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Albuquerque School Board Rejects Sending Parents Opt-Out Letter on Testing

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Albuquerque School Board members blocked a proposal this week that would send parents in the New Mexico district a letter outlining their rights to opt their children out of specific standardized testing.

The board rejected the plan by a 5-2 vote during a Dec. 4 meeting, according to a story in the Albuquerque Journal News. The state's public education department denounced the proposal, which would have included sample opt-out letters as guidance for parents seeking to keep their students from taking the tests.

Kathy Korte, the board's vice president and the chief advocate of the planned parent letter, has been a key critic of the state's student and teacher-evaluation methods, according to the Journal. Korte also is opposed to what she believes is an overemphasis on student testing.

During the meeting, Korte called some exams "bogus" and other tests a "big boondoggle." She said parents should be informed that they have the right to boycott the test.

"If you don't even present this stuff to parents, how do they even know what kind of questions to ask?" Korte said, according to a report by KOB Eyewitness News 4. "Part of parent engagement is also telling parents what's going on in our schools, even if there might be some consequences."

The drawbacks of opting out of testing can vary depending on the grade level and the assessment, according to district officials who spoke at the meeting. Boycotting testing could adversely affect a school's grade, hamper the ability to measure teacher performance, and present challenges to a student's ability to graduate. At some grade levels, depending on the assessment, there would be no consequences, an administrator admitted.

"We wouldn't advocate students cutting class, or skipping out on homework," state public education department spokesman Larry Behrens wrote in an email to the Journal. "Asking them to boycott a test because they don't like it sets the example that our students can quit on anything they find difficult."

According to the Journal report, Albuquerque Superintendent Winston Brooks and other board members said a letter informing parents of their opt-out right could be misconstrued as an endorsement of those who support boycotting some forms of student testing.

Focusing on the testing opt-out letter mischaracterizes parents' concerns about testing, Board President Marty Esquivel told the Journal.

"There's a strong feeling out there that we're overdoing it on tests and teachers are only teaching to the tests," he said, adding that he would like a review of assessments throughout the district to determine if any tests could be eliminated.

The media attention Korte has generated about her proposal is a partial victory for the board member. Albuquerque parents may not have a district penned letter discussing their rights to skip student testing but they can read about their options online on news sites. And that can lead parents to draw their own conclusions without specific guidance from the district.

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