Assessment opt out available in Harrison County, but comes with consequences

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — As parents across the state opt out their students from the new Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium tests, one county warns that option comes with consequences.

“Though I respect people’s decisions, I hope they respect ours,” Harrison County Superintendent Mark Manchin said. “We simply can not allow them to opt out, or decide that they don’t want to participate in the statewide assessment.”

Manchin appeared Friday on “The Mike Queen Show” heard on the AJR News Network. Despite reaction from the State Board of Education, Manchin said the movement was created on a local level with no directive from the state.

Without drawing a line now, Manchin questioned what future implications would come from allowing individuals to pick and choose which aspects of public education they participate in.

“What if a parent doesn’t like another decision that we make here? They’re going to, unilaterally, to allow their student to opt out of disciplinary issues, or other issues that we have at the school system and [the administration] allow that to take place? We’re going to create anarchy in our school system.”

The severity of the punishment could vary from school to school.

“We’ve informed the principals that, as in any other disciplinary issue or any other area where a student has chosen not to participate or participate in an unsatisfactory way, they may be subject to disciplinary issues.”

The guideline stems from the county policy for insubordination, considered a Level III violation. The discipline options available under a Level III violation include after-school detention and in-school/out-of-school suspension between one and 10 days.

The discussion of the “opt out movement” accelerated in West Virginia after the Herald-Dispatch reported April 16 that around 200 students at Spring Valley High School in Wayne County refused to take the test—potentially downgrading the school’s federal designation—with no punishment resembling what is being promised in Harrison County.

“Wayne County can do as they see fit. Harrison County’s going to do as we see fit,” Manchin said. “Perhaps Wayne County, I don’t know what the rationale, but I think it’s sending a wrong message to the parents.”

While Manchin said he respects the concerns of parents, whether they be with the Common Core/Next Gen Standards, the result being collected in a national database, the concept of assessment testing in general or with moving away from pencil and paper tests, he believes the debate should be conducted outside of the classroom.

“This is not the avenue,” he said. “The information that is garnered from the testing, diagnostic, prescriptive, it tells us how we’re doing. It tells us where students, specific students, are doing well, where specific students are not doing well. It drives our instruction.”

The Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium testing begins in Harrison County on Monday.

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