The Bradenton Herald editorial board applauds efforts to have students refuse state tests, claiming opting out is “civil disobedience at its finest” and shows “families are putting some muscle behind their opposition” to testing policies. The editorial quotes Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, who says, “Florida is cheating our children out of their education…We are obsessed with how well they test rather than how well they learn.”
The editorial ignores the importance of high-quality assessments, which provide teachers and parents with one of the strongest tools to measure how well their kids are developing the skills and knowledge to become college and career ready. And, contrary to the Herald’s suggestion, opting out denies parents and teachers valuable information they need to ensure students are on track to advance to the next grade or graduate prepared for college or a career.
The National PTA explains high-quality student assessments “provide valuable information for parents, teachers and school leaders about the growth and achievement of their students. Assessment is a process of gathering information to guide educational decisions. A test is one tool that can be used in a comprehensive assessment system to evaluate and assess student growth and learning.”
The statement goes on to add, “National PTA does not believe that full scale assessments opt-out is an effective strategy to address the frustrations over testing or that opting-out helps to improve a given assessment instrument. Mass opt-out comes at a real cost to the goals of educational equity and individual student achievement while leaving the question of assessment quality unanswered.”
Like the National PTA, many civil rights groups have underscored the importance of quality student assessments, especially for students of color and those from low-income communities. “We rely on the consistent, accurate, and reliable data provided by annual statewide assessments to advocate for better lives and outcomes for our children,” 12 national civil and human rights groups wrote last year. “The anti-testing efforts that appear to be growing in states across the nation…would sabotage important data and rob us of the right to know how our students are faring.”
Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust— in a blog post backed by a coalition of education advocacy organizations including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP and the National Women’s Law Center—was blunt about the importance of testing: “Kids who are not tested end up not counting.”
Last year states passed an important milestone by administering tests aligned to college- and career-ready academic expectations. Karen Nussle points out, “States are finally measuring to levels that reflect what students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college or a career…For parents and educators, that should come as welcome change.”