Monday, April 24, 2017

Opt Out Keystone Exams 2.0 - Letter

Senate Bill 880 is legislation that nullified the state Keystone Exam graduation requirement until the class of 2019 and beyond.  Many students across Pennsylvania have taken these exams multiple times, been placed in remedial classes and/or made to take an alternative project with a minimun score requirement to graduate.  As many as 60% of students are not passing the Keystone exams while passing the Algebra 1, Biology and English classes. The below sample letter and information is provided for those wish to opt out.

Students who are up against taking the Keystone Exams this May can opt out with no recourse according to the SB 880 legislation.  The request must be in writing and can be sent via email or regular mail.  I suggest email so that there is a record.  Preferably you would get a response via email for your records.  However, many school administrators will make a phone call instead so there is no record of what they've said.  If that is the case, take notes, write an email stating "Thank you for speaking with me on [DATE] regarding the Keystone Exams where you stated "... " .  Provide details of the phone conversation for your records and email it back to them.
_______________________________________________________________________

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear Superintendent,


Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child, [NAME], excused from Keystone testing.   Senate Bill 880, which was signed into legislation by Govenor Wolf on February 3, 2016, states that the use of the Keystone exams shall be delayed until the 2018-2019 school year.  For your reference the wording of SB 880 (emphasis added):
(1)  Notwithstanding section 2604-B(b)(2)(v), 22 Pa. Code §   4.24 (relating to high school graduation requirements), 4.51 (relating to State assessment system) or 4.51c (relating to project-based assessment) or any statute or regulation to the contrary, the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement or as a benchmark for the need for participation in a project-based assessment shall be delayed until the 2018-2019 school year.
For clarification purposes "Notwithstanding ... or any statute or regulation to the contrary" is a legal statement that covers any and all other state or local regulations and mandates.  That means this statement nullifies PA School Codes:  4.24 (relating to high school graduation requirements), 4.51 (relating to State assessment system) or 4.51c (relating to project-based assessment).  This also means that a local requirement to pass the Keystone Exams or Project, or Alternative/Remedial class is NULLIFIED for the two years that Act 1 is in effect, until 2019 and beyond.

For further clarification purposes, "... the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement or as a benchmark for the need for participation in a project-based assessment shall be delayed until the 2018-2019 school year.

Legal language is clear here "shall be delayed" until the 2018-2019 school year.  SB 880 can be found HERE

Thank you for your attention in this matter.  If you need to contact me, please do so via email at this address.

Sincerely,
__________________________________________________________________________


ISSUES

Parents, by now we all can recognize that the PDE and school administrators DO NOT have the best interest of students in Pennsylvania.  This is clearly evident at the high rates of students who are not passing and are re-testing multiple times, placed in remedial classes and placed in "project" based classes where a student uses a computer to take assessments on programs like Study Island until they score a minimum (usually 70%).  Most of these students have already passed the class and are still re-testing a year or two later.  As many as 60% of students are not passing the Keystone exams annually.  Think about that for a moment - there are more students not passing than students that are passing!  

What might happen if you opt out?  Your child might be threatened with not graduating, they might be told they are mandated to take a remedial type project like Study Island or nothing.  However, the legislation supports opting out with no repercussions.  If necessary, demand in writing reasons why they require and alternate pathway to the Keystone graduation requirement.  I will personally take each to Senator Dinniman for a potential class action law suit against the PDE.

The only action we as parents can take is to opt out - its the only action that has a consequence and that school administrators must respond to.  Discussions with school administrators will not have any impact aside from a condescending smile and 'thanks for your input, our hands are tied".  If we don't take action, these insidious testing mandates won't change. 

















Thursday, April 20, 2017

Keystone Update April 2017


At the April 7th meeting with Senator Dinniman we discussed the Keystone Exams.  Below is a summary of that meeting.

