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 said.
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.