A growing standardized test opt-out movement is spreading around the country. Ten of thousands of parents are choosing not to allow their children to take these tests, some older students are refusing to sit for the exams on their own, and some teachers have announced that they will not administer the exams, even if they get fired. An Indiana Superintendent of the Year, Rocky Killion, suggested to parents that they homeschool their children during testing week because he is so opposed to the exams. Now, with the 2015 testing season upon us, some schools are offering treats to kids who take, rather than boycott, new Common Core assessments, and throwing in extra treats for high scores.
There’s nothing new with students being rewarded — or, depending on your view, “incentivized” or “bribed” — for accomplishing an academic task. Extra play time. A pizza party. No homework for a day. Cash for high grades. And now, “incentives” to take the new standardized tests.
The Morris Hills Regional District in New Jersey, for example, concocted an an “incentive program” designed to give students treats “based on their participation and performance on the PARCC Common Core exam, according to NJ Advance Media. PARCC is a Common Core test created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two multi-state consortia that designed new Core-aligned standardized tests with some $360 million in federal funds.
The program included an American Express gift card lottery for the grade with the highest PARCC participation, as well as the awarding of “bonus points” for the next marking period for high scores. The program was dumped after parents and others criticized it.
Also in New Jersey, students in Newton High School are now being offered a chance to skip English and math final exams this year if they take the PARCC exams, according to NJ Advance Media for NJ.com. The offer was made to parents by district Superintendent Kennedy Greene after only 59 percent of the eligible students took the PARCC on the first day. Greene was quoted as saying: “It appears the widespread public debate affected our district more than we anticipated.”
In Littleton, Colo., Littleton High School is rewarding one elective credit for scores of at least “proficient” on the PARCC. Peggy Robertson, a mom and leader of United Opt Out National, a grassroots organization urging parents to boycott high-stakes standardized tests, posted on her blog correspondence with school officials who wrote to her:
We do not use the results of PARCC to make any student decisions such as rewards, extra credit, part of a final grade for a class, or count it towards homework or a final exam. However we do offer students one elective credit per grade level 9-11 if the student scores proficient or above on all of the PARCC tests. These tests give us an important picture of the achievement and academic growth of students over time. The results are not only part of the state accountability system, but also guide our school improvement planning.
On Feb. 27, a parent of a middle school student in the Adirondack Central School District in New York shared this photo of an Incentive Plan for State Assessments that was given to her child during English class after a pitch about it by the principal.
And another, from a school in DeQuincy, La.:
And from an elementary school in Sulphur, La., a letter explaining a drawing for three iPads to three students who “do their best” on the new state-mandated standardized test:
The growing opt-out movement prompted at least one school district to send home a letter asking parents to send their children to take the tests. Here’s one from the Averill Park Center School District in New York: