Friday, August 29, 2014

Test Prep, CDT's and Study Island

Classroom Diagnostic Tools (CDT's) are based on content assessed by the PSSA's and Keystone Exams and are offered to students in 3rd thru 12th grade: PDE Website

"Study Island offers rigorous content built from the Pennsylvania Core Standards to prepare for the PSSA." More information: Study Island Website
How to Opt Out of Test Prep

Write a letter to your child's principal and/or teacher(s).  The CDT's and Study Island are both examples of test-prep for the PSSA's and Keystone exams.

Sample Letter: 
Dear Principal/Teacher(s):
Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(1)(2)(3) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child, [NAME], excused from PSSA test prep, including (but not limited to) CDT's and Study Island because of religious beliefs.

FAQ:  What will my child do while their class is taking the CDT and Study Island?
That is a local decision that varies.  Students can work on homework, read, go to the library, work on classwork provided by the teacher, use the computer etc. 

This is the PA law that allows for opting out of specific instruction and test prep:

PA School Code Chapter 4.4(d)(1)(2)(3):
(d) School entities shall adopt policies to assure that parents or guardians have the following: 
(1) Access to information about the curriculum, including academic standards to be achieved, instructional materials and assessment techniques. 
(2) A process for the review of instructional materials. 
(3) The right to have their children excused from specific instruction that conflicts with their religious beliefs, upon receipt by the school entity of a written request from the parent or guardians. 
This opt out of instructional materials applies to ANY instruction parents wish to opt their student out of.  No statement describing or detailing the religious belief is necessary.

This is the letter I wrote on the first day of school last year:
I am writing to inform you that [student name] be excused from PSSA/Keystone test prep, including, but not limited to computer assessments such as CDT's and Study Island.

After much research regarding common core and new data collection and sharing requirements I have become even more suspicious and skeptical on the state's ability to secure data.  Since my daughter is not of legal age to legally bind herself to ownership of her personal data, that responsibility falls on her parents.  Since PDE will not allow me to opt her out of the increasingly invasive data collection through PIMS I will remove her from the means for data collection.  I am sure you can appreciate my desire to protect my daughter from the possibility of identity theft at an early age.  While I do have concerns with the educational value of the Common Core CDT and Study Island assessments, my biggest concern with electronic assessments is data collection and privacy.

Can you help facilitate this with her teachers or should I contact them directly?  If there is a non-teacher created state/DRC assessment she is required to take I’d like it to be informed prior and will request paper/pencil (I am aware that the CDT test is wholly done on the computer with no paper/pencil option).  I prefer assessments come directly from her classroom teacher, not the state or USDOE.

This past year I’ve been working with other concerned parents, teachers and legislators regarding Common Core and the Keystone exams.   We are hopeful this year will bring to an end some of these horrible corporate reforms that are harmful to teachers and students.  I do plan to opt her out of the Keystone exams this year, however I am hopeful legislation will be passed that will eliminate the graduation requirement making it a non-issue.  Just wanted to let you know so that Keystone test-prep isn’t a concern for her teachers.


Data Collection and the CDT's

Regarding student data collection and the CDT, the below highlights are taken from CDT Frequently Asked Questions
Page 15:
Q Is data stored from year to year so that students’ CDT results can be viewed over time?
A Yes, there will be longitudinal reports available for future CDT administrations.

Page 12:
Q Can Student Login Tickets be printed in advance?
A Yes, Student Login Tickets can be printed prior to the start of the test window. Please make sure printed tickets are kept in a secure location. Tickets should only be given to students when they sit down to take the CDT because Student Login Tickets are considered secure material.

Q How secure are the printed tickets with each student’s PAsecureID number?
A Student Login Tickets are secure material. All tickets should be collected and destroyed after the students have completed testing.

Q What is the process to follow if a Student Login Ticket is lost?
A If a Student Login Ticket is lost, the Test Administrator or Teacher can go into the Test Session in PA eDIRECT and reprint the individual ticket. If security is of concern, the ticket can be deactivated by removing the student from the Test Session and a new student login can be created by adding them back into the Test Session.
In either the NCLB waiver of the RttT application it stated PA was already set up to gather data on non-tested students.  Its seems as though this is clearly a part of that compliance.  The Pennsylvania Department of Education will be collecting longitudinal data on all students. 


  1. Dawn, Excellent article, I posted on our Facebook page

    1. Thanks Rich!! Did you see the upper right corner of this blog?

  2. Hello All,

    My school district outright denied our request for CDTs exemption. They informed us that only state standardized tests qualify under religious objection. I find their response contrary to the PA code that states that parents can object to any instruction that is in conflict with religious beliefs. Any advice on this? Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Derek,

      You have the right per Chapter 4 to opt out of specific instruction. You also have the right to review instructional materials. This post explains how:

      Also, your child is not old enough to consent to responsibility of the personal data collected on these. When I requested my daughter be excused I requested paper/pencil versions of all state assessments. The CDT is only on the computer, so #1 you cannot review it #2 it is collecting personally identifiable information on your child. You can request that your daughter only take paper/pencil assessments and that you do not give consent to the CDT until you review it yourself, prior to administration. Quote Chapter 4 and ask for their response in writing stating where in Chapter 4 they can deny your request (they can't). This is all PSSA and Keystone test prep - if you are opting out of either of those, then no need for the CDT anyway.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. My school stated that Study Island is used for placement into the next grade-am I still able to opt out?

    1. This is a local decision. Request the school policy on Study Island and CDT'S - it would also be on your school district website. It might be a policy under local assessments. If there is no policy, it would be easier to opt out.

      There are various ways that students are assessed ans they are listed here in this post with a link to PA School Code that you can us to request your son be assessed using these other methods. My 9th grader and 11th grader have been opted out of SI and CDT'S for the past 2 years as well as the Keystones and PSSA and it hasn't affected their class placement.

      You also may want to consider stating privacy concerns as as a reason too do not allowing your child to take these online assessments. Our kids data can be shared and sold or hacked by just about anyone.