(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Opt-Out)

All students must participate fully in GHCHS assessments in their 9th, 10th and 11th grade year to be eligible to participate in optional activities such as senior activities, school extracurricular activities and school athletics. Students who clearly disregard an assessment as determined by the testing coordinator or test proctor will be regarded as having refused to comply with the testing requirement and may be subject to loss of senior activities, school extracurricular activities and school athletics.

-2016-17 GHCHS Parent/Student Handbook

It took almost a year, but Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) has finally changed their Parent/Student Handbook so that it recognizes that “per California Education Code 60615, parents and guardians have the right to exempt their child from participating in the CAASPP program. California Education Code 60615 reads as follows: Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a parent's or guardian's written request to school officials to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant to this chapter shall be granted.” Most importantly, they have removed the requirement that “all students must participate fully in California CAASPP” in order to participate in extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, this does nothing to change the fact that past students were coerced into taking these tests in the school’s effort “to ensure that enough students participate in both state mandated and Granada selected assessments”. The LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) was given enough notice that these changes could have been made before last year’s testing season, but they chose to ignore the deadline.

Unfortunately, the CAASPP is just part of the battery of standardized tests administered by GHCHS. “In addition to California state mandated assessments in the CAASPP, GHCHS has selected and developed other assessments” that include “computer based assessments and third party standardized assessments.” This includes the PSAT, which is given to students every year starting in the ninth grade, and the Northwest Evaluation Association Measure of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP), a “part of the transition to the Common Core State Standards” which is given “several times each year”. Ninth grade “students will complete several diagnostic assessments during” the Summer Transition Academy, which “is a GHCHS graduation requirement.

While GHCHS is now in compliance with the education law for CAASPP testing, they still refuse to recognize the rights of parents to exempt their children from these other tests. The new version of the Parent/Student Handbook still states that students can be punished if they do not participate “fully” in the assessments that they choose. Parents are told that “California Education Code 60615 applies only to state-mandated assessments” and they have no right to keep their children from taking school selected tests. The charter shows a particular disdain for those with concerns about test anxiety when it states that GHCHS “selected assessments are often graded.”

While the charter states that “the selection and development of the GHCHS assessments is a local decision made by the GHCHS instructional departments and through various school committees consisting of faculty, students, and parents/guardians”, it ignores the fact that the Governing Board is stocked with appointed representatives of the administration. The parents lost their right to vote for representatives long ago and all elected teacher representatives and the classified employee representative were eliminated in a Board meeting on December 15, 2014, in violation of the charter approved by the LAUSD School Board. While the unelected California Charter School Association states that “Charter schools allow parents, teachers and the community to transform our public school system”, this is just one more example where charters have just replaced one bureaucracy with another that has no accountability to the stakeholders.

While GHCHS says that they have given “careful consideration…[to the] instructional time necessary for the administration of the tests”, I believe that it takes too much instructional time from the students. The fact that they state that they use “the results of these assessments to make adjustments to the instructional program” proves that they are teaching to the test instead of instilling critical skills that are needed in the 21st century workplace. A third party “online, adaptive test” raises concerns about student data privacy and setting students up for failure. For these reasons, I will assert my parental rights and allow my daughter to skip these assessments. Will GHCHS try to override my decision?