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Florida District Becomes First in Nation to Opt Out of State Testing

A Florida school district has decided not to participate in state testing, becoming the first in the country to make such a move.

The Lee County school board, by a 3-2 vote Wednesday night, decided not to administer the FCAT, the standardized test that Florida requires of its students. According to the Fort Myers News-Press, cheers and applause filled the packed auditorium after the vote was taken.

"Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward," said board member Don Armstrong, the News-Press reported. "We cannot allow the fear to hold us back."

The district's superintendent, Nancy Graham, is concerned because the district tossed out tests and has adopted no other way to gauge what children are learning. Board attorney Keith Martin was still exploring the consequences that could befall the district because of its decision.

The Florida School Boards Association has posted a list of potential consequences districts could face from opting out of tests, from withheld funding to students being unable to graduate. According to its website, it has a discussion of this issue scheduled for its Sept. 5 board of directors meeting.

The three-hour meeting featured testimony by nearly three dozen people, including a mother who said that her son was too ill from a heart condition to attend school, so the school district had him take the FCAT at home and sent a proctor to monitor him as he took it. Audience members could be heard gasping as she told her story, and gave her a standing ovation when she finished, the News-Press reported.

The action in the 85,000-student school district could catalyze a move under consideration in much-bigger Palm Beach County. The Palm Beach Post reported earlier this month that the school board in the 187,000-student district began mulling an opt-out after it heard that its colleagues in Lee County were considering it.

As we reported to you earlier this year, standarized test opt-outs by parents are a growing phenomenon. Many parents held their children out of field-testing for the PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments this past spring, too. But it's new territory for entire districts to opt out.

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as FairTest, monitors standardized testing policy, and spokesman Bob Schaeffer said they know of no other school district in the nation that has voted to stop giving its state-mandated tests.

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