UPDATE: Courtesy of Board Member Wagner in the comments below:
UPDATE: OEA spoke with the primary sponsor of the bill that contained
the provision to penalize educators who suggest opting-out as a
possibility, Representative Kimberly Roegner. Roegner agreed to
completely remove that provision from the bill in question, House Bill
420. Apparently she and others on the education committee have realized
that this provision went way too far, was ill considered, and should
have received more thoughtful consideration before being placed in the
My thanks go out to all of you, including Crumudgucation,
who joined into the collective voice that changed the minds that needed
to be changed. My thanks go out to Representatives Roegner and Brenner,
chair of the House Education Committee, for being open to our message.
Here's what the original fuss was about.
Word came from a high-ranking official through Facebook today that somebody is gunning for those mean old Ohio Opt Outers.
The vehicle is Ohio House Bill 420, a bill "to amend sections 3302.01 and 3302.03 of the Revised Code to prohibit the Department of Education from including students who 'opt-out' of state assessments in calculations of certain grades in the state report card and to declare an emergency."
But that title sounds like a Good Thing, right. In fact if we look at some of the specific changes, we find versions of this language:
any student to whom a district or school is required to administer an assessment under section 3301.0710 or 3301.0712 of the Revised Code, but who chooses not to take the assessment, shall not be included in the calculation of the district's or school's grade under division (B)(1)(b) of this section.
In other words, students who opt out of the Big Standardized Test (still PARCC, in Ohio's case) will not be counted against their school's state rating.
However, the bill is listed as still in committee, where apparently the following language has been tacked on as an amendment:
“No employee of a school district or public school shall negligently suggest to any student, or parent, guardian, or custodian of that student, enrolled in the district or school that the student should choose to not take any assessment prescribed by section 3301.0710 or 3301.0712 of the Revised Code.” Violation of this law is termination, loss of license, and a criminal record.
That's right. Tell your students or any of their friends and family that you think opting out might be a good idea, and you would lose your job, your license, and your clean record. Post a complaint about PARCC on the book of face, and you are in the slammer. Testify before a government agency that you think the PARCC is a big fat waste of time, and you could be an unemployed lawbreaker.
Word of this astonishing (and probably illegal) amendment slipped out courtesy of Ohio Board of Education member A. J. Wagner. We've met Wagner before-- he's the board member who led a small revolt when Ohio tried to cut special area requirements for elementary schools. And he shared a few thoughts about this move on his Facebook page which I am sharing now with his permission.
So, a teacher who says on Facebook, “These tests aren’t helping our
kids;” a janitor who reports to his neighbor what he heard in the
teacher’s lounge about the waste of time these tests are; a
superintendent who honestly says to the PTO president who challenges the
tests, “I’m only doing this because the state makes me do it, this
doesn’t help your children;” a principal who testifies to a legislative
committee that the tests are damaging our schools; a counselor who says
to a parent of an anxiety ridden child on the verge of a breakdown, “The
testing pressure is too much for her;” a parent who works in the
cafeteria and opts her son out of the tests; a school board member who
votes for a resolution condemning the tests; all of these risk losing
their job and can end up with a criminal record.
“Stop them before the public finds out what we’re doing!”
“Ruin their lives before they ruin our political careers with the truth!”
• These tests have had no real value, at least not to student performance. They have tremendous value to testing companies.
• They cost a lot of tax dollars taken from your house budget and given
to testing companies rather than classroom instruction.
• They cost significant time. Last year teachers in Ohio spent as much as 8% of their classroom time on tests.
• They cause needless, harmful angst in children who understand the high stakes placed on the outcomes.
• They cost schools the loss of good, experienced teachers, especially
schools in poor communities where teachers are blamed for the poor
performance of kids who come to school, hungry, stressed, sick, and
• They cost discouragement and hopelessness in impoverished
communities whose houses are vacant as parents move, when they can,
because they’ve been told, falsely, that their schools aren’t any good.
• They are telling us that our kids are stupid when they’re not. If the
scores from last year’s tests are believed, about two-thirds of Ohio’s
kids are not on track for college or a career. That’s not true. But just
in case you don’t get the message, standards are being raised for next
year’s test to make that point more emphatic. TWO OF THREE OHIO KIDS ARE
TOO DUMB TO GO TO COLLEGE!
• These tests aren’t timely. More than
half the school year is gone and we still don’t have final scores on
last year’s tests! What is a parent or teacher supposed to do when they
find out, in late February, that Junior didn’t do so well? Send him back
• Education Week has moved Ohio from a state ranking of 5
to a ranking of 23 in the past two years. Ohio hasn’t seen a meaningful
increase in NAEP scores in more than a decade. Last year’s NAEP scores
for Ohio moved us down.
• The test results are used to terminate
local control by firing elected school boards and allowing outsiders
appointed by outsiders to take control of our schools. They are not just
burying the constitution; they are ending democracy.
If you are an Ohioan who cares about education, you might want to send Wagner a little message of support. And if you're employed by a school district, feel free to share this post-- but do it soon, because before you know it, spreading this kind of dissent and disagreement could cost you your job.
Coercion, force, threats, and more threats-- this is what it takes to get people to go along with the PARCC. You would think that legislators and policy makers might ask themselves why exactly PARCC has failed to win hearts and minds. but no-- instead, we'll just force people to shut up about it at gunpoint. Good luck with that, Ohio.