Parents who oppose standardized tests given to students may think they’re taking a positive stance for education by opting their children out of those tests, but doing so could have a huge negative impact on schools and the school district, Webster Parish Superintendent Dr. Dan Rawls said Monday.

“If a child doesn’t take the test, the teacher gets a zero on their VAM (Value Added Measure) score, the school gets a zero on the student accumulation score and the district gets a zero,” Rawls explained to parish school board members. “Some say that’s only one zero, but what if it’s 300, or 500?”

A large number of students opting out of the tests and bringing zero scores can cause the school to become an “F” school, the district to also become an “F” and the teacher to be judged ineffective, “…and it can happen in one day,” Rawls said.

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“When a parent tells their child to opt out of the test and he or she receives a zero, it’s not the child that is punished, it’s the school system,” he said. “We are required by federal and state law to administer the test. We have no rules or regulations that let us tell parents the child doesn’t have to take the test.”

Rawls says school districts are asking the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to take up the issue at its next meeting and give schools alternative scoring methods if parents opt out.

“We’re not in control of what parents decide, but we’re gong to be severely punished,” he added.

State Superintendent of Education John White expects local school personnel to handle the problem of opting out by sitting down with parents and explaining how important the tests are, Rawls said.

One source urging parents to opt their children out of standardized tests is Facebook, where a page “Parents & Kids Against Standardized Testing” says the page was created “to inform parents, kids and other interested community members about the over-reliance on standardized testing to make high stakes decisions in education.”

Rawls says some parents tell their children to just sign the test and turn it in, while others say the answer to every question should be the same.

“They say ‘A’ is the answer to every question, so the child takes the bubble sheet and marks ‘A’ every time,” he said.

Students opting out of the tests, the Rawls said, can also negatively impact federal funding.

“The requirement to administer the tests to every child is federal, state and even local. We have it in our policy. Federal funding is based on an annual growth rate and every 0 drops that rate,” Rawls said. “We hope parents will heed our advice and let the kids take the test.”

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