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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

What's a Pasco parent to do about testing opt-out now?



Pasco County school district leaders lately have made no secret of their disdain for the current Florida accountability system and the proposed uses of last spring's annual student tests.

It's gotten some parents wondering whether their kids might have more leeway for opting out next year. One mom put it to superintendent Kurt Browning this way:

"I'd like to ask you what the county protocols will be for students that opt out of the FSA? I understand the law states "participation" is mandatory, I'd just like to know what action can/will be taken against students that opt out of the exam(s). Please understand, I am, in NO way, asking you to condone this practice. I am simply researching the best way to support our teachers and my children's academic success."

As much as Browning says he wants to see the system changed, he has yet to change his stance on opting out. He sent his message to parents in February that "There is no opt-out provision," and advised all employees in a memo around the same time, "At no time may a school or its staff encourage students to abstain from participating in the statewide tests."

Still, the district recognized that students might "minimally participate" by accepting the tests and refusing to complete them. So it also gave teachers some formal guidelines on what to do if that happens:

"Should a student refuse to test while obeying all other directions from the test administrator, please remind them of the importance of the test, inform them that they will still be required to sit in the testing location for the duration of the test, and encourage them to participate.  If they still refuse, ask them to sit there quietly until the testing time has completed and remind them that as long as there is still time in the session, they will be allowed to answer questions."

If they become disruptive, that would become a disciplinary situation. And if their parents were to arrive at school to withdraw their kids for the testing window, well, that's not written down. Browning has been known to quietly remind principals that parents have that right, too, though.

District spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said the district's directions on opt-out "haven't changed," adding, "We still don't support it," but acknowledging it exists and could become bigger given the latest turn of events. 

For more information about opting out in Florida, visit the Opt Out Florida Network website.

[Last modified: Monday, September 28, 2015 11:28am]


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