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MD parent files suit over MSA opt out and sets precedent for future assessments

Cindy Rose of Frederick County has taken the matter of MSA opting out to court by filing an emergency motion for injunctive relief. She is asking the court to force Frederick County Public Schools to allow her child to remain in her classes and not be administered the test.

Her daughter is in sixth grade and has a recognized anxiety disorder, and having to take six hours of high-pressure assessments in a week’s time on material that is not even being taught in the schools this year would cause her unnecessary and avoidable stress. When Ms. Rose tried to work with her school to opt her child out of taking the test, the school refused, saying she would have to keep her out of school for the entire testing period of 12 days.

Even though, like many parents are doing, Ms. Rose could simply have her child refuse to take the test when it is administered, she said, “I'm not putting her in the middle of that, nor should I have to, especially this year when the MSA means nothing. It isn't a valid measure of student achievement or teacher effectiveness.”

Ms. Rose said she would have sought an opt out of the tests regardless of her daughter’s condition. “People need to know the MSDE has no legal right to force your child to take a test. Neither do they have a right to refuse your child access to school and learning for refusing [the test]. Parents have a right to refuse without consequences.

“MSDE needs to step up. We shouldn't have to jump through hoops and clock watch to get our children educated. The fact they threaten to force my daughter to sit home for 12 days versus allowing her in school is proof they prefer testing over educating.”

Monday, Ms. Rose accepted a deal presented by the school system’s attorney to allow her child to work or read in a non-testing area and not be offered the test. The judge had been scheduled to make a ruling on the case that day.

This deal sets a precedent for future assessments in Maryland. By offering the deal, which was exactly what Ms. Rose had requested in the first place, the school system is acknowledging the legality of parents opting out of having the test administered to their children. If it had indeed been illegal for the school to do so, as they have been trying to convince parents, they could not have offered it in the deal.

Next year, the new Common Core aligned PARCC assessments will be given to students across Maryland three times per year. The assessment is more extensive than the MSA or HSA, so the time allotted to it, and therefore taken from instruction time, is longer.

Parents and teachers are very opposed to the endless assessments and will likely be seeking an opt out of PARCC, whether through refusal or through legislative or regulatory means.

Baltimore County parents, teachers and concerned citizens can get involved through The Baltimore County Coalition for Education Oversight.