Opt Out Movement Should Flourish During Testing Season

Over the past few weeks, and for the next few weeks, Arizona’s schools will be administering the AZMerit test. As in past testing seasons, parents will protest, children will cry, and school administrators will bully.

The pattern is as predictable as is the Arizona governor’s and lawmakers’ failure to protect parents, students, and teachers from the meaningless and invasive high-stakes testing promoted by the chambers of commerce and school “reformers.”

Because the AZMerit test was not tested prior to its rollout last year, officials are using Arizona’s students as Guinea pigs to test the test. As a result, the results of the test cannot be used to determine much of anything. With a moratorium placed on the test results, the entirety of Arizona’s school children – rather than a sample group – are being used to fine tune the test so that someday it might be valid.

Someday.

In the meantime, the data gathered through the test will eventually make its way to data miners. That data, will in turn, be used to sell us other useless products and policies. We know the data does not help teachers improve their performance. We know the data will not lead to a change in our academic standards if there is no will to change and improve our standards.

So why are we doing this? Is it some pathological desire to torture kids, parents, and teachers? Is it really all about the money? In her article, The Schools’ War On Arizona’s Children: Part 1, Anita Christy exposes the abuse of parents and kids at the hands of school administrators over these past few weeks. The stories are horrifying.

Lawmakers leave us at a loss

Arizona is a Red State. Republicans are expected to believe in parental primacy and support parental authority. Governor Ducey paid lip service to it while he was running in the Republican Primary, but it has become eminently clear that he does not support parents, and does support Common Core and its invasive high-stakes testing. Surrounding himself with “reformers” like Lisa Graham Keegan, parents were soon forgotten when he took office.

A handful of lawmakers came to the discussion with no intention other than to represent their constituents. It is those lawmakers, like Rep. Eddie Farnsworth and Rep. Paul Boyer, who have vested economic interests in charter schools that have led the fight against parental authority.

An email reporting that children are being disenfranchised in Farnsworth’s Benjamin Franklin charter school chain is making its way into the mailboxes of Arizona parents, grandparents, and education activists. Allegedly, Farnsworth has allowed children in his schools, whose parents dare to exercise their parental authority to refuse the testing of their children, to be denied the same opportunities as children whose parents permit them to be subject to testing.

What could drive lawmakers to aggressively deny parental authority is unknown. Some say that charter school proponents believe that as long as parents still have some sway in traditional public schools they will prefer those over charter schools. The thinking is that anything that makes traditional public schools as desirable as charter schools slows the exodus to privately owned schools. Some of the more paranoid traditional school proponents go so far as to claim that Republicans are trying to starve schools in order to drive parents away from the crumbling traditional schools.

If Farnsworth’s schools are an example of charters’ approach to testing, then they are no more desirable than traditional schools. And one only has to look at the number of traditional public school board members who visited Boston this weekend for the National School Board Association event on the taxpayers’ dimes, to know that our schools are not starving.

As Christy writes in her article, “If your child doesn’t “take the test,” the schools are afraid that: 1) They are violating Arizona law; 2) They will lose Title 1 money from the federal government; 3) They will get a poor ranking from the Arizona Education Department; 4) The teacher will get a poor evaluation.”

That is certainly what they claim, and as Christy has noted time and time again in various articles, none of those claims are true.

The chamber controls

Because parents fear the well-documented retaliation against kids whose parents opt them out of testing, it is really only lawmakers who can protect parents and kids. The problem is that the Democrats in the Arizona Legislature are woefully uninformed. They believe the Title 1 money loss lie. They also refuse to work with Republicans on any issue that might smack of rejecting a federal mandate.

What they fail to understand is that there is no longer a federal mandate that could cost their schools money. The latest version of ESSA leaves many decisions and the consequences for those decisions up to the states. It is now up to the states to decide what the consequences might be for allowing parents to opt out. ESSA includes a provision that 95 percent of school children should be tested. It is silent as to what pool from which that percent must be drawn. As a result, Arizona could deem as acceptable the testing of 95 percent of students, whose parents opt in to testing.

For their part, too many Republicans in the Legislature work in the service of the chambers of commerce only. They receive their marching orders and never question anything. Other lawmakers rely on what little information is fed to them by hordes of chamber-type lobbyists. The lobbyists spew the false accountability narrative created by the likes of Michelle Rhee. Lawmakers lick it up and spit it back out at constituents.

Because we know that testing does not enhance accountability and there is no real specific mandate, one can only conclude that it is not improving teacher performance and losing money that are concerns. It is the people who are making the money that are driving this train.

Starve the beast

Data can be used to justify any bogus program and sell any bogus product. From all day kindergarten to ugly Christmas sweaters, data can be generated to generate a demand. Until we devalue data, data will fuel the fight against parental authority.