Keystone Exams


SB 880, which is now Act 1 in Chapter 4, made it illegal to administer the Keystone Exams for two years, to any student. The PDE made it their own legal interpretation that school districts could administer them, make them a grad requirement and bank scores for students in 2019 and beyond. The intent and the legal language of SB880/Act 1 is to delay the administration of the Keystone Exams and the graduation requirement.  See legal language below (red highlight emphasis is mine):

(1)  Notwithstanding section 2604-B(b)(2)(v), 22 Pa. Code §   4.24 (relating to high school graduation requirements), 4.51 (relating to State assessment system) or 4.51c (relating to project-based assessment) or any statute or regulation to the contrary, the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement or as a benchmark for the need for participation in a project-based assessment shall be delayed until the 2018-2019 school year.
"Notwithstanding ... or any statute or regulation to the contrary" is a legal statement that covers any and all other state or local regulations and mandates.  That means this statement nullifies PA School Codes:  4.24 (relating to high school graduation requirements), 4.51 (relating to State assessment system) or 4.51c (relating to project-based assessment).  This also means that a local requirement to pass the Keystone Exams or Project, or Alternative/Remedial call is NULLIFIED for the two years that Act 1 is in effect, until 2019 and beyond.

Key Point:  Keystone exam scores, per Act 1, are not allowed to be banked for these two years!  This would generally affect students taking the Algebra 1 Keystone in 7th, 8th or 9th grade (any student who takes the Algebra 1 Keystone in 2017 or 2018).  See legal language below (red highlight emphasis is mine):
... the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement or as a benchmark for the need for participation in a project-based assessment shall be delayed until the 2018-2019 school year.
... the use of the Keystone Exams ... shall be delayed until the 2018-2019 school year.  Legal language is clear here SHALL BE DELAYED!

SB880/Act 1 can be read in full HERE and was approved February 3, 2016.


A class action lawsuit against the PDE is already written to be filed.  No further information on this right now.


SAT Bill 
would replace Keystone Exam graduation requirement and fulfill the federal testing requirement in 11th grade
Senator Dinniman is sponsoring a bill to have the SAT as an option to fulfill the federal testing requirement in 11th grade. He clarified, and these two points are important, that his SAT bill will include language that it can be opted out of and there will not be a minimum score required to graduate. The two-fold benefit is that it would eliminate the administration of the Keystone Exam and the grad requirement and fulfill the federal testing requirement. While I am personally opposed to the SAT, this option would eliminate the KE as a grad requirement. Also, students in low income schools would have an opportunity to take them where they otherwise couldn't afford to. My biggest concern is the intrusive data mining attached to this test, which is optional, just would need to inform parents and students.

What can parents of students in the class of 2017, 2018 who are up against taking the Keystone Exams this May?


Opt Out of the Keystone Exam this May 2017.  Especially students who have already taken the exam multiple times.  We are at a point in this that we know:

  • The PDE does not have the best interest of the students, they support the corporate privatization of public schools, and they are politically corrupt.
  • School Administrators, Superintendents and Principals will not actively support students, they will support the mandates put forth by the corrupt PDE.  (Don't be fooled by their smiles and patronizing "I agree with you but my hands are tied" sentiments.)
  • Teachers overwhelmingly do oppose the Keystone graduation requirement and support students, however their jobs are threatened if they speak out on this.
Parents, the only way that this will change is to opt out. If students don't opt out, there is no consequence or action for the school districts to do.  If students opt out, in writing, then the school district must respond and take action.  Change will only happen if schools are in a position to take action, opting out is the only thing that will force a consequence or action.   

Think about that for moment, adults in the form of school administrators and the folks at the PDE, who are responsible for thousands of students education and preparing them for the future are sabotaging their lives.  Adults versus our children.  


Keystone Exam testing window is May 15-25.  In the next week I'll post a sample letter, with legal language and process to opt out and of to handle different school district responses.


Consider watching these short and very informative videos about the future of Public Education, where students will be on one-on-devices that will allow constant data mining in a corporate and privatized setting that will make public school as we know it obsolete.  








Monday, April 3, 2017

Opt Out of Opt Out 2.0

The changes coming to education as a result of federal and state level educational policies, ESSA (and even the opt out movement) turns out to be worse than the standardized testing and all its related issues.  We are at a pivotal turning point in education history.  The transformation of public education has been gradually occurring for decades.  We are at the end days of education as we have always known it, and we don't even know it ...

There's MORE to opting out than the end of the year test. Click here to find out what you should be doing next.

If you have 4 minutes, click here to learn about the REAL end game.

If you have 10 minutes, click here find out how the Defense Department jumpstarted the e-learning industry.

If you have an hour, click here to learn about a future without schools or human teachers. 

Review slides for Alison's March 25 talk at the Lake City Public Library in Seattle here.

