Are parents turning kids into ‘snowflakes’ by opting them out of testing?

A bill in the Georgia Legislature eases the process of opting out of state tests. It also encourages policies that allow student to choose to take tests with pencil and paper rather than on computers.

Increasingly, parents in Georgia and elsewhere are considering pulling their children out of standardized state exams because of stress and doubts about appropriateness. A bill advancing in the Legislature will make that choice a little easier.

House Bill 425, which spells out Georgia parents’ rights to refuse standardized state tests for their children, passed the state Senate Education and Youth Committee 4-1 Monday. It has already cleared the House.

Is this opt-out movement turning children into fragile snowflakes, as critics insist?

No, says Stephanie O’Leary, a New York clinical psychologist and author of the book, “Parenting in the Real World.” O’Leary trained in Georgia where she lived for seven years.

She dismisses the notion that opting young kids out of state standardized tests weakens their character, saying resilience comes from allowing children to master everyday challenges — getting up for school on their own, making their lunch and suffering the fallout when they forget their band uniform or field trip form. That’s where parents ought to slow down their rescue efforts and let children stumble, not on state tests that are developmentally inappropriate, said O’Leary in an interview Friday.

“It is great for our kids to go out and run around. But you wouldn’t sign a 7-year-old up for a full marathon because it is not developmentally appropriate,” she said. “Opting your kids out of a state test is not going to spoil them.”

House Bill 425 instructs the state school superintendent to identify policies for local school systems on the supervision of students who opted out and the alternatives provided to them during testing. The guidelines would bar school systems from “taking punitive action against a student, including, but not limited to, the adoption of sit and stare policies, in response to a student’s refusal to participate in a federal, state, or locally mandated standardized assessment.” The bill defines “sit and stare” as forcing opt-out students “to remain with their class in the test room without any alternate instructional activity.”

In Georgia, opting out poses fewer consequences to report cards in K-8 than in high school where End of Course exams count for 20 percent of final grades. O’Leary said opting out is not as relevant in high school as teens are more mature and can handle the focus and multitasking required by standardized tests, even poorly constructed ones. “They have the reasoning skills to cope with it,” she said.

HB 425 also encourages local school systems to give students the option of taking online assessments with paper and pencil. Georgia is moving all students to online assessments, which expedite scoring so schools can learn earlier which students require remediation. The transition has come with some technical glitches and parent complaints.

Some parents say their children perform better with pencil and paper than with a keyboard. The counter argument is that computer fluency is as essential today as math or reading skills, and paper and pen will eventually go the way of slide rules and overhead projectors. But students tasked with churning out a timed essay pay a penalty if they lack computer competency.

Your thoughts on this gray, cold Georgia morning?

Reader Comments 0

56 comments
Charlotte Manning Harrell
Charlotte Manning Harrell

We need to use nationally standardized test, perhaps once each year and no more. All of these state test are worthless because the people are not qualified to write test.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

Do you mean a nationally normed test, like the old ITBS (not the same thing as the new Iowa Assessment) or a nationally criterion-referenced test (like the PARCC)? NOT the same. Also, this presumes that every school can be and should be on the same page. I'm not sure that's possible or even desirable.

Kathy Brown
Kathy Brown

Maybe it's not the test, particularly state tests. Every aspect of state testing occurs IN THE HEN HOUSE, the state. We create the tests, we implement the tests, we collect and grade the tests, then we analze what the scores mean. All to determine if the state and local boards of educations in charge of BILLIONS $$$$$ are actually doing their jobs. I think nation norms tests give us better insight as to how our kids are doing nationally. Having everything in house is leaving us to rank best schools in Georgia, but failing to recognize Georgia's national standing. hahahahhaa

Shanna Reed Miles
Shanna Reed Miles

Testing doesn't help students, it evaluates teachers. Classroom level teacher-led testing is sufficient.

Amanda Norris
Amanda Norris

No. Milestones mean NOTHING. I find it laughable that they could throw out all the test scores two years in a row and still tell everyone how 'important' they are. \U0001f602 My kids won't be taking it. There's no sense in making our children sit for a 12+ hour test. They take plenty of tests throughout their schooling years. The argument about standardized testing preparing them for their future careers? Also ridiculous. There's not even an argument there. The stress the kids experience because of the pressure that's put upon their shoulders isn't worth it.

