Home > Uncategorized > Parents of Gifted Children Leading Opt Out Movement. The Result? Lower Test Scores!

Parents of Gifted Children Leading Opt Out Movement. The Result? Lower Test Scores!

May 4, 2015

Alejandra Matos’ recent Minneapolis StarTribune article describes an unexpected finding regarding the opt out movement in MN and the unintended consequence that resulted from that finding. It seems that in Minnesota the bulk of the opt out movement has come from parents of gifted children— which any experienced administrator could have predicted but seems to have caught MN politicians by surprise. And, as any statistician would the predict, the test scores in the schools attended by opt outs dropped and the scores across the state dropped.

I am not at all surprised that parents of “gifted” children are supporting their children’s decision to opt out of the tests— especially the 11th grade tests that have no academic consequences for them. The typical “gifted” 11th grade student is likely enrolled in multiple AP or honors classes, is striving to do well in each and every course to ensure that they have a sufficiently high class rank to get into a prestigious college, and is engaged in multiple extra-curricular activities. I imagine that instead of attending school to take a simple-minded pencil-and-paper examination that the “gifted” students are staying home to study for test that matter and/or spending time in the school library working on term papers.

I am not at all surprised that parents of “gifted” children and their children’s teachers are leading this, for they can see through what is happening and by their actions can make certain that the schools their children attend remain under public control and retain the wide array of course offerings that engage their children. As Matos notes:

The opt-out effort is being led by a growing group of parents and teachers skeptical of testing’s results and who believe that the push for more testing is driven largely by the nearly $1 billion testing industry.

“The system that we have is pitting teachers against students,” said Valerie Olsen-Rittler, a National Board Certified teacher in Minneapolis and a parent. “If you have teachers that are going to be judged based on students’ scores, that destroys the relationship between the teacher and the child.”

Matos later quotes pro-testing advocates’ concerns:

State and district officials say students have a legal right to opt out of exams, but say they are concerned schools will be unable to accurately track student progress or evaluate how well schools are doing in closing achievement gaps between white and minority students.

These concerns are based on the flawed premise that standardized tests can:

  • Determine which students are “gifted” (which is why is put the term “gifted” in quotations in earlier paragraphs)
  • Accurately track student progress
  • Evaluate how well schools are doing in closing achievement gaps between white and minority students
  • Determine if a particular teacher is meeting the needs of the students they teach

Matos writes that Parents and teachers who support the movement say this is an ideal moment to draw attention to the negative effects of testing on students, teachers and the entire educational system.”

And she is right— but some charter and pro-privatization advocates are seizing on the lower test scores to “prove” that Minneapolis Schools are ALL failing.

A new problem for Minneapolis school leaders is that the opt-outs have caused misleading student achievement data. Minneapolis schools have already been a target of charter schools and other groups that for years have seized on the district’s lagging test results.

Better Ed, a nonprofit group that has relentlessly advocated for the dismantling of the Minneapolis School District, highlighted the drop in Southwest’s scores almost immediately.

“Trouble at Minneapolis’ best high school,” the group wrote, highlighting the drop in math scores. “It’s troubling to see that Southwest’s students are regressing in a subject so critical for their futures.”

Better Ed Vice President Daniel J. Lattier said he was later told why the scores had dipped and agreed that the opt-out movement is concerning.

“I don’t think anyone claims standardized tests are perfect,” Lattier said. “I understand some of the reasons for the movement, but I haven’t heard what other form of accountability really looks like.”

I have a suggestion for Mr. Lattimer: read some of the articles in progressive blogs! Every blog I read has MANY ideas on how public schools can be held accountable… but most of them think that the first step along that path is to address poverty, which ALL tests indicate as the root cause of “failure” as measured by standardized tests.


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