For more on ed-tech in public schools follow Wrench in the Gears.

Monday, March 27, 2017

PSSA Opt Out for Other Reasons *New*

There is a new reason listed on the PSSA testing booklet and PSSA Handbook for Assessment Coordinators listed for opting out of the PSSA assessment.  See below:


PSSA Handbook for Assessment Coordinators (click and go to page 11)


  1. Student had a parental exclusion based on other reasons: If a parent refuses to have his/her student participate in the assessment but does not provide a reason in accordance with Chapter 4 rules, school personnel must select “Student had a parental exclusion based on other reasons.” Students who do not participate in the assessment due to parental request will negatively affect the school’s participation rate and can potentially have a negative impact on the school’s accountability status. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

PSSA Opt Out - FAQ

1.  Do I need to explain my religious beliefs with specific questions from the PSSA test on my opt out letter?

No.  A parent simply states "because of religious beliefs."  Once a parent reviews the PSSA, this is all that needs to be included in the letter:
On [Date] I had the opportunity to review the PSSA test and pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child, [Name] excused from PSSA testing because of religious beliefs.  
Parents must sign a confidentiality agreement. If they state anything specific from the PSSA test, THEY WILL BREACH THE CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT. Parents cannot, by nature of the confidentiality agreement, write specifically what they oppose for religious reasons on the PSSA test.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education explains this, see page 4, question 10 at  Chapter 4 FAQ.
So, as long as a parent or guardian reviews the state assessment and provides a written statement providing his/her written objection for religious purposes (however vague that objection may be), the child must be excused from the assessment. PDE will not provide an opinion as to what is a proper religious objection.
  
This false statement, and other similar false statements have been given to parents from their school districts:
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has made it clear that any objection to the testing materials for religious reasons must be specific in nature, must note the specific question or questions that are objectionable and the specific, religious reason for your objection. Please note a general statement of religious objection does not meet the intention of this review and will not be considered for possible exemption.
 2.  My child is opted out of the PSSA testing, what will they do while their classmates are taking the PSSA's?

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) on page 9 of the PSSA Handbook. :
If the student is excused from the assessment due to parental or guardian request, school personnel must provide an alternative learning environment for the student during the assessment and select “Student had a parental request for exclusion from the assessment."
3.  When can I schedule to review the PSSA?  My school district has offered limited hours which makes it difficult for me to schedule a time to review.  

From page 9 of the 2015 PSSA Handbook for Assessment Coordinators:
Districts must provide a convenient time for the review. This may include an evening review time, if requested.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

PSSA Opt Out 2017

This post contains information on how to opt out of the PSSA's and FAQ.

Join this Facebook group if you are interested in connecting with other parents in PA who are considering opting out to share and discuss issues relating to PA opt out.

How to Opt Out of the PSSA's

STEP 1:  Parent sends letter to the building principal that you plan to opt out.
STEP 2:  Parent reviews test at school.  
STEP 3:  Parent sends another letter stating that you have reviewed the test and are opting out for religious beliefs.

Please note that the only reason for opting out is religious beliefs and you do not need to provide any specific details as to what your religious beliefs are, just state "for religious beliefs".  Also, letters can be mailed or emailed.  I like emails because then you have record that it was sent.

STEP 1:  Parent sends letter to the building principal that you plan to opt out.
SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear Superintendent,
Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child, [NAME], excused from PSSA testing because of religious beliefs.
Sincerely,
STEP 2:  Parent reviews test at school.
Two weeks prior to the testing window, exams must be made available for review.  School districts must provide a convenient time for the review.  Parents will need sign the 'Parent Confidentiality Agreement' that simply states they will not share what is on the test with anyone

STEP 3:  Parent sends another letter stating that you have reviewed the test and are opting out for religious beliefs.  This letter can be handed in at the time you review the PSSA.
SAMPLE LETTER:  
Dear Superintendent,
On [Date] I had the opportunity to review the PSSA test and pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child, [Name] excused from PSSA testing because of religious beliefs.  
Sincerely,
Superintendent reviews the request and this request cannot be denied.

School personnel must provide an alternative learning environment for the student during the assessment and complete the “Non-Assessed Students” grid by selecting “Student had a parental request for exclusion from the assessment.”

