March 4, 2014

My Experience Opting Out of Testing For My High School Junior in Cheshire

So I got this letter from the high school (click on it to see it larger):

This past Sunday I sent this email to all the Assistant Principals listed, as well as the Principal.
Dear Mr. Sansoucy,

My son ______ will not be participating in the SBAC assessments; there are no statutes requiring juniors take any testing and in no way do either of us consider it "a very exciting opportunity".

Please let us know to what study hall location you would like ________ to go for him to be marked as present in school during the testing times.


Monday I received this response:
Dear _________,

Attached please find a letter from Dr. Florio regarding opting out of the Smarter Balance Assessment.

Richard Sansoucy
Assistant Principal
 with this attachment (click on it to see it larger):

I then responded with:
Mr. Sansoucy,

Thanks for getting back to me. I'm sorry you have ended up in the middle of this, I'm sure it's not a pleasant place to be. It frustrates me that the school administration has been put in this position by the SDE, but I suppose it is what it is and we all must play our parts.

I have seen this letter before, as it is an exact copy of the one the SDE sent to districts in December, along with the "Background, History, and Suggested Protocols for Addressing Parent Requests for Students to “Opt-Out” of Mandated State Testing" memo.

And while it is true that the statute says "for the school year commencing July 1, 2013, and each school year thereafter, each student enrolled in grades three to eight inclusive, and grade ten or eleven in any public school shall, annually, in March or April take a mastery examination in reading writing and mathematics.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-14n (b)(1).", it's important to note the word or. _______ already took his assessments in grade 10 and therefore is not mandated to take them again. Additionally as the letter I received from you states, the "Field Test" is to "test the test", so it is not actually an assessment of
_______ at all. Finally, my letter was not a "request" as Dr. Florio quoted; it was and is, a refusal.

Kindly skip through the rest of the protocols, as their title specifically does say "suggested", and just let us know what study hall location
_______ should report to for him to be marked as present in school during the testing times. From Mr. Solan's email today it's clear that _______ is not the only student who has a parent who is refusing to allow him to take this test, so I'm sure you are up to thinking about where to put these kids during the testing time. Please let us know that location promptly.


And here is the email the principal, Mr. Solan, had sent earlier today:
Dear CHS Parent of Juniors,

Much has been made about the Smarter Balanced Assessments coming up this month.  For some, the testing has become a political issue.  Some see this as a teacher evaluation issue and others a fairness issue.  The CHS administration understands that our Juniors took the CAPT exam last year believing that would be the last assessment they would be responsible for.  We feel bad for them that the changing educational landscape has dictated that Juniors are now evaluated against the Common Core Curriculum.  One of the more substantial arguments I have heard against the Smarter Balanced Assessment is that it does not accurately reflect what students have been expected to learn at the high school level.  The test was designed to assess college and career readiness.  It is supposed to be a culminating exam reflecting engagement in the Common Core Curriculum through 11th grade.  Unfortunately, our Juniors have not had the benefit of those years of instruction in that content.  Nevertheless, we are very interested in how they perform on this assessment.  If students are absent for testing they will be expected to make up the testing when they return to school.   

As High School Principal, it is difficult for me to give up the instructional time necessary to administer the Smarter Balanced Test.  We are required to do so.  If that is the case, I want to make sure that we get as much information out of it as possible.  I also appreciate that testing is going online.  I recently took the Graduate Records Exam online.  I do see the benefit in our students being exposed to this level of rigor in an online environment as it will likely introduce them to what they will face down the road.  I think it is also important to share that while the Common Core is working to emphasize not only knowledge, but skills it falls short of where Cheshire feels we need to be.  Throughout the course of the year we have been working through the Performance Standards Committee to explore how we assess the CPS Performance Standards.  It is our goal to design more comprehensive assessment of these standards which when combined with feedback from Smarter Balanced Assessment will ultimately provide the best reflection of student growth and development.

Jeff Solan

Truly my heart goes out to the school administrators who are stuck in the middle of this. They are having to be the "bad guys" in something they might not even agree with. And they are unfortunately the ones who have to deal with parents like me, and have to find a place to put all these kids when the time comes. It's so frustrating that the CSDE is making me counterpoint people I have always had sincere respect for. I've encountered Jeff Solan many times at PTO meetings and he is an engaged and forthright principal. I truly hate to think that I may have biased him, or any of the Cheshire High School staff, against me or my son.

I will update this post when I get a response.

And that update:

Dear Ms. ________

As stated in Dr. Florio’s letter there is no opt-out option for the Smarter Balance Field Test.  However, since you have indicated that you will not allow _____ to take part in this assessment, we will assign him to a study hall during the testing.

The testing days are full school days for all juniors and ______ is expected to arrive at school at 7:30 each morning.

Should you reconsider this decision, please respond to this e-mail and _______ will be scheduled for the assessment.


Richard Sansoucy
Assistant Principal

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