UPDATE| Breaking down opting out of standardized testing

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Monday, April 25, 2016

AUGUSTA, Ga (WRDW/WAGT) -- Georgia Milestones testing continues at some schools across the state.

After our story last week about the growing 'opt out' movement we've gotten a lot questions about refusing to take standardized tests.

Students begin taking the Georgia Milestones in the third grade.

The Georgia Department of Education has guidelines for parents wishing to 'opt out' of testing.

In those guidelines, it says there is no law allowing parents to refuse their child from taking the Georgia Milestones.
Because of this, if you decide your child will not take the tests the guidelines explain that your child will be held back.
But if that happens you have the option to appeal that.

If your child is in high school the Milestones count as their final exams and are worth 20% of their grade.
So if they don't take the tests their final grade will be calculated without it.

Not taking the tests doesn't just affect students, it also affects teachers and schools.
Test scores count for teachers' and administrators' grade as well, and schools are penalized if they have too many students not testing.

These standardized tests are required by law, so neither the Georgia Department of Education nor the local board of education can decide not to test.

There is a bill on Gov. Deal's desk right now that could change some things about standardized testing.

Senate Bill 355 is called the Student/Teacher Protection Act.

The bill would allow students with a life-threatening or serious health condition opt out of testing.
Students with a doctor's note saying they should be excused, could also refuse testing.

The mom I spoke with last week explained that because her daughter isn't taking the Georgia Milestones, she's been forced to sit in the office all day while everyone else tests.
But each school can choose to handle students not testing in different ways.

"Some schools have forced the students to sit in the testing rooms and stare at a screen or at paper all day long, called the sit and stare, which is child abuse," said Rhonda McCoy, a Paine College professor and mother.

The bill would stop schools from punishing students who are not testing, including the "sit and stare."

The bill also says no teachers, principals or schools will be penalized for any child not testing.

If your child performs poorly on standardized testing, the bill would allow your student be re-tested with a different type of test.

Friday, April 22, 2016

AUGUSTA, Ga (WRDW/WAGT) -- Students across the state are taking the Georgia Milestones this week.

The scores on the tests can cause students to potentially fail their grade.

More and more parents are choosing to opt out because they say the tests are just too strict.
This leaves schools forced to decide what to do with those students while everyone else tests.

As a professor at Paine College, Rhonda McCoy says she doesn't really see anything wrong with standardized testing.
But once she found out elementary school students can fail based on their scores on the Georgia Milestones she decided her daughter would opt out.

"You're taking this test so seriously that you would fail him when he's passing what you're teaching him in school," McCoy said.

She says she's not afraid her third grade daughter won't be able to pass the tests, it's the other students who may be at a disadvantage.

"English as a second language students take this same test when they're just coming to the country, can't speak English, so 97% of those students fail," she said. "Special ed. takes this test with very few accommodations according to their IEP. 95% of them fail."

But this decision did not come easy.

Georgia allows students to opt out of the test, however those students will be held back.

But parents can appeal that.

"I would have to go through an appeal process and they have a group of people including the parent that is on that appeal committee then they would refer to the grades the student made," McCoy said.

Now schools have to decide what to do with the students not testing.

"They're helpers in the classrooms, lower-levels that aren't testing or they are in the science labs and different things like that," McCoy said.

She says other schools may have a different approach.

"Some schools have forced the students to sit in the testing rooms and stare at a screen or at paper all day long, called the sit and stare, which is child abuse," McCoy said.

She says her daughter has been forced to sit in the office all day while students test.
Which is hard for the two of them, but she says it's good for the big picture.

There's a bill sitting on Governor Deal's desk that would allow students with medical conditions to opt out without consequence.

In South Carolina, parents can also decide their kids will opt out.