Pasco parent group sees opportunity to grow testing opt-out movement
Pasco County's small but growing testing opt-out group wants to strike while the iron is glowing hot, and grow the area's pushback against high stakes testing.
Organizer Heide Janshon said recent events have encouraged her and others to step up the initiative, with more people including teachers willing to ask pointed questions and challenge the status quo.
Among the driving factors, Janshon pointed to the state's controversial validity study of the Florida Standards Assessments, the tough no-confidence posture taken by superintendents and others, and the intrangisence by Gov. Rick Scott in considering even a pause in the accountability action. That's just at the state level.
Within Pasco, new quarterly "checks" have riled up parents and teachers while, at the same time, superintendent Kurt Browning's concession that it's "a parent's choice to have their student sit" for state assessments has lent credence to their resolve. Officially, Browning has said he cannot condone opting out, but he also has acknowledged parents' choices.
"Now, it's time for parents to act," said Janshon, who last week began holding information sessions to teach people how to take control of their children's testing. She said about a dozen parents showed up to the first one. "The parents are going to make the biggest impact. They're the ones who can choose to opt their children out."
At the same time, she suggested, the groups that have expressed dissatisfaction need to do more than issue statements.
"I'm asking these people, what is their plan?" Janshon said. "For them to speak up is great. They've taken a stance. But what are Florida superintendents going to do?"
For the most part, the groups have asked the state not to issue school grades for 2015, and to conduct a review of the accountability law. Key Tallahassee officials have so far rejected each idea.
Janshon said she intended to keep pushing at the state level for a scaling back of testing and its uses, too. She was hopeful that testing sentiments would sway first locally as parents and teachers experience more concerns and decide to act.