Grand Terrace parents want kids to avoid test
By Stacia Glenn on April 20, 2009
Hoping to pressure the Colton school board to change the name of the new high school here, parents are opting their children out of a state-mandated achievement test.
Several parents in some of the Colton Joint Unified School District's highest-performing schools have signed waivers asking that their students not be tested.
The district could be penalized by the state if enough students don't participate in the test, officials said.
The parents' protest comes in response to the school board's decision in March to name the school after former trustee Ray Abril Jr., a longtime Colton resident.
The district asked the public to submit names for the new school, scheduled to open in fall 2011. Grand Terrace High School was the winner. Ray Abril or Ray Abril Jr. High School came in fourth place.
Two weeks ago, former trustee Tobin Brinker told the board that parents would opt their children out of the so-called Star Testing Standardized Testing And Reporting test program, which measures performance in English-language arts, math, science and history for grades two through 11.
The testing in the Colton district runs from April 27 through May 26.
"This is a way to send a message," said Brinker, a San Bernardino Councilman whose son and daughter attend Colton district schools. "If you won't listen to our opinion about the name of the high school, then you don't get the benefit of our test scores."
Brinker, who opted his two children out of the STAR test, is part of a group that passed out letters to parents whose students will attend the new high school.
A large group is expected to show up Thursday to urge the board to rename the school Grand Terrace High School.
"If you change the name, if you listen to us, then we will let our children take the test," said Grand Terrace native Letti Byrd, who opted two of her children out of the test.
Some board members say they are open to listening to the community.
"All I can say is I'm looking at options to heal our community," said board member Kent Taylor.
District spokeswoman Katie Orloff said she did not know how many parents signed waivers.
"Parents should know that while they have a right to opt their kids out, it eliminates an important source of information about the progress their student is making in school," Orloff said. "It's too bad that they are choosing to take their concerns about their name of the high school out on our educational programs and the students who go to school here in this district."
On Monday, Superintendent James Downs sent home a letter reminding parents of the importance of the STAR testing program.
Orloff said the district is looking into the consequences if a large number of parents opt out.Under the federal law known as No Child Left Behind, each school district and school must have at least a 95-percent participation rate on statewide tests to meet federal accountability requirements.
California also uses an Academic Performance Index for measuring progress. Districts run afoul of state accountability standards if schools don't test at least 85 percent of students in each subject area.
"If they violate that rule, the state Department of Education will invalidate their API score," said Rachel Perry, the department's director of the policy and evaluation division.