Florida Parents Sue Over Test Opt Out, Grade Promotion

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Parents of third-grade students that had been held back a grade level after refusing to take a test have sued the Florida State Board of Education, the education commissioner, and a number of school boards, pushing for a change to be made to the ruling.

The lawsuit argues that the practice in use in the state for the last 13 years that requires students who do not receive a high enough grade on the reading test administered throughout the state in the spring to be held back should come to an end. Instead, the plaintiffs are looking for additional factors to be considered when determining the academic future of children in the state.

The group argues that if students perform well enough in the class throughout the year, the test should not be necessary at all, writes Jeffrey Solochek for The Tampa Bay Times.

The son of plaintiff Wendy Chastain should be starting fourth grade this month in Sarasota. However, he will be taking third grade over again because he opted out of standardized test on reading that was required by the state.

Chastain argued that her son received all Bs throughout the year, yet was held back a grade. She said she did not agree with the tests after learning they were linked to property taxes and teacher evaluations, and so chose to opt her son out of taking them. She added that she was not made aware that he would be held back until the end of the year when she received an email.

Earlier in the year, a number of school districts in the state decided that students who did not have a score for the Florida Standards Assessment do not qualify for a "good cause" exemption in order to move on to the fourth grade. These exemptions have been offered by the state in past years, which lets students take an alternative test or prove that they are able to read through a portfolio of work completed throughout the school year.

"Students who are similarly situated are not being treated equally," said civil rights attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs. "Different districts have not been given the proper guidance from the department on how to handle a student who's opted out of testing, how to make a determination whether they have reading proficiency and that has led, in our view, to wrongful retentions for some children."

Mogensen added that the plaintiffs are only looking for a clear explanation of what will happen for children who opt out of state testing in the future, reports Phil Buck for WTSP.

"They'd really to see an emphasis measuring the child's actual abilities rather than the emphasis being on the testing and participation in testing," she said.

Mogensen has asked the court for emergency injunctive relief. She also reached out to school districts and the state board to seek a temporary injunction since the lawsuit was filed just days before the start of the new school year. No word has been received concerning these requests.

Officials from the Florida Department of Education and school districts involved in the lawsuit said they cannot comment on pending litigation.

08 13, 2016
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