Credit: Courtesy of RestorePVEducation
Common Core opponents hold a meeting in Palos Verdes in November.

More than half of the 11th-graders at an affluent high school in Los Angeles County are opting out of new tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards – an ever-growing issue nationwide, but rare so far in California.

Parents in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District are citing concerns about privacy over children’s data and the relevance of the Smarter Balanced Assessments that millions of California students are taking this spring as reasons for opting out.

At Palos Verdes High School, 260 of the school’s roughly 460 juniors are skipping the tests that began last week and are continuing this week, Superintendent Don Austin said. Elsewhere in the 11,600-student district, an additional 222 students are sitting out of the tests in a different high school, as well as intermediate and elementary schools.

“We think it’s fantastic,” said parent Barry Yudess, who leads RestorePVEducation, a parent watchdog group that opposes the Common Core tests.

The state has yet to track this year’s numbers of students who are opting out of the exams, which is allowed under California law. School districts will submit the opt-out reports after testing is completed by June and statewide numbers likely will be available in the fall.

But this is the highest number of opt-outs that California Department of Education officials had heard of so far, said Pam Slater, a department spokeswoman. Smarter Balanced testing began in March, with roughly half of the state’s 3.2 million students taking it so far.

Compared to several other states, California has not been a breeding ground for opposition to the  Common Core standards, the new academic standards adopted by California and 42 other states.

For example, in six large school districts where EdSource is tracking implementation of the Common Core, school superintendents indicated that there has been relatively little opposition and no greater number of parent requests to opt out of standardized testing than in previous years.

In several states, students have opted out in far larger numbers or even walked out of Common Core-aligned tests. In New York, some schools have reported between 60 and 70 percent of students skipping the tests.

On the Palos Verdes peninsula, the district sits along the ocean, with average home prices of $1.5 million, and enrolls just 3 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch.

The RestorePVEducation group got the word out by sponsoring forums with Common Core opponents, putting up a YouTube channel, setting up a Facebook page and sending out emails. But the most effective method likely was handing out fliers and opt-out forms outside of schools, Yudess said.

Yudess and Joan Davidson, a grandmother and another group leader, said they have concerns about the privacy of the data being collected electronically through the tests.

“There really is no good reason to take the test,” said Kimberly Ramsay, the parent of a 7th-grader and a senior.

The school district’s website boasts that 98 percent of its graduates enroll in college, so that some parents and students are questioning the relevance of taking a test they don’t see as related to achieving that goal.

“It’s ridiculous,” Yudess said. “They don’t want their time wasted. They are looking at going to top colleges. They are thinking, ‘Why waste my time, taking this meaningless test?’”

School superintendent Austin said he believes most parents decided to opt out their 11th-graders after Common Core opponents put fliers on cars, stating that the students could spend more time studying for Advanced Placement tests that students can take for college credit.

During testing weeks, teachers are dividing students by those taking the test and those who are not, and supervising the students who opted out, Austin said.

Austin said he has tried to get answers from the state about the consequences of failing to have enough students take the tests in certain schools. Under the federal No Child Law Behind law, 95 percent of students in certain grades are expected to take annual standardized tests. If they don’t, they are labeled as failing to make “Adequate Yearly Progress,” or AYP. Austin said he was unsure how many of his campuses would end up falling below the 95 percent mark until the Smarter Balanced testing is complete.

But there would be no financial consequences. Only schools that receive money for low-income students, called Title 1 funds, might be affected. Palos Verdes is not one of those schools.

Also, high school students might be unable to use their Smarter Balanced scores when applying to California State University campuses and other colleges to prove that they don’t need remedial courses. But there are other ways for students to demonstrate that that they do not need to take remedial classes.

Last week at the Education Writers Association meetings in Chicago, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was asked what would happen to states if  large numbers of students did not take the tests. He said that he expected that states would make sure that they did. “If states don’t do that, then we have an obligation to step in,” he said, without detailing any specific actions.

