Thanks to one brave parent, the OPT OUT NJ movement has arrived in Delran. Here is my letter to the Superintendent of Schools on the parent’s behalf.
As a leader in the Delran educational community, you know that I spend much of my time communicating with parents about school programs and about their children’s educational needs. As such, Parent X, who also happens to be a friend and fellow union member, reached out to me today, concerned about the response that she received from you regarding her decision to opt her child out of NJASK testing. I must admit that I was discouraged to learn of your response. While I don’t disagree that “all districts in NJ are mandated by applicable state statutes…to administer statewide test(s)…”, that does not give districts the ability to compel children to take the test(s).
According to your letter, “If a student is present during the testing day, or make-up testing day, the district must administer the standardized test.” Once again, I would insist that this does not give any district the ability to compel a child to take the test.
You then state that it “will be necessary for you to keep (the child) home on testing and make-up days.” I find it difficult to believe that you would force a parent to keep his or her child home from school on a school day. Not only does that violate the law, it certainly violates the ethical standards of what we are here to do – educate children, not compel them to be tested.
Furthermore, your statement that “absences…could have a potential negative impact on testing data reports and the district’s state aid” is both offensive and unfounded. Offensive, in part because in the previous paragraph you insisted that the parent keep the child home from school – that was never the parent’s intent, and in part because, as you well know, the data mined from these tests is absolutely meaningless to any individual child’s actual academic progress. The data is simply used to arbitrarily label teachers and school districts as successes or failures. Certainly you cannot argue that this young student’s X-grade ASK scores could be used as a predictor for college or career readiness. Unfounded because you fail to offer any concrete evidence as to how the child’s opting out would impact Delran’s state aid. I believe that the governor has already done the damage to that end, and if you are implying that the child’s absence could cause a reduction in state aid, I would remind you of my first point – that you instructed Parent X to keep the child home from school.
Clearly, if Parent X’s child attends school during NJ ASK testing, you are to administer the test. As I’m sure you are aware, Webster’s defines “administer” as “to manage the operation of, or the use of, to provide or apply.” Unless, of course, you believe it is an alternate definition such as “to mete out” as in to administer punishment. If the child refuses to take the test, the district has an obligation to provide an educational program for her – both legally and ethically. As a matter of fact, the New Jersey Department of Education responded to Montclair’s opt-out policy by stating that “alternate plans should be made for students whose parents provide advance notice that their child will opt-out of NJASK.” These plans, according to Montclair, should be reading or doing schoolwork in a non-testing room. I find it difficult to accept your interpretation of “state statutes, regulations, and directives” in light of what the Department of Education has directed Montclair to do:
I expect that you will want to revisit your decision, after consultation with the Board of Education, your attorneys, the State Department of Education, and anyone else responsible for “state statutes, regulations, and directives” as quickly as possible, considering that the testing has begun and the district has been duly notified in advance of Parent X’s intent for the child. As you are aware, under the Fourteenth Amendment, Prince v. Massachusetts, Troxel v. Granville, and Washington v. Glucksberg, parents have a fundamental right to rear their children that cannot be infringed upon, and constitutional law supersedes anything in state administrative code. I’m sure that Parent X will be happy to hear that you will instruct the child’s proctors to enter the test refusal code V2 and allow the child to participate in alternate learning plans while the test is being forced upon, I mean administered to, other students.
As a matter of full disclosure, I have not only been given the authority to intervene in this issue on Parent X’s behalf, but to both alert the press and use social media to bring this matter the attention that it deserves.
Delran Education Association President