UPDATE: Schools concerned over option to opt-out of standardized testing

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News 12 at 6 o' clock/ April 24, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga.--Standardized tests have been around for several years, but more and more parents are having their kids opt out. A lot of people argue, some kids just don't test well.

Madison Bowles started getting really stressed when her teacher started talking about a new kind of year end exam a few weeks back.

"My homeroom teacher started telling us the next day you've got to pass math and language arts. If you don't pass one of them, you'll fail," she says.

Her mom, Stephanie, had never heard of the Georgia Milestone Exam. That's because this is the first year it's replacing the CRCT.

"I emailed the principal, and the principal says it has nothing to do with them passing or failing. It's to assess the teachers how they're teaching them, and to see where the kids are at," says Stephanie.

Columbia County Schools Superintendent Sandra Carraway says this year is a trial run to see how the test goes. "The Georgia Milestone test scores won't come back to public schools until fall, so for one year, the requirements to pass the standardized test in grades 3, 5, and 8 has been put on hold," Carraway explains.

But, even though it's more of a practice test this year, teachers are still trying to make the pressure feel real for students.

"Ever since they told us about the Milestones, I thought i was going to fail. They kept piling stuff on top of that," says Madison.

Madison's story is just one of the reasons a growing group of parents nation wide are starting an 'opt out' movement. They're sick of standardized tests, and they're having their kids refuse to take them. School leaders say it's happening here too.

"Many times, our parents have chosen to change their mind and said i'll let my child test, and sometimes they don't, and if they choose not to, of course, we are abiding by their desire," says Carraway.

It's a decision Madison's mom made this year, because her daughter doesn't react to stress very well. She says standardized tests were treated much differently in Kansas where they used to live.

"They did testing for them, but they didn't pressure the kids. 'If you don't do this, I'm going to stress you're going to fail, you're going to be held back,' They didn't pressure the kids for weeks and weeks and weeks," she says.

Madison's mom says next year, they may just home school madison to avoid any more unecessary stress.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

RICHMOND CO., Ga. (WRDW) -- Standardized testing, there's no doubt it's stressful, but is it a necessary tool to gauge how students are learning? There's a growing group of parents who say no.

A nationwide movement has made its way to our area and parents are having their students opt-out of standardized testing.

Stephanie Bowles' daughter does not handle stress very well.

"She just grew her eyebrows back from the overwhelming stress in our house," Bowles said.

Her mom said they've finally got her nerves leveled out but she has noticed some of her old stress ticks coming back.

Turns out, they came back when her teacher started preparing her class for the Georgia milestone test, the new version of the CRCT.

"I have to pass. If I don't pass the test I'm going to fail my grade," her daughter said.

We've seen recently with the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, just how much pressure some teachers are under to have students perform well - for Stephanie Bowles, the extra stress on her daughter to pass an end of year test has not been healthy.

"It's too much pressure on everybody all the way around. When you put the pressures on the teachers, it's going to put more pressures on the kids," Bowles said.

She started doing research online and found a growing group of parents feel the same way and are exercising their right to opt their kids out of standardized tests. So she refused the test for her daughter, something local school leaders say is a new concept to them.

"It's really not an option as far as what is required for public school systems to have state testing but of course at the end of the day parents choose to send their children to school," Columbia County Schools Superintendent Sandra Carraway said.

Carraway said at the end of the day, it's a parent's decision to test or not to test. Dr. Carraway said this year is the first year for the milestone test in Georgia so it won't count towards passing or failing, but next year it will, which could cause issues if more kids start opting out.

"If this becomes a norm for parents to choose for their children not to test of course the state will have to take that into consideration," Bowles said.

In Columbia county this year, about 55 students have refused to take the end of year exam.