Austin said he has been unable to get good answers about what the consequences will be for his district as a result of  children opting out of the standardized tests. “This is a very, very sophisticated community. They are asking the right questions. Our inability to answer those questions is only adding fuel to the fire,” Austin said. “I do think without some accurate information quickly, it’s only going to get worse and we’re going to end up being a model for the state.”

Louis Freedberg contributed to this story.

 

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  1. Jacob Bartel 8 months ago8 months ago

    I just bombed mine an hour ago and came home early. I hate that my school spends $10,000 every year on homecoming, and another $10,000 on airband. That’s just the beginning. We could use a nice budget cut.

  2. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Governor Brown just appointed a student from PV Peninsula HS, one Michael McFarland, a member of the State Board of Education. I'd be curious to now if he was among the half that opted out. Inquiring minds would like to know. Talk about a poster child for the opt-out movement. I'm sure Brown's staff wouldn't have made that mistake, but just - what if... Read More

    Governor Brown just appointed a student from PV Peninsula HS, one Michael McFarland, a member of the State Board of Education. I’d be curious to now if he was among the half that opted out. Inquiring minds would like to know. Talk about a poster child for the opt-out movement. I’m sure Brown’s staff wouldn’t have made that mistake, but just – what if…

    Replies

    • CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

      Was just going to point that out. Sounds like a follow-up question to be asked by Sarah Tully, yes?

    • Michael McFarland 1 year ago1 year ago

      Don, why would I opt out of a test when the effects would do nothing more than hurt Peninsula HS and the state of California? I really think it's a shame that so many students opted out of the test this year. The common excuse I heard was, "I could use the time to study for AP tests." 8 month long AP courses that the school provides are meant to prepare students for the AP … Read More

      Don, why would I opt out of a test when the effects would do nothing more than hurt Peninsula HS and the state of California? I really think it’s a shame that so many students opted out of the test this year. The common excuse I heard was, “I could use the time to study for AP tests.” 8 month long AP courses that the school provides are meant to prepare students for the AP tests in early May. No cramming two weeks before the test is going to take the place of hard work and dedication spread out over the course of the school year.

  3. E.O.Eastland 2 years ago2 years ago

    Seems to me the Palos Verdes students are opting for the rich man’s high stakes testing, AP…..accepting a voluntary tax of test taking fees, study time, and often tutoring costs. Poor kids can’t pay to qualify, therefore they need a school-based qualifier.

    Replies

    • CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

      Belated reply. The norm in California school districts is to pay the AP test fees for low-income students. The AP tests have stakes for students, of course, with real impact. The SBAC, or whatever the alphabet soup standardized test o’ the day is, has no stakes for students, except for rare specific cases.

  4. Herman Padilla 2 years ago2 years ago

    I can understand their concerns but not sure if all the reasons stated are valid. My problem with the test is it’s too long too disruptive to the learning environment are resources are stretched to the breaking point and I don’t see what is being done being reasonable or sustainable

  5. Yvonne 2 years ago2 years ago

    I’m a school board member and support the idea of having test results. However, I’m also the parent of a sophomore who is prepping for 2 AP tests. If his school schedules next year’s 11th grade SBAC tests the week before AP tests, I will certainly opt him out. He has numerous cumulative tests in rigorous classes this week. It would be a terrible week for SBAC tests.

    Replies

    • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

      Yvonne, have you ever been given information that leads you to believe that those test results are trust-worthy? That is, are they reliably predicting if a student is on grade level or not? I’d like to know if this has ever been given to board members, because it surely has not been given to the public as far as I know.

  6. Mel 2 years ago2 years ago

    “This is a very, very sophisticated community. They are asking the right questions. Our inability to answer those questions is only adding fuel to the fire,” Austin said.” nuff Said

  7. gkoval 2 years ago2 years ago

    Hooray for this movement of rebellion against The Orwellian vision of the federal government in which children are now seen as tools of the state rather than human beings. Apparently their only value lies in boosting our “national rankings” so that we can aspire to have the same test scores as totalitarian China, or Singapore where public canings still take place.

