3. Can I opt my child out of the MEAP?
Many people are finding their way to my blog by virtue of searching for "opt out of the MEAP" or some such phrase. And on our Ann Arbor STOP: Stop Overtesting Our Pupils! facebook group there has been a fair amount of discussion of this--with some people posting their opt out letters.
People have been asking, "Can I opt out?" and the answer is yes, but...
Michigan's Revised School Code says:
THE REVISED SCHOOL CODE (EXCERPT) Act 451 of 1976 380.10 Rights of parents and legal guardians; duties of public schools. [M.S.A. 15.4010 ] Sec. 10. It is the natural, fundamental right of parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching, and education of their children. The public schools of this state serve the needs of the pupils by cooperating with the pupil's parents and legal guardians to develop the pupil's intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe and positive environment. HistoryAdd. 1995, Act 289, Eff. July 1, 1996 .
Based on that, the answer would be yes.
But it's never been tested (to my knowledge) in court.
The state of Michigan more or less says that districts can decide if they want to let anybody opt out, but there are only a few circumstances in which if students don't take the MEAP the district won't be penalized. Those circumstances might include a child who is so severely disabled (s)he cannot take even a test that is modified; or a child who is so sick (think chemotherapy or another long-term illness) that they cannot take the test. Otherwise, if a school does not reach a 95% participation rate, the school will be penalized. Financially.
Some reasons that parents have told me they don't want their child to take the MEAP are:
*their child has been sick and missed the original testing days, and they don't want them missing more instructional time (the MEAP is given during a certain time period, and many of the days are solely scheduled as makeup days)
*they believe that testing is wrong. . . unnecessary. . . evil. . . immoral
And guess what--several of those parents are also teachers.
But this 95% participation rate barrier has districts very worried, because a few chronic truants could bring a school close to missing that 95% participation rate. And financial penalties are, to put it seriously, serious.
One of my friends who decided to opt out her child from the MEAP was told that the only way that she could opt her child out was if her child was kept out of school for the entire three-week period of the test.
If you want to understand what high stakes testing means, this is a great example. Nowhere in the world would it be considered educationally sound to intentionally keep a child out of school for three weeks over what ends up being something like 5-10 hours of testing, right? And obviously, unless you are a person who doesn't work, it would be super difficult to keep your child out of school for three weeks. [Trust me, I know--one of my children was sick for four weeks once, and that was a very difficult time.]
So what is the point of that grandstanding? It's to make it virtually impossible to keep a child from being tested, right? It's to force parents to let their kids be tested.
And it points out the farcical nature of all this testing. The MEAP has absolutely nothing to do with the child in question (for whom being in the classroom and skipping a few tests would presumably be the much better choice). No, all of this testing has to do with school finance. Who benefits? The schools, but not the kids. [OK, I cede your point--if the schools don't have money, the kids do suffer. Nonetheless, I maintain my own point--this is not about whether your child is "proficient" in math. You probably already know the answer to that question and don't need the test to tell you.]
As for the draconian threat of saying, "Well if you don't want your child to be tested you will have to keep him or her out of school for three weeks?" It reminds me of some absurd threats I would make to my preschool son. "Well if you don't do X I will keep you from watching tv for the next five years!"
This showdown is so foolishly theater of the absurd that it reminds me of some people who might force a government shutdown in order to try to derail Obamacare. Oh, wait...