Resistance to Testing Continues

K-12 Testing

The Fairport New York school board has adopted a three-part resolution “rebelling” against the state Board of Education. The resolution says the district will refuse to submit a district budget until state officials adopt their own plan that specifies the amount of local aid, will send standardized tests back to the state for grading rather than use its own resources to do so, and will retain the ability to grant diplomas to students who meet local requirements for graduation, regardless of state test scores. The absence of timely state budgets for 19 consecutive years has wreaked havoc on district planning. Local grading of state exams results in teachers being pulled out of classes for days at a time and costs $30,000 that the district would rather spend elsewhere. The State Education Department has responded by sending a letter threatening to remove Superintendent William Cala and his entire school board. Copies of the letter were sent to all 700-odd school districts in the state as a warning not to follow suit. The Fairport school board is standing firm in the face of the state’s threats. “We think it’s a little heavy-handed,” says Cala, saying local officials are just trying to “do the best thing for our community and our kids.” He said the board would proceed as planned for now.


The Eagle Valley, Minnesota School District has come up with a unique way to help students who meet local requirements for graduation but are unable to pass the state’s basic skills test: an out-of-state diploma. Neighboring North Dakota has nearly identical graduation standards to Eagle Valley, but no graduation test. With the help of their principal, Richard Lundergard, several Eagle Valley students have received North Dakota diplomas after failing to pass the Minnesota Basic Skills Test. One student who earned a diploma through this method is now in college. Lundergard said state officials should trust the teachers who educate children every day and give them the flexibility to decide who should graduate rather than relying on a test score. Several of this year’s juniors are looking at the out-of-state diploma option if they are unable to pass the test. Minnesota officials are unhappy, saying that Lundergard is giving the students an easy out, but he insists that he will provide every option for students who meet district graduation requirements.


Parents expecting to see the questions and answers from their children’s Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests (FCAT) will have to wait until a state appeals court settles the matter. Despite a Leon County judge’s earlier ruling that Florida students and their parents have the right to see FCAT materials, only the parent who brought the original suit is currently allowed to review the test and only under strict conditions. The parent may not take notes nor disclose what he sees to anyone.


Following Judge Janet E. Ferris’ decision that the state had to make FCAT materials available, many parents made requests for the tests. The state’s appeal of the ruling resulted in an automatic stay for all parents’ requests. But Judge Ferris took the step of setting aside the stay for the original student. “The child in question will have to take the FCAT again, and may fail again, before being able to avail himself of the final judgment in this case,” Ferris wrote.


Many students boycotted the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in its spring administration, including the two children of Pinellas County school board member Mary Russell. Russell explained she opposed the test because it imposes too much pressure on both students and schools.


Meanwhile a group of parents is organizing a grassroots effort to challenge the use of FCAT. The movement began with Palm Beach County parents of disabled children and is growing. The parents hope to place a constitutional amendment on the 2004 general election ballot that would prohibit a single test from determining a child’s future.


The group has also prompted an advocacy organization for the disabled to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The Coalition for Independent Living Options says the FCAT discriminates against disabled students. The State Board of Education did agree to allow basic accommodations for disabled students (see Examiner Fall 2002), but parents claim the changes do not go far enough.


Lawyers for disabled students suing the state of California over its high school exit exam have amended their complaint to ask the state court to totally exempt disabled students from the graduation test requirement. They also asked that the state be required to place warning labels on each exam, similar to those used on cigarettes, informing test takers that they may not have been taught the material on the test and that the test has “not been shown to have instructional validity.” This summer, the California Board of Education will consider whether to delay the exam since many students, both disabled and non-disabled, may not have been taught the material on the test.