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Oklahoma PTA Encourages Parents to Opt Students Out of State Writing Tests

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The Oklahoma PTA is calling on the parents of 5th and 8th graders to skip upcoming state writing assessments to protest high-stakes testing.

Earlier this month, the statewide parents organization, which has more than 50,000 members, asked the Oklahoma State Department of Education to identify which of the writing assessments were field tests. That request was a direct result of a resolution the Oklahoma PTA unanimously adopted in July which objects to the mass administration of field tests. The group believes field tests are akin to conducting corporate research on students for free. 

When state officials failed to respond to its request within a week, the Oklahoma PTA called for a boycott of all writing tests on Jan. 28. Nationally, the growing opt-out movement has been widely supported by anti-testing advocates and grassroots groups led by parents and educators.

Jeffery Corbett, president of the Oklahoma PTA, told me the organization believes that opting students out of the writing tests in February will send a strong message to state and education leaders. He said parents are frustrated about the proliferation of high-stakes testing, which they say is a growing source of anxiety for their children. Parents also are concerned about the loss of valuable instruction time.

"We determined that [the opt-out protest] was the best way to see some action taken," Corbett added. "We don't mind standing up for our kids here in Oklahoma."

Corbett predicts the boycott will do little long-term damage to local schools and educators. The state writing assessments are not federally mandated, so he said there's no risk that funding will be hurt by the action. Still, he acknowledged that a low student participation rate on the writing tests could affect a school's ranking on the state's A-to-F grading system, which he described as "flawed." 

Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma's superintendent of public instruction, told the Tulsa World that reducing "overtesting and increasing time for instruction" are among her primary goals. While she said in the story that she is reviewing the use of field-testing, she also called it a "complicated issue." Hofmeister, a Republican, was sworn in as the state's top educator on Jan. 12.

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