Some Florida Third Graders’ Parents Opted Them Out Of Standardized Tests, So Their Schools Are Making Them Repeat Third Grade

The parents of a handful of Florida third graders opted them out of state standardized tests last school year, and in response, their schools are not promoting them to fourth grade, the Washington Post is reporting. Now those parents are suing to get their kids promoted.

The lawsuit names Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, the State Board of Education, and the school boards in Orange, Hernando, Osceola, Sarasota, Pasco, Broward, and Seminole counties as defendants.

The parents say that as the state-mandated standardized reading test was taking place at the end of the most recent school year, they opted them out, as is their right under Florida law. School administrators where those kids go to school, however, have taken a rather literal approach to the phrase “state-mandated,” and have taken that to mean that, since the kids didn’t complete the requirements of third grade — including the standardized test — they don’t get promoted to fourth grade. They sued to force the schools to promote their kids to fourth grade.

“[The school district’s 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”

On Friday, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers held a hearing in response to the lawsuit, which was filed earlier this summer. She declined to rule at that time, but the hearing did produce what is quite possibly the most adorable courtroom drawing in the history of courtroom drawings.

florida third grade
11-year-old Peyton Mears provided this drawing of a Florida standardized testing hearing. [Image via Petyon Mears]

Depending on whom you ask, standardized testing is either an absolutely critical litmus test for how well teachers and schools are performing and, perhaps not coincidentally, how much state and federal funding they receive; or the bane of just about everybody who has anything to do with a public school, including the school boards, administrators, teachers, kids, and parents.

Opponents of standardized testing say that, at the very least, such testing forces teachers to “teach to the test” — that is, spend classroom time preparing for test questions instead of more important aspects of the curriculum, according to US News & World Report writer Brooke Berger. In one Connecticut school, teachers dropped their regular curriculum for nine weeks just to prepare kids for the standardized test.

“Kids weren’t getting a liberal arts education, but prepping to a very narrowly drawn standardized test in primarily language arts and math.”

And even though standardized testing has been around, in one form or another, for decades, recently parents have begun rebelling against the testing in their own small way: by opting their kids out of the tests. For example, in New York State, 21 percent of kids have opted out of those tests.

School administrators, desperate for every last dollar of funding, have taken sometimes drastic measures in order to get parents and kids to comply with standardized testing. For example, in New Mexico, 8th-grader Adelina Silva was suspended for passing out opt-out forms at her school, according to this Inquisitr report. Ironically, those forms were available on her school district’s website.

In an even more extreme case, reported by Slate in 2014, Colorado schools have been known to send truant officers to the homes of kids whose parents opted them out of standardized testing.

Back in Florida, Judge Gievers has said that she will likely rule next week on whether or not the third graders who opted out of standardized tests can be promoted to fourth grade.

[Image via Shutterstock]