  8. Ophelia 2 years ago2 years ago

    The parents cared enough to look into what SBAC and Common Core is about and decided to opt-out. According to the recent PPIC survey, most public school parents say they have heard nothing at all about the Smarter Balanced assessments. It is shocking that so many parents would allow the privacy invasion and potential vulnerability of their children’s data to get mined, sold or tracked—It’s akin to leaving them with a predator. Not my kids! … Read More

    The parents cared enough to look into what SBAC and Common Core is about and decided to opt-out. According to the recent PPIC survey, most public school parents say they have heard nothing at all about the Smarter Balanced assessments. It is shocking that so many parents would allow the privacy invasion and potential vulnerability of their children’s data to get mined, sold or tracked—It’s akin to leaving them with a predator. Not my kids! Thank you to RestorePVEd parents and all the parents who’ve opted their children out of this Common Core hoax!

  9. Sandy Valeri 2 years ago2 years ago

    It ist interesting, that while parents are concerned about privacy issues, that is not the reason cited by the students themselves. The Juniors I heard speak overwhelming voiced objection to the test interfering with their ability to prepare for the very important AP exams. Our students are very bright and able to make good judgments about the best use of their time. Clearly staying in class and preparing for an AP is more valuable … Read More

    It ist interesting, that while parents are concerned about privacy issues, that is not the reason cited by the students themselves. The Juniors I heard speak overwhelming voiced objection to the test interfering with their ability to prepare for the very important AP exams. Our students are very bright and able to make good judgments about the best use of their time. Clearly staying in class and preparing for an AP is more valuable to their future than taking the state assessment.

    Replies

    • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

      But that's just it, Sandy: the tests do not contribute anything to their learning and come too late to even make a difference even if they were. They are a ritual in which all have to participate in order to pretend that there is "accountability," something that never has been defined. So, if a "sophisticated community" recognizes this, why are then these useless tests foisted on communities who need to spend more time closing the academic … Read More

      But that’s just it, Sandy: the tests do not contribute anything to their learning and come too late to even make a difference even if they were. They are a ritual in which all have to participate in order to pretend that there is “accountability,” something that never has been defined.

      So, if a “sophisticated community” recognizes this, why are then these useless tests foisted on communities who need to spend more time closing the academic gap imposed by poverty?

  10. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Doug, if these opt-out reports are representative, then opting out appears to have a higher achieving demographic component. If the anti-testing, anti-CCSS movement grows significantly between now and the next test cycle, what affect would opting-out have on the aggregate test results? If cut scores are predetermined would this result in a much larger proportion of below average scores or might it have the opposite effect whereby averages rise relative to fewer … Read More

    Doug, if these opt-out reports are representative, then opting out appears to have a higher achieving demographic component. If the anti-testing, anti-CCSS movement grows significantly between now and the next test cycle, what affect would opting-out have on the aggregate test results? If cut scores are predetermined would this result in a much larger proportion of below average scores or might it have the opposite effect whereby averages rise relative to fewer high scores? My understanding of the scoring process is obviously lacking. But it is obvious that opting out could reach a critical level whereby test results are invalidated.

    Replies

    • Doug McRae 2 years ago2 years ago

      Don -- In the past, op-out concentrations have centered on middle to higher demographic schools, especially at the high school level where AP and other college-bound testing is heavy. If this pattern remains with much higher percentages of op-outs, it certainly would affect aggregate results from statewide tests, lowering average scores. The current controversy over opt-opts seems to have more diverse set of motivations behind it, from the anti-common core motivation to the privacy concerns … Read More

      Don — In the past, op-out concentrations have centered on middle to higher demographic schools, especially at the high school level where AP and other college-bound testing is heavy. If this pattern remains with much higher percentages of op-outs, it certainly would affect aggregate results from statewide tests, lowering average scores. The current controversy over opt-opts seems to have more diverse set of motivations behind it, from the anti-common core motivation to the privacy concerns over information collected by the public sector to competition for time with other tests having greater intrinsic motivation for the students. How the current controversy will affect scores isn’t immediately clear, nor is it clear just how widespread it is or how voluminous it may become. I guess my comment is . . . . . stay tuned.