Jenna Milam Baird
Jenna Milam Baird

Scores thrown out but still applied to teachers evals and CCRPI scores. Riddle me that nonsense!! \U0001f628

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Absolutely. The sooner you enter the real world, the better.

For an example of the opposite, look at the Emory students disabled by words chalked on a sidewalk.

Stop Medical Corruption
Stop Medical Corruption

I agree about the Emory students and their post-election puppy pity parties. However, the Emory students are technically adults who are choosing to enter college. I believe their abhorrent behavior is more a product of their communist core education, which minimizes the role of the parents in the child's life and has subjected them to years of brainwashing. The kids that parents are talking about here are children as young as 8 years old who are expected to sit through a poorly-written nonsensical 12-16 hour long test. Teachers and administrators really crank up the pressure and emphasize the importance of these tests starting on day one of school. This is because their evaluations, bonuses, salary, and school rankings are tied to the results of these tests. They spend weeks preparing and now offer test-prep classes on the weekends for third graders! It's obnoxious and there is no excuse for this type of abuse. The argument that we shouldn't intervene on behalf of our children because they need to experience the "real world" as soon as possible is idiotic. How soon should we expose children to the harsh realities of the real world? When they're infants? Toddlers? What's the point of having a childhood? The reality is that children who are protected, respected, and treated with honesty by their parents and teachers, will grow up to be intelligent, responsive, empathetic adults. People who advocate otherwise usually weren't treated with respect during their own childhoods and have a compulsion to repeat the abuse on the younger generation.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@Stop Medical Corruption

“How soon should we expose children to the harsh realities of the real world? When they're infants? Toddlers?”

Well, ask the Atlanta superintendent what she means by getting 0-3 year olds ready to enter kindergarten.  Can’t wait to see APS train babies to develop their coordinated movement skills that will prepare them to run successfully from attacking dogs.  And perhaps have the babies cut their teeth on the real world of competition by having them participate in the Superintendent’s Annual Baby Crawling Contest!

“The reality is that children who are protected, respected, and treated with honesty by their parents and teachers, will grow up to be intelligent, responsive, empathetic adults. People who advocate otherwise usually weren't treated with respect during their own childhoods and have a compulsion to repeat the abuse on the younger generation.”

In other words, hurt people hurt people, even children aged 0-3.

Angela Tonn
Angela Tonn

Absolutely not. Please opt your child out of any test that they are not giving at Marist or Saint Pius or at Woodword or Westminster… In other words, if it's not important enough for the elite children to take why should your child suffer through it. The kind of test were talking about opting out of are nothing more than corporate profit generators.

Stop Medical Corruption
Stop Medical Corruption

Excellent point. And you are correct--these test are nothing more than corporate profit generators.

Angela Tonn
Angela Tonn

Generally agree with your sentiments, ma'am. But those benefiting from these test are not the government… strapped public school systems are having to pay for these test and the scoring of these test and study materials for these test… However,it is the corporations who profit from these Supersecret, mandatory test of dubious quality.

Valerie Wade Blaisdell
Valerie Wade Blaisdell

No. The reality is, parents are not opting out of tried and true tests. These tests are not appropriate. When you add in asking 3rd graders to type an essay response, when very few schools have the times to actually teach keyboarding, you are not testing their ability to compose a response.... you testing their keyboarding. I think the people who believe it's "creating snowflakes" don't have young children and haven't seen the practice tests (especially the writing component).

Carol Sheridan Dial
Carol Sheridan Dial

In a word: YES! Life is full of tests and things you don't want to do but have to do. Get over it and follow the rules.

Melinda Stahnke
Melinda Stahnke

WOW Carol you are vindictive towards your students based on their parent's choices? You really do not need to be involved with children in any way.

Carol Sheridan Dial
Carol Sheridan Dial

Yes, follow the rules. But helicopter parents don't want to do that. They baby their children and expect exceptions. I can tell you right now that any of my students had parents that opted out of what everyone else had to do, there would be grade consequences. I would find a way to penalize them that would be legal. If nothing else, I'd give all the kids an essay to write evaluating the test. They could not do that if they had not taken the test. No essay equals one test- grade zero in the grade book. Too bad, so sad, you did not complete the assignment, so you can't get the grade. No you may not be excused or have an alternate assignment.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