The only way to devalue data is to prevent nongovernmental entities from accessing students’ personally identifiable information. Superintendent Douglas has made some effort to reform data delivery. It isn’t enough.

This week, the Legislature might take a small step by passing HB2088; informed consent. The bill requires that schools must have permission from parents before students can take surveys asking about students’ religion, guns in the home, sexual behavior, and political beliefs. If it passes, it will be a small step in the right direction.

A handful of brave lawmakers tried in vain this year to protect data mining and they ran up against behemoths like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and the chambers’ servants in the House and Senate chambers. The beasts won for now.

Small signs are popping up all over Arizona urging parents to opt out. The only way to beat the aforementioned beasts is to starve them. The only way to starve them is to opt out. Now is your chance parents; if you haven’t done it yet – just do it now.

8 Comments on "Opt Out Movement Should Flourish During Testing Season"

  1. joohn dough | April 11, 2016 at 4:42 am |

    I have told my grandchildren to only put their names on the test documents and “NOTHING ELSE”, as these Unconstitutional intrusive questions have absolutely NOTHING to do with their education and are in fact an “Invasion” on their Constitutional RIGHT to privacy.

    Political Correctness is a plague that has INFECTED our once great nation, and Trump, and others like him, are the types we need to lead us back into being a Great nation again, where “Freedom of Speech” are not dirty words as professed by Bigoted collage professors, some of our “hired help” and intolerant minority groups and organizations who claim we are intolerant……GO TRUMP, GO TRUMP, GO TRUMP.

  2. Listen to a Mom | April 11, 2016 at 5:42 pm |

    Lawmakers will definitely have some explaining or more likely “justifying” to do when they ask for parents support and votes this election cycle.

    The lawmakers who voted NO on SB 1455 the Opt Out Bill don’t even have the courage or respect to tell parents why they voted no.

    The staff tell parents the lawmakers were inundated with calls and emails for weeks asking for their support. Thousands of emails,calls, and in person appointments were fielded filled with facts and research about why parents take issue with the excessive testing, data collection, and the subpar Common Core system.

    We really shouldn’t have to have a reason to Opt Out. It just happens we have many reasons.

    Parents aren’t stupid. Ignoring us means you answer to a different constituency. We know these lobby groups have lots of money and promise to pave the campaign trail with it. Who are the lobby groups- companies who profit off data mining, education reformy products, and the biggest-The Chamber of Commerce that thinks it’s in charge of what schools should teach as they call kids “work force capital.”

    Parents want kids to receive a full well rounded education that doesn’t tell kids WHAT to think–ie CC Math. 40+ years of Fed Ed has made things worse not better. But hey, you sell more products when you have something to “fix.”

    Sadly, AZ lawmakers aren’t taking the lessons of what is happening nationwide. Parents are DONE with the excuses of “it’s for the children” and “how will we hold schools accountable?” We don’t accept bad standards, bad tests, and the data mining of our children was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Our kids belong to us, not to the state or the fed gov’t.

    In other states, Republicans and Democrats recognize parental authority. In AZ, parental authority simply means you can pick which school building to enter.

    News Flash–those who welcomed Common Core in sight unseen before the ink was dry on the last words in it without a cost estimate were accountable to NO ONE. To this day, everyone points at “the other guy” for bringing it in. Not one thing has been done other than pay lip service of “I hate Common Core.” Talk is cheap.

    The Legislature blames the State Board of Ed. How many wrongs can a board make before someone holds them accountable?

    They are an appointed group.

    40% of AZ budget goes to education. Who is accountable to parents on how that that money is spent?

    School districts got pressured and some decided to buy new books, software, etc for the testing that “grades” the schools/teachers/kids. Ah the hypocrisy–the CC standards weren’t supposed to tell teachers how to teach…except that CC standards do that and kids are expected to spit that stuff out on the un-validated tests.

    Seeing many elected officials at every level ignoring we the people. Call your Senators, Representatives, and the Governor to tell them parental authority to Opt Out is important. Contact info is at the top of this website under “Your Government.”

    Do it for AZ’s kids and if you can’t do it for them…do it for your pocket-book. This ed experiment costs a fortune with nothing to show for it.

  3. Town Crier | April 12, 2016 at 2:00 am |

    Parents, Beware!

    Administrators and teachers are becoming schoolyard bullies to protect AzMERIT and Common Core!

    Thanks, Anita Christy and ADI, for exposing the despicable tactics being used against our children at many Arizona schools when their parents refuse AzMERIT.

    I support SB1455, Parental Opt-out, because our elected legislators, governor, attorney general, many charter school operators and teachers, and chambers of commerce, REFUSE to acknowledge the unalienable God-given RIGHT of parents to protect their children’s psychological and emotional well-being, and to direct their education.

    Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 1:

    1-601. Parents’ rights protected

    A. The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children is a fundamental right.

    B. This state, any political subdivision of this state or any other governmental entity shall not infringe on these rights without demonstrating that the compelling governmental interest as applied to the child involved is of the highest order, is narrowly tailored and is not otherwise served by a less restrictive means.

    1-602. Parents’ bill of rights; definition

    A. All parental rights are reserved to a parent of a minor child without obstruction or interference from this state, any political subdivision of this state, any other governmental entity or any other institution, including:

    1. The right to direct the education of the minor child.
    . . . (Plus paragraphs 2-11)

    Protect your children!

    Assert your rights!

    Refuse AzMERIT!!!

  4. AZ Truthteller | April 12, 2016 at 2:05 am |

    There is no lawful reason that Arizona’s children must be subjected to Common Core and its assessment tool AzMERIT, because the legislative acts that have given the SBE power and duties to MAKE education policy are unconstitutional!

    The legislature HAS NOT enacted a mandate for the public school system to incorporate Common Core!

    The former governor, former state superintendent and appointed members of the state board of education forced the Common Core Agenda upon our children unlawfully!

    Your child is being subjected to CC every day because not enough Arizona parents have just said, “NO!”

    Your child is being forced to submit to CC-aligned “assessment” tools, such as AzMERIT, because not enough Arizona parents have just said, “NO!”

    Our state government is abusing your child because the people we have elected to WORK FOR US AND TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN are counting on our ignorance, and our desire to be law-abiding citizens.

    Never mind that THEY are not abiding by the framework established by our State Constitution, and they ignore our God-given rights!

    Our elected officials do not fear We the People!

    They are herding our children into lives fundamentally transformed to provide brainwashed and indoctrinated Human Capital for crony capitalists.

    Unless we wake-up and rein-in our government, your child will never live the American Dream or any other dream he can imagine. He won’t be able to imagine dreams or see visions, because his creativity is being snuffed-out as his spirit is being suppressed with the Common Core Agenda.

    Our legislature refuses to do its job because the majority of legislators want Common Core, and Truth is meaningless to them!

    SB1455 seems to be the only way parents are going to be able to fight back against unconscionable tactics without having their children abused by those people entrusted with their well-being and education!

    We are paying these people to abuse our children!

    You do have the RIGHT to “JUST SAY,’NO!'” Your child’s future depends on YOU! Don’t cede it to people who want to make him an automaton!

    Just say, “NO” to AzMERIT!

  5. "Hap" Stone | April 12, 2016 at 12:07 pm |

    Early on in the run for Governor there appeared a series of articles related to Ducey’s questionable leasing practices while at Stone Cold Creamery. It seems that “lessors” were misled as to how much support Ducey would provide. It turns out that those “promises” were empty and pre-emptive in a way detrimental to lessees.

    That is to say that Ducey imposed upon lessees prohibitive profit reducing practices that lead to disastrous results for those who believed and bought into Ducey’s “sale pitch”.

    Electors bought into his campaign of supporting parents rights and no Common Core “lease package”. To further support his “lease agreements”, they elected Dianne Douglas, who also campaigned on strong parental rights platform and no Common Core platform,thinking that the combination of the two, both cabinet positions btw, would end the predatory and egregious federal overreach and data gathering foisted on Arizonans by Jan Brewer and the 2 previously elected 2 SoPI’s and the education industry lobby.

    So here we are – betrayed Ducey lessees. It is time to demand an explanation from Ducey as to just which part of his lease agreement with Az. constituents who “bought” into his campaign rhetoric does he not understand? And show us the “fine print” what has led him to abandon his “parent lease agreement promises” and brought Az. parents to have to fight for even one of his “promises” to be fulfilled.

  6. I honestly have to say that Mr. Eddie Farnsworth’s school has been very kind to the parents at the Gilbert campus. He has followed the law by administering the test, but has not bullied or threatened the parents and students at his school and has acknowledge that parents have the ultimate right to protest the test. I have heard that the Queen Creek campus had a “Rock the Test” party to award all those students who took the test –leaving the others to sit in their classrooms. From what I have gathered, this was a decision made solely by the principal, not Mr. Farnsworth. This was a very poor decision, but not one made by Mr. Farnsworth.

    There are charters who have been outrageously bullying parents and students like AZVA. Arizona Virtual Academy is part of a national, online charter school that has locked parents out and threatened to drop their student if they do not participate in the AzMerit –even though AZVA is protected by SB1289 that was signed into law by Gov. Ducey last year from being graded how their students do on the AzMerit in 2016.

