3rd Grade Honor Students Held Back After Parents Refuse Standardized Tests

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 
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Florida parents file a lawsuit against State Board of Education for refusing to let their third graders advance to the next grade

Some Florida parents decided to opt their third graders out of standardized tests this last spring. Now, state education officials are refusing to allow those kids — some, honor students — to advance to fourth grade.

Years ago, Jeb Bush passed something known as the third grade retention law. The law allows students to be held back once if they do not meet minimum reading scores on their third grade standardized tests. If they score what is referred to as “Level 1,” they cannot advance. The law was passed at a time when opting out of standardized tests was relatively unheard of. Now education officials are trying to figure out how to handle students who won’t take mandated tests.

I mean, god forbid state officials just use common sense and look at the students’ cumulative test scores, performance in class, and teacher evaluations when making decisions about whether to advance those students to their appropriate grade. Why do that when they can act like their hands are tied by a law that relies only on standardized tests scores to advance students?

An explanation on the “Read To Learn” law explains, “This law means, ‘We are not going to give up on struggling students; we are going to invest in them.’ The results should have a positive effect on our whole state.” Okay, but what if students aren’t struggling? What if they’re only being held back because some elected officials are acting like robots who can only read test scores when assessing a student’s ability?

Now some parents are challenging a law they feel is being misinterpreted.

“The negative behaviors associated with retention are exacerbated here because each of the plaintiffs’ children received a report card with passing grades, some earning straight A’s and Honor Roll for their hard work throughout the school year, but yet they will be retained in the third grade despite having no reading deficiency,” text from the suit obtained by The Gainesville Sun says.

The lawsuit is being brought by parents against Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, the State Board of Education, and the school boards in Orange, Hernando, Osceola, Sarasota, Pasco, Broward and Seminole counties. Counties that are not named in the suit did not interpret the law to mean that students needed to be held back if they didn’t take the tests, and The Washington Post reports that the Florida Department of Education has said it never mandated that students be held back if they opt out of the FSA.

If the Florida Department of Education did not mandate that students be held back for missing the test, why are some school boards taking it upon themselves to do so? When does it ever make sense to hold an honor student back — or any student that isn’t exhibiting learning deficiencies, for that matter?

“Parents also asked for an emergency injunction from the court, saying many of them didn’t find out their students would be retained until May or June, and school is set to begin shortly,” reports the Sun.

“Refusing to accept a student portfolio or report card based on classroom work throughout the course of the school year when there is no reading deficiency is arbitrary and irrational,” the suit says.

Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout was in the courtroom for the proceedings and live-tweeted it. Good luck reading these without wanting to bash your head against a wall, cry, or both.

Really? Wow. That may be the most absurd statement, ever.

Yup. Must continue to see children as numbers on a page, not actual humans. That will ruin everything.

Fineout reported in his AP story about the hearing, “The attorneys representing the school districts told the judge they had offered solutions to the parents. Donna Blanton, an attorney representing Seminole County, said of the parents that ‘this is a problem of their own making.'”

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