  11. Bruce William Smith 2 years ago2 years ago

    Palos Verdes and Palo Alto could end up being models for the country, as they should. In general, California has avoided the kind of ruling class bossism of the D.C.-New York corridor, and so we've had less related trouble here than on the more test-focused east coast (which includes Florida); but that doesn't mean standards leading to community college for everyone are not an irritating irrelevancy, and an actual hindrance if given too much attention, … Read More

    Palos Verdes and Palo Alto could end up being models for the country, as they should. In general, California has avoided the kind of ruling class bossism of the D.C.-New York corridor, and so we’ve had less related trouble here than on the more test-focused east coast (which includes Florida); but that doesn’t mean standards leading to community college for everyone are not an irritating irrelevancy, and an actual hindrance if given too much attention, in some neighborhoods.

    Congress should step in by retiring No Child Left Behind, and specifically the federal annual testing mandate. Some of us are tired of having our children treated as test guinea pigs for the professional data miners who haunt the halls of Congress and appear as “expert” witnesses (largely because they have little real work to do that might keep them away) in front of the relevant committees who are considering “fixing” that mistaken legislation. If Washington’s oppression continues, the testing opt-out movement may spawn a movement opting out of the state schools altogether, in particular insofar as they remain prep centers for tests that have no bearing on our children’s futures.

  12. Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Don will be thrilled by this development. Massive protests are coming, perhaps even riots against the common core. For what it's worth my kids hate the tests. I think national standards are fine but we should go back to paper and pencil kids spend too much time looking at screens and it's going to cause a rift between schools and individuals who can afford fast WiFi and those who can't and force … Read More

      Don will be thrilled by this development. Massive protests are coming, perhaps even riots against the common core. For what it’s worth my kids hate the tests. I think national standards are fine but we should go back to paper and pencil kids spend too much time looking at screens and it’s going to cause a rift between schools and individuals who can afford fast WiFi and those who can’t and force collective spending of billions on computers and WiFi equipment. It could create some tech. jobs in San Francisco which SFUSD is unable to educate anyone in STEM well enough to get with the elimination of 8th grade algebra/honors but people will move here from all over the world to take the new jobs while the kids of natives are forced out due to economic circumstances. Just great.

    • Ophelia 2 years ago2 years ago

      I think both schools (Palo Alto and the PVPUSD schools) are similar in parent demographics, they cared enough to look into what SBAC and Common Core is about and decided to opt-out. According to the recent PPIC survey, most public school parents say they have heard nothing at all about the Smarter Balanced assessments. It is shocking that so many parents would allow the privacy invasion and potential vulnerability of their children's data … Read More

      I think both schools (Palo Alto and the PVPUSD schools) are similar in parent demographics, they cared enough to look into what SBAC and Common Core is about and decided to opt-out. According to the recent PPIC survey, most public school parents say they have heard nothing at all about the Smarter Balanced assessments. It is shocking that so many parents would allow the privacy invasion and potential vulnerability of their children’s data to get mined, sold or tracked—It’s akin to leaving them with a predator. Not my kids! Thank you to RestorePVEd parents and all the parents who’ve opted their children out of this Common Core hoax!

    • joan 2 years ago2 years ago

      CA parents need to join and show New York we can Opt Out too! We get it! Contact us through Facebook and help save CA from high stakes testing.

      Contact us through RestorePVEducation at facebook.