TALLAHASSEE — An appellate court has overturned a circuit-court
decision that said school districts had to consider other ways of
advancing students besides standardized-test results.
The Florida “opt out” testing movement, which encourages
parents to defy standardized testing requirements for their children,
had gained traction recently with a website
and also focused its attention on the state Legislature.
“In spite of decades of reliable research that mandatory
third-grade retention borders on education malpractice, Florida
remains one of just 14 states still practicing mandatory third-grade
retention as a consequence of failing a single test, even for
proficient readers. Your help is needed to get this bad law off the
books so that schools can more effectively meet children’s real
educational needs,” proponents wrote on the website.
The 1st District Court of Appeal, however, did not do
the opt-out proponents any favors.
On March 7, the three-judge panel ruled
that Circuit Judge Karen Gievers’ decision was in error and said
the case should not progress any further.
“This ruling is erroneous for two reasons. First and foremost,
there is no indispensable party exception to the home-venue privilege
and the trial court lacked the authority to create one,” the
appeals-court decision said.
“Second, even if there was such an exception, it would not apply
here because (Department of Education) is not an indispensable party
to the plaintiffs’ suit that, at its essence, challenges
school-board decisions concerning the retention and promotion of
specific students, which DOE has no role in.’’
The case came to fruition when parents told
their third-graders to put their names on the test and then not
answer any of the questions. Those students were subsequently denied
the promotion to fourth grade, and the parents sued the DOE.
The appeals court, though, said there was a reason why students
had to take the test.
“The test can only achieve that laudable purpose if the student
meaningfully takes part in the test by attempting to answer all of
its questions to the best of the student’s ability,” the opinion
There was no report as of March 31 as to whether the parents would
take this case to the state Supreme Court.
Cindy Hamilton, an Orlando mother who helped start the Opt Out
Florida Network, told
the Orlando Sentinel that the ruling made the group even more
determined in their fight.
“[O]ne test, with high stakes attached, is not the only way to
determine if a child can read,” Hamilton said in an email.