Legalese — Standardized Testing

It’s spring.  The birds are singing, the pollen is drifting, and it’s time for standardized testing.  This gets lots of people in a tizzy, and they want to know what they can do about it.

Many people want to know if they can ‘opt out’ of the testing. Georgia law does not allow it.  O.C.G.A. 20-2-281 requires that the Georgia State Board of Education develop a standardized assessment plan. This is largely a federal requirement – if you want federal money, you have to play by federal rules.  The federal rules were made for a number of different reasons, the biggest one being to ensure that we are comparing apples to apples.  What does ‘reading at a 12th grade level’ mean?  Should it mean something different in California than it does here in Georgia?  When colleges are looking at applicants, they want to know what they are looking at.  Standardized testing allows for oversight and the ability to really get a handle on what children are learning.*

So you can’t just say, “I don’t believe in the value of standardized testing, and my child is not going to be subjected to it.”  Nor can you say, “My child doesn’t do well in a high-pressure environment, and I will not have his (or her) sense of self-worth and academic success dependent upon this high-pressure test.”  Given the fact that the consequences of refusing to take the test are not just borne by you and/or your child, but the whole school and possibly the district, you ought to comply, even if it is under protest.

That isn’t to say, however, that every student has to take the exact same test the exact same day.  O.C.G.A. 20-2-281(d)(1) says that if a student has significant cognitive difficulties or an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) that they can take a test that is modified to meet their needs. There are, of course, complicated standards for how the tests can be modified. Modifications include things like having the test read aloud to the student, or the student being given extra time to take the test.  Be aware, however, that your child has to have a disability so significant that it is diagnosable and recognized in a formal way by the school.  If your child does not have an IEP, then your child is not likely to get a modified testing environment.  If you don’t know if your child has an IEP, then your child does not have an IEP.  That’s a complicated process of its own involving meetings and its own kind of testing.

So, for now, whatever you personally think about standardized testing and how it affects your child, you’re stuck with it. Like death and taxes, it is one of those unavoidable things everyone has to experience.

For more information, see this handy resource put out by the AJC. 

*There are many legitimate arguments against standardized testing.  For example, there are students that simply don’t ‘test’ well, and their performance on that particular day on that particular test is not a true measure of their success.  However, since standardized testing is the law at the moment, I’m only focusing on what ‘is’ rather than getting into a debate about what ‘should be.’

 Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. It is being offered for informational purposes only. No lawyer can advise you about your case without hearing the particularized details of your situation.

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