Are you a teacher currently? One who gives Milestones to your students? This is not your average assignment. I have five kids, and I assure you that I am not a helicopter parent. I do not keep my children from experiencing consequences. This is different. I am taking a stand against the Milestones. In what universe is giving a third grade child twelve hours of essay writing and math on an iPad when she has very little in the way of keyboarding skills? In what universe is it acceptable to use these tests (which have not been proven to be valid or reliable, which is mandated by law) as 40% of a teacher's evaluation when it was never designed to do so? And the students are often being tested on material that was not covered in the teacher's class. How does that happen, you ask? All children, regardless of functional level, are tested on grade level. This is completely inappropriate for special needs students AND TAG students, not to mention their teachers. There is so much wrong here. I strongly encourage you to learn about Georgia Milestones and perhaps back off of judging parents for standing up to change it. Without teachers unions in Georgia, we are the only ones who can.

Beth Day
Beth Day

I don't think it's helicopter parenting to say no to an irrelevant task or measure. Standardized testing is not for the benefit of the student. If it were, the data could be used to drive instruction for that student. Following along just because someone says you should is not productive to the child or education in general. And as for your life philosophy, I teach my students to respectfully at least ponder what any authority is telling them. It should have a benefit somehow. That's why we have frontal lobes.

Meg Braskett
Meg Braskett

Are you still a teacher currently? What school district employs you? I wonder if the local PTA and school board would be interested in your thoughts on penalizing your students and setting them up to fail due to their parents opting them out of a standardized test.

Amanda Norris
Amanda Norris

I'm glad Carol will never be any of my children's teacher. Any teacher who would be so petty as to punish a child for their parents' decisions does NOT deserve to have a job as important as teaching. Do you also punish your students when their parents pull them out of class early for a reason that YOU don't agree with? Ridiculous!

Jenny McCord
Jenny McCord

I will spend the rest of my days being grateful my child never spent a moment in your classroom. I hope you are no longer teaching.

Stop Medical Corruption
Stop Medical Corruption

Oh, for heaven's sake, Carol! We meet again! Still bitter, are we? Why do you seem to resent parents who advocate for their children? The media propaganda machine labels parents who are involved in their children's education as "helicopters". This is part of a philosophical plan to undermine and minimize the role of parents in their children's lives and emphasize the role of the educational system...AKA "government". Don't worry, Jenny McCord, she's retired. Look Carol, these tests are not the ITBS. Nobody is complaining abou the ITBS. These tests are fraudulent pathetic excuses for tests legislated by corrupt politicians. The school teachers and administrators crank up the pressure on theses tests from day one of school because their careers depend on the results (The same pressure that caused the APS cheating scandals). Why should young children be abused to meet the financial and professional needs of adults? Parents are their children's only line of defense. They are completely defenseless. Yes, there is a problem of entitled wimpy young adults, but I argue that it is not due to to excessive parenting, but rather a lack there of. Children whose childhood is protected and whom are treated with respect and love, blossom into mature, independent, empathetic adults. Children whose needs are not met in childhood and are then subjected to 12 years of communist core brain washing, which is a false education, become entitled, whiny, incompetent young adults. Carol, I urge you to think about your own childhood and how you were treated. Were you respected? Did your parents help you face injustices, or were you left to fend for yourself? If the answered are "no", then this could be related to your unrelenting anger that you are unleashing on parents and children. Loosen up and enjoy retirement and be glad that you don't have to teach in this very sick educational system. Take some yoga classes or something....

Angel Thomas
Angel Thomas

See, this is how you know the conversation will go nowhere because people are mad about something other than what you're talking about: They start throwing labels like "snowflake" and "helicopter parents" around.

Ruth Zackowitz Hartman
Ruth Zackowitz Hartman

Meg Norris or Susan Blount Campbell please reply because if I do, it won't be nice.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

She's apparently been retired since 2010, so she knows absolutely nothing about this. Ignore the troll.

Nichelle Young
Nichelle Young

Carol Sheridan Dial, I would catch you slipping one day. You are horrible

Jenna Milam Baird
Jenna Milam Baird

Huh? My kid's take tests ALL THE TIME. Every week, at the end of every quarter, quizzes thrown in there often AND a final, ALL which I have NO problem with. Sorry, but if you were my kid's teacher and you applied your asinine "grade consequences" or "penalizing my child for his PARENTS decision", I'd have my 8 yr old Christmas Tree the test PURPOSELY (and tell his classmates to do so too), knowing YOU would be held accountable to the failing grades. Too Bad, So Sad you are around children.

Carol Sheridan Dial
Carol Sheridan Dial

I have done this essay with my students for years. They have questions to answer and are encouraged to discuss the pros and cons of the test, giving examples. And they know before the test that they will be be doing this. It's a narrative essay. But if you don't take the test you can't do the assignment. Perfectly legitimate. It encourages students to reach beyond the rote answers and THINK. But of course parents like you prefer to micromanage so that your children don't feel stress instead if teaching them to deal with stress and get over it. None of you would last in my class. I was right in the middle of testing for years and hated it. But it's there. Get over it and learn to function anyway. Life is full of tests. They aren't going away. And the next person who calls this 69 year old woman a TROLL will regret it.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

Carol, I am sitting in a private school classroom right now watching children learn and thrive. They are not subjected to the standardized testing that has taken over our public schools. It appears as though you retired some years ago, so you have not been witness to what has happened in the last five years. Perhaps you just don't know. The Milestones is like *nothing* that existed in your teaching years. It's beyond abusive. It's pointless. It gives NO useful information. It's about money and data gathering, not improving education. It's used to fail schools and teachers. I have a daughter who is also a teacher. I've also been around for awhile. Teachers are screaming for parents to refuse and get this stopped because they can't. I truly believe that you simply don't know. It is incumbent upon parents to stand up and resist so that our children can go back to normal classroom learning. Like the way you ran your classroom, I;m sure. Instead, kids are learning their math lessons from videos on ipads. They take surveys constantly, grading their teachers. Does this bear any resemblance to your classroom? I doubt it. It's not good for kids. Instead of calling parents helicopter parents, how about you learn about the milestones. Learn that curriculum is over in January and the rest of the year is spent in test prep. Understand that kids are going to school on Saturdays and evenings in Milestones boot camps. Learn that children are regularly threatened with failure based on the Milestones, even when they are A students. I really think you just don't know what's happening in public schools. I doubt that any thinking person would ignore this and call alarmed parents names.

Jenna Milam Baird
Jenna Milam Baird

Troll. IF you knew anything about this test, you'd know that the students are not allowed to discuss the test with their teacher, let alone a classwide discussion of the pros and cons of it or to give YOU examples. They could write whatever they want about it, since you'd NEVER see the test anyway. You'd be fired for asking for info from the test.

Jenna Milam Baird
Jenna Milam Baird

You're right. I wouldn't last in your class because your sentence structure is horrific and I'd point it out to you daily.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

I'd prefer that my children learn to stand up and make changes when they see something wrong. I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in training my children to blindly be rule followers. Having said that, my children are well-behaved and not snowflakes that are difficult to deal with.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

And Carol? The tests are not third grade level. Not even for the third graders. Reading passages for the third graders have been rated several years above their reading level. Yes. It's abhorrent. We should not comply!

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

We have a wonderful tradition of resistance when it is required. It's a good thing. I want my son to know that individuals can and should change the world. Apartheid in South Africa. Voting rights for women. Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela, the famous photo of the man standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square. This testing issue may not seem like a big deal to you, but it's huge. We are at a point where if we do not stand up and say NO MORE to this, education in this country will turn into something very unhealthy for our children and our nation. We parents are not helicopter parents. We don't try and get everything just perfect for our little darlings all the time. We are involved, passionate parents who care about the teachers too. Rule following? My Goodness. You do not understand what's happening. If you agree that the testing is abhorrent, help us fix this!

Carol Sheridan Dial
Carol Sheridan Dial

Wow. You compared civil rights to standardized testing?? They are not the same at all. I'm appalled. I think we do too much testing by far, but there have to be standards. And if the passages are too hard, then the teaching has been dumbed down. I read the unabridged version of Little Women easily and by myself in THIRD grade. My ninth graders in the 1970's read, The Old Man and the Sea, Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations, and The Fellowship of the Ring, in addition to poetry, short stories, and biographies, along with doing grammar and writing. And these were not advanced classes. Today students and parents complain if we read one novel a year. We have to raise the standards. The tests I've seen are the floor of achievement; they should be the ceiling. If they are easy the kids are not learning anything.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

