Parents refuse to let their children take Georgia Milestones test

by: Mike Petchenik Updated:

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NORTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - