School districts game system on tests, parents can legally opt out

By teaching the test and little else, the school district games the system and cheats public school students

In about two weeks public schools will begin taking standardized tests. For administrators and teachers, these tests are career makers or breakers, so many districts including our local district will “game” the system in one way or another.
Parents don’t have to take it, they can opt out of this testing circus.

School districts are under pressure to get high letter grades, by hook or crook. Educators are under great pressure to produce scores, so many “game the system.”

Children lose because they are pressured to perform, and some become nervous wrecks.

What do educators do, and what can parents do about it?

Gaming the system means to exploit, manipulate or bend the rules to gain an advantage. It gives a false picture of achievement and defeats the purpose of the program.

The most commonly used gaming method is to dump traditional instruction and only teach to the test. This hurts students in the long run because the test focuses heavily on math and limited ELA skills. It does not test art, music, theater, or other subject matter at a school. If a district games the system, these areas have low priority in instruction.

There are even websites that teach superintendents, principals and teachers how to game the system or to actually cheat to inflate test scores. One site lists 50 ways that districts routinely cheat to inflate scores. ( )

Here are some other ways districts game the system:

–Schools check addresses for low performing students and kick them over to other schools while keeping ineligible high scoring students.  The system is gamed.

Schools inaccurately report suspension numbers by creative labeling of a disruption. For example, a disruptive student is sent home on Monday with a note for his parent to return with him for a scheduled parent conference the next Monday. The student has been actually suspended, but it is reported as a parent conference. The system is gamed.

–Many high schools route low performing students into worthless Tops Tech curriculums to bolster graduation rates and increase school letter grades. The system is gamed, but students are cheated.

–Some high schools benefit if low performing students drop out and don’t take the test, especially if they miraculously re-enroll after testing ends. The system is gamed.

Another way to game the system is to house disruptive students in what is called “In school suspension.” ISS is not reported as a suspension although students are officially prohibited from participation in regular school activities. ISS does not lower scores. The system is gamed.

Most people don’t know it, but ESSA regulations allow parents to opt out of accountability testing. Districts won’t lose Title 1 and other federal funding because parents opt out. Parents only need to write a letter to the district notifying officials that their student will not take the test. Even better, on test day, keep your high performance students home.

If enough high performing students at every schools opted out of the test, its result will be meaningless.

What can the state do? Take over every school in the district? What good would that do if a substantial number of high performing students in every school opt out? If one district revolts, others across the state will follow.

The only way to get free from this standardized testing mess is for parents to protest. The Supreme Court says no parent can be forced to participate in state testing. Parents are not told about that right, but the Supreme Court has upheld every parent’s right to opt out.

If just ten high achieving students at every local school chose not to participate in testing by either writing the letter or missing school on test day, it would make test scores meaningless and cause someone, somewhere to see the futility of a system that encourages teacher and administrator cheating and system gaming instead of real education.

If parents, principals, and teachers don’t protest, then we are doomed.

Since 85 percent of the students in our district are minorities, we are the ones who are doomed; all others have already jumped ship.