Parents refuse to let 550 kids take progress test

SNOHOMISH, Wash. (AP) - A testing protest by parents in one western Washington school district isn't likely to affect the state budget, but the parents feel they got their message out that statewide academic testing is a waste of money.

An organized group in the Snohomish School District kept 550 students from taking the statewide Measurements of Student Progress this past week, the Everett Herald reported.

The students who didn't take their exams represented about 12 percent of the 4,501 students between third and eighth grade required to take the test in Snohomish. Last year, just 12 students missed the standardized tests in that district.

State education officials told The Associated Press the students won't be punished for refusing to take their reading, writing, math or science exams.

"It's up to the district how they're going to deal with the parents," said Kristen Jaudon, spokeswoman for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

But the schools and the district may suffer from the after-effects of the protest.

The students who did not test but were expected to will be counted as "not tested," which gets tallied in the "not meeting standard" category in the test results for each school. These numbers are currently used to determine if a school and its district are meeting the federal requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.

Schools that fail to meet their goals for several years in a row are considered in "school improvement" and may eventually be required to make a turnaround plan that could include replacing the principal and possibly the teachers, according to state law.

One year of test protests would not likely put a school onto the improvement path, but it could push a school or district along if its students were already failing to meet state standards.

The school district has called OSPI asking for guidance and parents have called to talk about the situation and their feelings about the tests, Jaudon said.

"I'm not sure as a state that we could come in and tell them what they need to be doing," she said. "We're here to help them implement the laws."

The parents group, which calls itself "We Support Schools Snohomish," believes their effort has been successful because they have raised awareness among lawmakers that parents are concerned about the exams.

"We're not against testing. We want student assessment, but we want smarter, more effective and more cost-efficient testing," group member Michelle Purcell told The Everett Herald. "We feel we have been heard."

The group plans to expand the protest to other school districts, Purcell said.

Because most of the costs associated with this year's Measurements of Student Progress have already been paid, having some students not take the tests won't save the state much money, Jaudon told The Associated Press.

Most of the MSP tests, except for the writing exams, are graded by computers, so fewer tests won't save much money, Jaudon said.