PSSA Opt Out - Frequently Asked Questions

1.  Do I need to explain my religious beliefs with specific questions from the PSSA test on my opt out letter?

No.  A parent simply states "because of religious beliefs."  Once a parent reviews the PSSA, this is all that needs to be included in the letter:
On [Date] I had the opportunity to review the PSSA test and pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(4) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child, [Name] excused from PSSA testing because of religious beliefs.  
Parents must sign a confidentiality agreement. If they state anything specific from the PSSA test, THEY WILL BREACH THE CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT. Parents cannot, by nature of the confidentiality agreement, write specifically what they oppose for religious reasons on the PSSA test.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education explains this, see page 4, question 10 at  Chapter 4 FAQ.
So, as long as a parent or guardian reviews the state assessment and provides a written statement providing his/her written objection for religious purposes (however vague that objection may be), the child must be excused from the assessment. PDE will not provide an opinion as to what is a proper religious objection.
  
This false statement, and other similar false statements have been given to parents from their school districts:
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has made it clear that any objection to the testing materials for religious reasons must be specific in nature, must note the specific question or questions that are objectionable and the specific, religious reason for your objection. Please note a general statement of religious objection does not meet the intention of this review and will not be considered for possible exemption.
 2.  My child is opted out of the PSSA testing, what will they do while their classmates are taking the PSSA's?

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) on page 9 of the PSSA Handbook. :
If the student is excused from the assessment due to parental or guardian request, school personnel must provide an alternative learning environment for the student during the assessment and select “Student had a parental request for exclusion from the assessment."
3.  When can I schedule to review the PSSA?  My school district has offered limited hours which makes it difficult for me to schedule a time to review.  

From page 9 of the 2015 PSSA Handbook for Assessment Coordinators:
Districts must provide a convenient time for the review. This may include an evening review time, if requested.





Saturday, September 17, 2016

NEW Keystone Exams for Students in 2017 or 2018

Thanks to Senator Dinniman, we have recourse for students in the class of 2017 and 2018 who are being placed in remedial classes, PBA, and/or 'required' to re-take the Keystone Exam(s).  Senator Dinniman had a Town Hall meeting  on September 12, 2016 and explained his plan to file amicus briefs on behalf of parents to file a lawsuit against the PDE.  During that meeting it was explained:
 An amicus brief would be filed by a legislator such as Senator Dinniman (who is not specifically affected by the action) on behalf of students/families that are directly impacted by the issue at hand. Possible examples of those who are directly impacted by the Keystone graduation requirement are: 
1. A student who has been prevented from receiving a high school diploma in 2016 as a result of not testing Proficient on one or more Keystones; 
2. A student who is being forced to take the Keystones repeatedly over the next several years (which could result in injurious consequences -- perhaps psychologically -- such as affecting the student’s mental health); 
3. A student who, as a result of not having passed a Keystone, is being placed in remedial courses and/or is required to take a type of Project Based Assessment (whether or not it is called by that name). Inordinate amounts of time spent on remediation could prevent the student from reaching his full educational potential in that it could preclude him from taking courses that would be more related to his individual educational pursuits and/or vocational goals. 
The first step:  parents request in writing (email is best) to their principal and superintendent that their child will not take the Keystone exams and/or is to be removed from from the PBA, and any remedial Keystone class.  The next step would be to contact Senator Dinniman for an amicus brief.  Below is a sample letter.

Dear Superintendent and Principal, 
Pleased be advised that pursuant to Act 1, (student name) will not take the Keystone exam and is to be immediately removed from the PBA and/or remedial class that (student name) was placed in that requires proficiency due to not passing the Keystone exam.  

If this request is denied please provide in writing a statement explaining the reason.  If (student name) is not removed from the PBA/or remedial class, then I will be submitting an amicus brief to Senator Andy Dinniman for the purpose of a lawsuit.

For your reference, Act 1 says:

(1)  Notwithstanding section 2604-B(b)(2)(v), 22 Pa. Code § 4.24 (relating to high school graduation requirements), 4.51 (relating to State assessment system) or 4.51c (relating to project-based assessment) or any statute or regulation to the contrary, the use of the Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement or as a benchmark for the need for participation in a project-based assessment shall be delayed until the 2018-2019 school year.

I look forward to your confirmation that (student name) has been removed from the PBA/or remedial class and will not be taking the Keystone exams.

Sincerely,