Carol, if we could go back to reading more novels in school, I'd be thrilled. The problem is that we've lost so much instruction time (months of it per year) for test prep that the kids are not learning nearly as much. Much of the reading they are doing is not rich literature, but informational text. It's teaching them to hate reading. I WANT school to be like you're talking about. This is not the parents' fault. They aren't complaining about too much instruction, believe me. The classroom has changed dramatically from when you were teaching. The difference between my oldest child's education (she's 30) and my thirteen year old's is stunning. You don't think education is a civil right? How about Brown vs. The Board of Education? Central High School in Little Rock? I think most people would disagree with you. Is there anything more important? Not in the life of a child. It isn't just about the testing, though if you actually saw what was happening in schools, I can't imagine you'd find it acceptable. It's about the loss of education in favor of testing. The loss is enormous. The kids aren't getting out of school what they were even a few years ago. It isn't the fault of the parents, unless we do nothing about it. It's the fault of the legislature, and we are trying to change that. Refusal is the tool that the parents have to use while legislation makes its way through the halls. Rules schmools. Who gives a flip about conforming to testing rules? I sure don't. Blind obedience is incredibly dumb and has led to all kinds of abuses and evils. I definitely do not want my son to blindly follow bad things just because an authority told him to.

Carol Sheridan Dial
Carol Sheridan Dial

I have only been retired since 2010. I know what I'm talking about. And literature is the springboard for everything else in English. You teach writing, grammar, syntax, vocabulary, reasoning skills, history, and a host of things through READING. There is no other way. You can't teach things in isolation. Not in English. But most people today don't know how to do that. And education is a civil right. Skipping mandated tests is NOT. Big difference. Reading is the key to everything. You learn it all by reading. It's tough and it's demanding. But people like you don't see that. They see reading as a waste of time instead of realizing that it's the real key to learning.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

I couldn't agree with you more about reading. It's a huge loss to the students that they don't have time. Please understand WHY they don't have time. Standardized testing is entirely different than it was five years ago. Common Core has also changed everything. The tests are NOT mandated for the students. The mandate is that the school must offer the test. The student does not have to take it. I think that the effect that standardized testing is having on my son's education is making it a civil right issue. He isn't getting a decent education because of it. Big, big money and data collection is at the core of this. It's destroying schools, students, and the teaching profession. Teachers hate it. It isn't about the students at all. It's replacing the quality education that we used to be able to count on. We have to stop it. Refusing the test starves the beast. The goal is to make schools better, not shelter our children from real life.

EddieHall
EddieHall

No we are not. If enough pull out of testing, MAYBE we will see actual math, science, english and other skills taught INSTEAD of teaching how to take a test!

kaelyn
kaelyn

Have the kids take the ITBS through eighth grade, the PSAT in tenth, and the ACT or SAT in tenth or eleventh grade. These tests, coupled with ongoing teacher assessments, will tell you how well they're really doing. No more CRCT/MAPS/Georgia flavor of the month worthless testing. Then again, we have to justify why the schools have assistant principals who have testing as their primary job responsibility.

Blynne Roberts
Blynne Roberts

Absolutely! What will their parents do when they are tested for their real career? Can't ""opt out of that"

Angel Thomas
Angel Thomas

Except that these tests are no indication of their skill, intelligence, or the quality of the schools.

Jenna Milam Baird
Jenna Milam Baird

When my children are tested for a "real career", their test results would be back FAR before they start their job, not the following year (if ever). And would most definitely be written and scored by the employer.

Susan Blount Campbell
Susan Blount Campbell

When you can prove to me that having a third grader with little keyboarding skills take a twelve hour test comprised of composing essays and doing math on an iPad is good practice for their adult job, I might agree with you.

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

Are your kids getting a job at the age of 5?

Stop Medical Corruption
Stop Medical Corruption

Blynne Roberts, when people "test for their real career", they are usually adults on a self-chosen career path. We are talking about very young children who are subjected to developmentally inappropriate testing and "college and career" readiness assessments starting at age five. I mean, why not start them on their career path in infancy? In fact, parents should be required to choose a career path for their infants before they leave the birth center. The sooner we can turn these impertinent little brats into mindless robots on a government-mandated career path, the better. After all, college and career readiness can't be started soon enough. 


Also, keep in mind that we have an entire generation of neurologically-impaired children, thanks to our bloated and out-of-control vaccine program, and this one-size-fits-all testing is especially damaging to these children. Many of these children are cognitively impaired and forced to attempt a test that is completely inappropriate for their development.