Opt Out Leon Says Anti-Testing Movement Will Continue Despite State Warnings

Jan 27, 2015

Credit educationews.org

The Florida Department of Education says students can’t opt-out of taking state-mandated exams. The Department sent a letter to key education lawmakers, reiterating that there is no opt-out provision in state law.

In her letter to state lawmakers, Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart reiterates that teachers could face employment sanctions. Students risk lowered grades and possibly retention if they don’t take end of course exams and the new Florida Standards Assessment.  The letter is a response to a request by Senators Don Gaetz, Bill Montford and John Legg. The three made several inquiries into testing, including a series of questions by Gaetz that dealt with the Opt-Out Movement.

“To what extent can people opt out, what are the reasons for opting out,  what are you going to do and what should superintendents and principals do with requests by parents to opt out of testing," Gaetz told Stewart earlier in the month during a legisaltive committee hearing.

WFSU spoke with Opt Out Leon County’s Beth Overholt several months ago about the movement. She says she isn’t surprised with Education Commissioner’s Stewart’s stance that opting-out, isn’t an option. Overholt says it’s similar to feedback she’s gotten from the Leon County School district.

“I think she’s answering according to the letter of the law which is what Leon County is doing. Gillian [The district's] Gregory did a presentation at Fairview that said, there is no opt-out. so technically yes," she said.

Overholt says parents aren’t deterred and will continue to opting out. But school districts say their hands are tied. Last year the Lee County School Board voted to opt its district out of the state testing system completely—but later reversed its position due to concerns it could lose state funding and students wouldn’t be able to graduate. The back-and-forth between lawmakers, the department and groups like Overholt’s come as the legislature considers how to scale back on the number of standardized tests administered in public school classrooms.