Saying that many parents feel it takes too much time away from regular classroom work, Rep.Gregg Amore has introduced legislation to allow parents and guardians of students in RI schools to opt out of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) assessments and tests.
The legislation, 2015-H 5845, calls on the Commissioner of Education to establish an opt-out procedure and to provide to each school in Rhode Island a standardized form that can be sent to parents or guardians informing them of their opt-out rights. That form, under the legislation, would ensure parents that students will not face any disciplinary action for not participating in the tests and that each school will provide an alternative academic setting and activities for students not taking the PARCC tests.
“Parents have legitimate concerns regarding the nearly 11 hours of testing their children will encounter, combined with additional hours of test preparation,” said Representative Amore. “In addition, in larger schools, the technology limitations and the logistics associated with the testing could result in a total disruption of the normal class schedule.”
Consistency and routine are benchmarks of positive learning environments, and many parents would prefer their children to spend time in a classroom with a teacher, engaged in instruction and learning that includes the arts, sciences and social studies, rather than preparing for the PARCC testing, said the East Providence legislator, who teaches at East Providence High School.
“Parents are rightly disturbed, I think, by the narrowing of curriculum based on the emphasis on standardized testing, at a time when no one knows what the cut score is, or what the full-scale testing looks like and when there is no federal or state law that requires participation,” he said.
“Education policy-makers should look at this opt-out movement as an opportunity to change the direction of our standardized testing,” said Representative Amore, who said that fewer than 10 states are planning to take part in the PARCC and that many states are now looking to move away from over-testing and toward a more practical assessment process.
He said Rhode Island should be able to fulfill its No Child Left Behind testing requirements with an assessment that takes only a few hours, rather than the 11 needed for PARCC. Among those other tests, with which many are already familiar, are the PSAT, SAT, LSAT, MSAT and the PLT (Principles of Learning and Teaching), which are all less than five hours in duration.
Because there has been such inconsistency throughout school districts about these tests – an inconsistency with the interpretation of the Department of Education directives and the actual test -- there needs to be a statewide policy concerning the opt-out decision, he said. “Moreover, the idea that individual districts can make this test a graduation requirement or apply it to academic records is absurd. We need to provide an opt out for parents who believe not participating in the program is in the best interests of their children, and we need to allow that option statewide.”
The legislation, which has been referred to the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, also provides that no student will have his or her academic record adversely affected for not participating in PARCC.
Among the bill’s co-sponsors are Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton), Rep. Aaron Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence), Rep. Cale P. Keable (D-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester) and Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence).