You would think that after many parents in New Hampshire have refused to let their children take the standardize test, school administrators would lighten up a bit and stop bullying and misleading parents. I do have to mention that some parents are reporting that when they refuse to let their children take the standardized tests, some administrators have been receptive and honor their requests without hesitation. 

Unfortunately, this is not true for other parents in New Hampshire.

Here is a letter sent to parents by Dr. Laura H. Nelson, Superintendent of Derry Schools in New Hampshire. There seems to be misleading information presented to parents on whether they can refuse the testing.

This may not be intentional, but compare this letter to one that was sent out by the Manchester School District.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015
A memo from the Board of School Committee regarding Smarter Balanced Assessment
Subject: Parent Information on Smarter Balanced Assessment

March 9, 2015

Dear Parent/Guardian:

The Manchester School District is required by state and federal law to administer the Smarter Balanced Assessment. It will take place starting March 16, 2015 and must be completed by June 5, 2015. Students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 are scheduled to take the assessment.

It has come to the attention of the Manchester School District Board of School Committee that some parents object to the administration of the test and intend to keep their student from school when the test will be administered. While the Manchester School District is prohibited from encouraging nonparticipation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment process, rather than keeping student home from school during the administration of the testing, upon written or emailed notification by the parent/guardian the student will be relocated and provided alternative programming during the applicable testing period.

There will be no penalty to parents or students who do not participate in the assessment. If you have any questions about the assessment or wish for more information, please contact your child’s principal.
Posted by CommunicationsMSD at 10:36 AM

Dr. Nelson failed to present parents with important information that has come directly from the New Hampshire Department of Education on testing refusals. The same thing happened in Londonderry.   I’m not sure if this has been corrected, but it would help if parents contacted their local school board to make sure accurate information was sent to parents.

The New Hampshire Department of Education issued a technical advisory several years ago in an effort to clarify that “there are no laws or rules that would penalize a student for not participating in the statewide assessment.”  In New Hampshire those assessments include the Smarter Balanced Assessment, PACE assessment, and the SAT for high school students.

Many parents understand that these kinds of assessments are there to rank schools and collect data points on their children. Many parents have opted to use outside testing to get a more accurate picture on their child’s proficiency in the core academic subjects.

In the past, some parents have complained about misleading information from school administrators and how some schools have used bullying techniques to get students to take the tests. Students who complied and took the assessments were given ice cream or prizes, and nothing was offered to the children who did not participate. It’s sad when school administrators use bullying techniques to push compliance for a test that some parents and teachers see as harmful to the education process. 

Parents still have the right to refuse the standardized tests for their children. Parsing words about not having the right to “opt out” doesn’t offer parents the truth that their children do not have to participate.

When the school year begins, notify the school Superintendent, Principal and Teacher if you refuse standardized testing for your child. Copy all of your school board members, State Representatives and State Senator on your e-mail so they can see that parents do not support this testing scheme.

Make sure you ask the following questions in your e-mail:
1) Will my child be bullied in anyway by being denied prizes or incentives other students may receive?
2) Will my child be held back if the assessment is used for placement?
3) What will the school do while my child is absent from testing?

If you are still unsure about testing and decide to let your child participate, go and observe all of the testing that takes place. Is it too much? Especially for younger children? Have your child tested outside the school district and compare those results. Ask home-schoolers what they use to test their children.  Those results come directly to you so you don’t have to worry about bureaucrats collecting data points on your children.

Make sure you ask your school administrator to see ALL of the questions and answers that were asked on the assessment. Under RSA Section 193-C:10, “a pupil’s parent or legal guardian shall have the right to inspect and review the pupil’s assessment, including the questions asked, the pupil’s answers, instructions or directions to the pupil, and other supplementary materials related or used to administer the pupil’s assessment.”

Take letters like these to your local school board and ask them to revise the letters sent home to parents. Ask them to send a letter similar to what Manchester sends to their parents. A letter to parents should include ALL information necessary so parents can make an informed decision. 

Pressuring parents with misleading information causes parents to lose trust in their administrators. It’s important they get this information right so parents can trust they are getting all of the information they need on testing.

Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can contact her at: [email protected]