regimen of the Colorado Student Assessment Program is on its way toward being history. Even Governor Ritter in his final State of the State address made mention of the end of CSAP testing. Now, at first blush, this seems like a good thing. But once we begin to look deeper, we see that the federal and state bureaucracies will forward the same destructive policies of standardizing our children through even more testing. No doubt the biggest motivation for the end of CSAP is the rush to conform to the requirements of the program known as Race to the Top promoted by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. One of those requirements will tie teacher evaluations to performance on test scores. Let us note, too, that no mention whatsoever is made in the promotion of Race to the Top of the critical importance of educating the whole child, of dignifying the autonomy of our children and their professionals in the classroom, and of an educational philosophy that promotes co-operation, compassion, and citizenship.

We all know the direct correlation between test scores and socio-economic status. We all know that children of poverty come to school with a host of health and social issues that interfere with learning. And we all know that test scores tell us only what we already know, do nothing but marginalize our children, and line the pockets of Corporate America. The culture that values these very flawed tests does a great disservice to our children, the teaching profession, public education, and any and all hopes for a functioning democracy. We therefore will continue our mission to raise awareness of the harms of high stakes standardized testing, in whatever form they may take, and urge parents to speak out on behalf of their children and indeed, on behalf of a community that sees public education and truly well educated citizens as indispensable for a functioning society, one that values the wellbeing of its constituents.

Sincerely,

Don Perl

Laura Manuel

The Coalition for Better Education, Inc.

www.thecbe.org

We encourage you to explore our site. Please see the bottom of the Support Us page for a letter to the NCTE on how they have betrayed educational standards. We have also included a letter from Angel Engel on the legalities of Opting Out. On the CSAP issues page we have added commentary from two teachers on the impact of CSAP on student learning. That page also describes our fundamental problems with this form of testing.



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