Thursday, January 19, 2006

Opting Out--Colorado Style

Denver's education system has made the news recently, mostly because of a pending ballot measure (to be voted on in November 2006) which would create a model of merit pay for teachers. While proposed "carrots" currently include compensation for such things as earning a Master's Degree, spending money on your own education, teaching in a hard-to-serve school and earning a satisfactory evaluation (among other accomplishments), most controversial is the connection between teacher pay and student test performance.

Meanwhile, something else is going on in Colorado, state-wide. Led by Don Perl, University of Colorado professor and founder of the Coalition for Better Education, a group of parents and educators are uniting for a common purpose: To opt-out of the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) altogether. According to one report published in The Denver Post last March, more than three thousand students "just said no" to the test in 2005.

In a new awareness campaign, launched on January 16 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, the group unveiled bus bench ads displaying the web address for official opt-out forms in Colorado.

In California, the opt-out discussion hasn't quite garnered the same national attention. Even though there aren't any "opt-outs" allowed for the High School Exit Exam (HSEE), parents may still complete forms to opt their children and young adults out of the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program.

Teachers may not "encourage" or "rally" parents to exercise this right but are legally permitted to make information available. For information on what's possible in the Golden State, visit the California Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education (CalCARE) website.

1 comment:

Jo Scott-Coe said...

Emailing the California Department of Education for information about "opt out" forms, I received this response from Linda Lownes this morning:

"There are no parent exemption forms available for the STAR Program. The
regulations are very specific that parents/guardians who want to exempt
their children from any tests or parts of tests within the STAR Program are to submit a written request. The request must be initiated by the parent/guardian and may be a note, memo, or letter. If a district develops an exemption form, the form may be given to a parent/guardian only when requested."

Note that the process is incredibly simple, but parents must themselves initiate it. The emphasis on "only when requested" at the end of her statement says a lot.

It seems that the state relies on a rift in communication between teachers who know about this and the parents who may not.