    And, there are public schools who have been just as bad, if not worse. Several Gilbert Public Schools have scared little 3rd grade students into believing that if they do not take the AzMerit, then they cannot advance to the 4th grade (even though the State School Board has determined that alternative assessments are fine to use, such as Dibbles and Galileo, to satisfy the Move on When Reading Requirement). Some GPS 3rd grade parents have reported their children so scared that they are not able to sleep at night. The same problem happened at an ALA charter school, however, after the school learned what the State School Board ruled, they quickly corrected the problem and took the pressure off their precious, little 3rd grade students.

    Another example of horrid treatment can be seen again at another regular Gilbert Public high school. One high school student politely refuse to take the test while at school. A security guard forcefully grabbed his shoulder and told him/her to take the test –in spite of what his/her parents’ wishes were.

    What this comes down to is that schools are left entirely on their own on how to handle students and parents when the choose to refuse the test. Our AZ State Board of Education needs to hold an emergency meeting to incorporate similar policies that Florida has already adopted to protect students from such bullying. (Google Florida Standards Assessment Communication February 25, 2015 and view question number 11.)

    It is true that charters do not have a school board that parents can go to when they have a complaint. However, regular public school board members usually do very little to stand up for the parents they represent anyway. They are trained to only become “rubber-stampers” for the superintendent and do not truly represent the parents any more.

    Despite all this, parents are slowly waking up to their usurpation of parental rights in our state and are beginning to fight back. It is a grassroots movement that is starting to just catch fire!

  7. AZ Truthteller | April 13, 2016 at 1:55 am |

    Gina Ray, I agree completely that something must be done to stop the bullying of the precious children who are being used as pawns by adults in their classrooms and schools, and at every level of our government.

    However, the Arizona State Board of Education is not the responsible body in this debacle!

    The truth is, the state board is a board; as such it is an advisory body within the public instruction branch of the Executive Department, which executes official education policy enacted by the state legislature. The legislature having abrogated its responsibility to the board does not lawfully make the board responsible.

    Yes, “someone” needs to hold an emergency meeting to determine what existing laws offending teachers and administrators are violating with their unconscionable terroristic acts against our children!

    To start, surely threats and intimidation as described by too many children and their parents, are not lawful in the Great State of Arizona!

    Nothing gives these people a right or excuse to terrorize children to cause them fear and confusion in the face of an impossible dilemma:

    Your parents say you can’t take these tests. You have to take them, or I won’t let you move to Fourth Grade! Or, I won’t let you pass this course. Or, you won’t graduate!

    This is psychological torture to a child! Psychological torture is the goal of any terroristic act. It doesn’t have to include physical violence to be terrorism!

    It is past time for parents to demand protection for their children and themselves from the fifteen county attorneys and Attorney General Brnovich.

    We let Maricopa County Attorney Montgomery get away with refusing to protect State Superintendent Douglas when she filed a complaint against Board President and charter school operator, Greg Miller, for forcefully grabbing her in board meetings.

    Supt. Douglas had to relinquish her seat on the dais for self-protection, because NO ONE in our government stepped-up to protect her! And now, responsible and accountable adults are terrorizing CHILDREN!

    This is not a matter of “policy!” It is not the state board’s lawful responsibility nor duty to police our public school system. And, if it were, it would still not be the state board’s responsibility to initiate and incorporate policies to protect pupils from terroristic bullying!

    That duty belongs to the state legislature; enactment of laws to ensure the safety of all public school system pupils (which includes charter schools) is the responsibility of the legislature. See Roosevelt Elem. School Dist. v. Bishop, 1994, and our State Constitution, Art. XI.§1.A.

    If there is no criminal statute that protects our children, our legislators need to hold that emergency meeting and enact one! Right now, they are at the Capitol Monday through Thursday, and sometimes Friday and Saturday when pressing business arises.

    If they heard from enough parents demanding emergency legislation to mandate the attorney general and county attorneys protect the children of Arizona, they could have a Striker Bill drafted, passed, and signed by a motivated governor within a few days.

    I don’t believe they will do it on their own and the Session will end shortly.

    But, parents from all over Arizona demanding action in the name of their children would be a difficult Call To Action to ignore!

  8. "Hap" Stone | April 13, 2016 at 10:47 am |

    Right now the Capitol Times is in a state of self righteous apopolexy because they were relegated to balconey seats in the legislature. Crying suppression of the press they have launched a whine fest declaring they are the watchdogs, the keepers of the gate for good and accountable government. For this reader I find that profoundly ludicrous at the least and an outright lie at the worst.

    Remember, CT turned a blind eye to Gregg Miller’s physical assault on Dianne Douglas, not a damn peep from the “intrepid” defenders of truth in journalism and accountability in government. This certainly casts a long shadow across both the new owned CT and the most certainly the Miller Board itself.

    With “watchdogs” like that looking out for us and our children we may as well put everything we own on the lawn just to protect, at the very least, the new carpet in our house. Our children? Well child molestors come in many forms, the most egregious being those we can’t remove by vote: a compromised press and the Board of Education.

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