At the end of January, Dan Denvir reported that close to 20 percent of the students attending Feltonville Arts and Sciences have opted out of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) test. In the article, Amy Roat, a teacher at Feltonville and member of the Caucus of Working Educators, explained that information for opting students out of the state standardized test is “not well-disseminated,” and “it is important for parents in PA and Feltonville to know they have a RIGHT to Opt -Out their child from standardized tests.” The following day, Philadelphia City Council members Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, Mark Squilla and Jannie Blackwell issued a statement supporting the local opt-out movement, which stated “until we put some limits on this obsession with testing students, we will see protests like that at Feltonville. We stand with families who are making the choice they believe is best for their children.” By the end of the week, Kelley Collings, a Feltonville teacher, told the press that an “investigatory conference” was launched against the those who participated the in action.
Since then, the Caucus of Working Educators and other organizations held opt out events in the Liberty Diner, which was attended by high school students, parents and teachers from other district schools, and a forum at the Philadelphia Free Library, which had over 75 people in attendance. At the end of February, Superintendent William Hite announced that the school district would release information on the standardized test and parent’s rights to opt their children out of the test.
In an email correspondence with the School District of Philadelphia, officials have confirmed that tomorrow, March 11, they will be posting a question and answer document that provides information on the PSSA’s and will explain “a parent’s right to ‘opt-out’ his/her student from testing’ and then send that document home to students three weeks before the April 13th testing date.
In the email, officials wrote:
All informational items listed below will be translated, sent home and accessible through the district webpage. To access translated documents, follow the click path below.
philasd.org–sitemap–multilingual family support–forms (you can keyword search for translated docs here)
- School cover letter
- Provides context for all the documents sent home as well as any other messages the principal wants to relate
- Frequently Asked Questions – Information for Parents or Guardians
- Provides an overview of the basics of the PSSA
- Explains a parent’s right to “opt out” his/her student from testing in the “May parents see the assessments?” section
- Keystone/PSSA Test Features and Accommodations
- Defines test features and accommodations
- Provides a link to the complete Accommodations Guidelines documents
- Electronic Devices Parent Letter
- Details the Pennsylvania Department of Education policy on and consequences for using cell phones and other electronic devices during testing
The email went on to explain that there will be links to translated documents.
The pamphlet will be sent home with students on March 25 and parents will have two weeks before the April 13th date to opt their children out. Parents will have to go to their child’s school, review the test and then sign a wavier to opt their children out.
There is a technicality that could have an adverse effect on parents opting their children out. The time period for opting children out of the PSSAs begins on March 30 and the school district’s spring break begins Wednesday April 1. Parents will then have the following week to opt their children out. Amy Roat, one of the teachers involved with getting parents to opt out of the PSSA’s at Feltonville Arts and Sciences, calls this move a “step in the right direction.”