Some Florida parents are up in arms because their 3rd grade children are being held back from advancing to 4th grade after they opted out of taking a standardized reading test.
An undetermined number of third-graders who refused to take the Florida Standards Assessment in reading have been barred from moving to fourth grade in some counties. A lawsuit filed by parents against state education officials as well as school boards in seven Florida counties says counties are interpreting the state’s third-grade retention law so differently that the process has become unfair. Test participation, therefore, is more important than student class academic achievement.
On Friday, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers held a hearing in the suit about the third-grade retention law, which was passed years ago, when Jeb Bush was governor and at a time when there was no movement among parents to opt their children out of standardized tests. Now the opt-out movement is growing, and officials in Florida as well in other states are trying to figure out how to handle students who won’t take mandated standardized tests. It is unclear how many students in Florida opted out of the 2016 test, though in New York state, 21 percent of public school students did.
Gievers said she may rule as early as next week in the suit, which was brought by parents against Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, the State Board of Education, and the school boards in Orange, Hernando, Osceola, Sarasota, Pasco, Broward and Seminole counties. Other counties in Florida did not interpret the law as to mean that students had to be retained if they didn’t take the test, and the Florida Department of Education has said it never mandated that students be held back if they opt out of the FSA.
Children and their families learned in June, when they received report cards, that they would be held back, and over the summer, parents organized and raised money so they could file a lawsuit challenging the third-grade retention law. School has started in some parts of Florida, and is about to start everywhere across the state.
The facts would seem to support the parents. If the state department of education never said kids would be held back for not taking the test, how can these few school districts interpret the rule differently?
I can’t imagine too many parents would have deliberately opted out of testing if they knew their children would have to repeat 3rd grade.
The wording in the lawsuit states the case succinctly:
The result is that students with no reading deficiency are retained in the third grade solely because they opt-out of standardized testing. Defendants’ policy means that a third-grader who takes standardized tests and scores poorly — whether intentionally or not — can still be promoted. Yet, an outstanding student who regularly produces proficient school work in the classroom for which they receive passing grades will be retained simply for not taking a standardized test that they are permitted to opt of under the Florida Statutes.
The judge is expected to rule next week.