Keep This on the Down Low!

I am alerting my readers to the following information so they are aware of a dangerous new initiative which could possibly gain traction in our state. We must do everything we can to prevent this knowledge from getting to the parents of Oklahoma’s public school students.

If you are a parent of a sixth or seventh grade child under the age of 13, I encourage you to stop reading and forget that you ever opened this post. I’m serious–immediately close this page, flush your eyes with cold water, and turn on some reality TV to clear your mind.

There is a valid reason for my warning. I am very concerned that if too many parents read and follow this reckless advice, it could endanger the efficient administration of our state’s testing program.

Lacking the results of high stakes testing to guide education reform and effectively rank, sort and punish our schools, our public school system would be like a ship adrift at sea.  The federal government’s control and authority over our schools would also be greatly compromised.

Consequently, our state might be forced to return to the failed model of localized control where school boards, professional educators, and community members were trusted to make decisions based on the needs of their students. All of the wonderful reforms implemented over the past few years would eventually be endangered. This includes the popular third grade retention law; the simple and highly reliable A-F report cards; and the eagerly anticipated teacher evaluations linked to student test scores.

I know—this is scary stuff! We simply cannot allow these things to happen.

According to an article released today by The Network for Public Education (NPE), there are sinister forces in action who are trying to develop a national opt out strategy from high stakes testing.  On their webpage, the nutcases at the NPE foolishly boast that “We are many. There is power in our numbers. Together we will save our schools.”

These people are absolutely delusional and must be stopped!

Apparently, last weekend several so-called parent advocacy groups (United Opt Out and Student Privacy Matters), released some information related to the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

According to NPE and these parent opt out groups:

“COPPA states that parents of children under the age of 13 not only have a right to know what online information is being collected from their children, they have a right to opt them out of any online program that their child participates in at school, including online testing.

See what I mean? The folks at United Opt Out (UOO) are clearly out of their minds! Why are they targeting the online testing entities? Don’t great American companies like CTB/McGraw-Hill have a right to provide a service to our citizens at a modest profit?

Upon hearing this information, some are saying that the COPPA statement may be the key to a national opt out strategy. One blogger, Peg Robertson, even went as far as to say this in her blog “Pen with Peg.”

This has serious implications for the Opt Out movement. As PARCC and SBAC and other online tests roll out we have a national strategy that can be used, for all children under age 13, as we opt out/refuse the tests. Currently, any other online programs and online testing in use for under age 13 can be halted. We know that there will be many questions to answer as we move forward with this strategy – understand that the only way to get our questions answered is to try it. Let’s do this.

This woman is as nutty as the Mad Hatter. Does she not even care about the impact that the loss of high stakes testing would have on our most fragile children? These tests are the highlight of the academic year and provide kids with hundreds of hours of rigorous test-prep curriculum. Lacking these important measures, teachers will have no idea how to prepare their students for college and careers. If carried out to fruition, this act of rebellion could undercut the foundations of our democracy. It might even cause well-meaning billionaires and corporations to pull their generous offers to provide our communities with outstanding new “non-profit,” private sector charter schools.

In fairness, there is some difference of opinion about the application of COPPA to online testing of students. COPPA applies to commercial web sites that collect personal information from children under the age of 13. Whether a commercial operator like Pearson or CTB is collecting personal data from students when the data is being received from state departments of education is something that may have to be tested through litigation, although Student Privacy Matters seems to think COPPA would apply.

In the NPE’s article, they also share links to the Student Privacy Matters webpage, which provides sample letters for parents to send to their children’s school to get information regarding what on-line programs are in use, as well as to opt them out off those programs. United Opt Out recommends using the sample opt out letter HERE to opt children under 13 out of the upcoming PARCC tests, which will be mostly administered online in many states this year.

Anyhow, we must do everything we can to keep this anti-testing “pornography” out of the hands of highly impressionable parents in our state!

Fortunately in Oklahoma, this opt out campaign would only apply to 6th and 7th grade students taking the ONLINE reading, math, and geography tests. For students taking advanced math, it could also impact the administration of some online EOI exams.

That being said, I am sure you can imagine how damaging this would be for our state. If a large number of parents chose to join this movement, the quality and reliability of the data collected from these two years of testing would be greatly compromised. It would destroy the validity of the A-F report card for schools with these grade levels. The value added models used to evaluate these teachers would be rendered worthless.

I know I can trust you to keep this insanity just between us. Whatever you do, please DO NOT post this information anywhere where members of our Oklahoma PTA might read it.  If you recall, this summer they passed a set of crazy resolutions calling for a moratorium on high stakes testing in our state. Just imagine the damage that might ensue if the wrong people got this information.

So, mum’s the word, people. Keep this under your hat.

Shhhh! The children are counting on your silence.