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Brentwood Middle School Student Opts Out of Taking Test

Susan Notes: A 14-year-old says no. When will educators follow suit?

A Brentwood Middle School eighth-grader has rekindled the controversy surrounding the annual Colorado Student Assessment Program.

With her mother's permission, 14-year-old Antoinette Medina opted out of this week's CSAP tests. Antoinette and her mother, Terri Medina, said the standardized tests put too much pressure on students.

"It's not for a grade or anything," Antoinette said. "I don't see the point in doing it. They should know how you are doing."

Her decision has placed Brentwood Middle School principal John Diebold in a quandary.

He said that 10 of the school's 670 students opted out of this year's standardized tests, more than any previous year. He has to honor the parents' right to choose while dealing with the negative affects the decisions have on his school.

When a student opts out of the test, the school receives a minus score for that test, which affects the "report card" the school receives from the Colorado Department of Education. Diebold said he uses the test results to gauge what they are doing well and what they need to improve.

"When parents have their kids opt out of the test it's hard to get the total picture of what your school's capabilities are because your whole school is not testing," Diebold said. "There are no legal ramifications, but it wouldn't be something I would advise."

Terri Medina, 35, of Greeley said Brentwood officials did more than advise her to restrain from excusing her daughter from the tests.

She claims that they told her and Antoinette that she would have to pick up trash and do chores if she didn't take the test. Diebold called the allegations "absolutely false." He said it was a misunderstanding on Terri Medina's part.

Diebold said the misunderstanding stems from a story an assistant principal relayed to the family. He told them about a group of students who opted out of the CSAP tests in 2004 and became bored after hours of reading and doing homework and asked if "there was anything else they could do." The school gave them the option of going outside to pick up trash.

"Nobody was ever required to do that nor would we make anybody do that," Diebold said. "No one is getting punished."

Antoinette stayed home from school Tuesday because she feared she'd have to pick up trash. Her mother said Diebold has since assured her that her daughter will not have to pick up trash or do chores when she returns to school today. Diebold said the students who opt out of the test spend the day doing homework and reading in a classroom supervised by a teacher.

Nonetheless, Terri Medina said she remains upset.

She said schools should tell parents that they have the option to opt their children out of the tests. She insists that her daughter is a bright student who scores well on tests, especially in language arts and reading. She said she hopes more parents find out about the option to opt out of the test from her daughter's actions.

"I just think it's wrong that they don't inform parents that they can opt their children out of the test," said Terri Medina. "They have enough pressures at school as is. Why make them go through this?"

Terri Medina found out that parents could opt their children out of the standardized test when she met Don Perl, who advocates against the standardized tests, on the University of Northern Colorado campus. Terri Medina is currently studying human rehabilitation services at UNC.

Perl said CSAP tests do not reflect learning, create a societal gap between the haves and the have-nots and overwhelm school districts in pressure.

"Everyone is swimming in a culture of pressure," said Perl, a former district school teacher and Spanish teacher at UNC. "So many decisions are based on the results of one test."

Linda Gleckler, District 6 deputy superintendent, said that parents can opt their children out of the tests the same way parents can excuse them from participating in a school music concert or physical education activity.

Gleckler said, "it doesn't happen very often, but it's not something unusual."

In 2004, 7,965 students took the CSAP math test while 89 opted out. In the reading and writing test, 9,207 took the tests while 94 opted out. She said they see the highest opt-out numbers in the high school and the fewest in elementary school.

John Evans Middle School has one student out of about 800 who has opted out of the CSAPs, which begin today, said assistant principal Mark Romero. Maplewood Middle School principal Bob Billings said they have received two requests to opt out of the tests that begin next week.

Diebold acknowledges that the CSAPs aren't perfect but he said they are a useful diagnostic measurement tool for both the student and the school. He reminds parents that the tests prove useful practice for children will have to take the ACT or SAT standardized tests to go to college.

The whole thing has Diebold worried.

"I'm concerned with students opting out because it could affect our school rating," Diebold said. "And a lot of the kids opting out would do extremely well in the CSAP."

— Brady McCombs
Greeley Tribune


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