Based on utter ignorance or stunning arrogance, the elected members of the Regional School District #7 Board of Education (Barkhamsted, Colebrook, New Hartford and Norfolk) voted last week – January 27, 2016 – to adopt an official policy “banning” parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme.
By a unanimous vote, Board Chair Molly Sexton Read, Vice-Chair Robert Jerram, Secretary/Treasurer Don Torrant and members Mary Duran, Noel Gauthier, Deborah Bell, Theresa Kenneson and Dennis Spector adopted an anti-opt-out policy stating;
“Both federal and state statutes are clear in their language. All students enrolled in public schools must take the yearly state assessment. Until such legislation changes, the Department of Education and each school district must comply with federal and state mandates.”
In an apparent effort to rationalize their decision to undermine their district’s students, parents, teachers and citizens, the board of education’s statement opined;
Some students and parents may be confused by the term “opt out.” While it was possible to opt out of initial trial assessments when the Common Core initiative started, the SBAC assessments are mandated by the state and therefore not optional,
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which was amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, requires all states to implement “high-quality, yearly student academic assessments.” 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b) (3)(A). The statute further provides that “[s]uch assessments shall . . . provide for . . . the participation in such assessments of all students.” 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b) (3) (C) (emphasis added). The ESEA does not include a mechanism for parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessments.
The Connecticut General Statutes also require that “for the school year commencing July 1, 2013, and each school year thereafter, each student enrolled in grades three to eight inclusive, and grade ten or eleven in any public school shall, annually, in March or April take a mastery examination in reading, writing and mathematics.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-14n (b) (1).
Like the federal statute, this state law also does not include a mechanism for parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessment.
Wait, What? Some students and parents may be confused by the term “opt out?”
Students and parents aren’t the ones confused, it is the public officials that need schooling about one of the most important tenets of our nation’s constitutional system of government.
The 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution reads;
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
To repeat the obvious – There is NO law, regulation or legal policy that prevents parents from opting their children out of the Common Core testing program nor is there any law that allows the federal or state government to punish parents and children for refusing to participate in the testing system.
Second, the school board’s attempt to cherry-pick statutory language is extremely disingenuous.
The Regional School District #7’ policy cites section 10-14n of the Connecticut General Statutes which lays out the law about Connecticut’s mastery test.
The policy notes subsection (a) of 10-14n but completely overlooks section (e) of that statute which reads;
Sec. 10-14n. Mastery examination. (e) No public school may require achievement of a satisfactory score on a mastery examination, or any subsequent retest on a component of such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.
The law is actually extremely clear.
It is illegal for a Connecticut school district to require that a student receive a satisfactory score on the so-called mastery test in order to be promoted from one grade to the next or graduate from a Connecticut public school.
Therefore, a school district cannot hold a child back or prohibit him or her from graduating if they don’t have a satisfactory mastery test score…or for that matter, any mastery test score at all.
School districts can urge parents to allow students to take the Common Core mastery tests, but they simply cannot require that students have a mastery test score in order to graduate or be promoted.
The Mission Statement of Connecticut’s Regional School District #7 reads;
Northwestern Regional is a comprehensive public Middle School-High School. We serve the total Regional Community with emphasis on middle school and high school students. Our educational program promotes cognitive, personal and social development in a safe learning environment. We seek to empower students to be independent lifelong learners and contributors in a changing society.
The very essence of empowering students begins with telling them the truth.
The truth is that in Connecticut, unless the law is changed, parents have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core mastery testing program.
Instead of parroting the lies coming from Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration, the members of Regional District #7 and every other Connecticut school district have a duty to stand up for the children and citizens of their communities.
If Connecticut’s elected officials want to prohibit parents from opting their students out of Connecticut’s mastery test they must try and pass a law that specifically repeals that fundamental and inalienable right.