Earlier this year, parents from several Chula Vista Elementary School District campuses submitted forms to opt their children out of all tests other than those devised by classroom teachers. Parents outlined their opposition to testing in an April 10 Reader article.
Now, parents in the district have been told by the administration that their children will not be allowed to opt out of a test called Local Measures. Some of these parents believe that the district is violating their parental rights, as guaranteed by the Supreme Court, by insisting their children take this test.
The Local Measures test is partially based on Common Core Standards and also uses a computer-based software portion from the company Achieve 3000.
Anntoinette, who has a sixth-grade son in the district, says that although she submitted a form opting her son out of all tests, she has now been told her son must take the Local Measures test. Anntoinette says tests and test prep already consume too much class time and the test will not advance her son’s education. “If I had the results I could use them to help him over the summer, but I’m told I won’t even get the results.”
Parent Kristin Phatak said the principal of Salt Creek Elementary School, Lalaine Perez, called her the evening of April 15 and told her she would not be able to opt her children out of the upcoming Local Measures test. Phatak was also surprised that Perez suggested she consider moving her children to a charter school or that she should keep them home from school during the test.
Perez did not return an April 16 phone call seeking comment. (However, Chula Vista Elementary’s public relations officer, Anthony Millican, followed up by intimating it was unethical for me, as an author, not to have disclosed in the April 10 testing article that my daughter is a member of the Chula Vista Educator’s bargaining team. Millican also stated in an April 18 email, “You should have got our side of the issue in the first place.”)
Phatak is also appalled that the district would be using Achieve 3000 as part of their Local Measure test.
One critique Phatak expressed was that the test emphasizes nonfiction selections for the reading portion because fiction is more nuanced and therefore is more difficult to test.
Parent Cindy Roucher, from Clearview Elementary School, gave a supporting example of the testing problem with nonfiction literature. She said her third-grade daughter reads books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which are above her grade level. But she said her daughter did not do well on the nonfiction portion of the reading test. The reading subject was astronauts, and Roucher believes had her daughter been introduced to the subject matter and vocabulary she would have fared better on the test.
Manuel Yvellez, president of the Chula Vista Educators, pointed out to Chula Vista trustees at the April board meeting that there are problems with the Local Measures test.
Yvellez said in an April 16 interview that schools like Eastlake Elementary, which normally do well on tests, did not have a single student who passed the sixth-grade reading and writing portion of the test last year.
Yvellez says the state has yet to establish the Common Core Standards and he marvels that the district is already adjusting the bar upward for the Local Measures test.
Yvellez also said teachers “have no way to build curriculum for the test. Teachers have been told to download Common Core–aligned curriculum from various websites.”
The stage is set for confrontation.
Parent Cindy Rouston exchanged emails with Chula Vista superintendent Francisco Escobedo. Escobedo wrote to Rouston that “We will fully comply with your request to exclude [student’s name removed] and [student’s name removed] from statewide assessments. We will also continue to administer our district and school tests and progress tracking mechanisms.”
Rouston construes this to mean that the district will force her children to take the Local Measures test. She wrote back: “I am not asking for the district’s permission. I am simply stating and exercising my constitutional right as a parent and that supercedes any ed code.”
Testing was apparently under way this week and it has taken a new twist.
On April 17, Phatak wrote, “My 5th grade son told me today that his teacher gave him a district test and he told his teacher, ‘My mom doesn’t want me taking any district tests,’ and his teacher took the test away. He sat and read his book while the other kids tested. I’m really proud that he spoke up for himself; he might be the first child in California that has had to refuse the test the way other kids are doing in other states right now.”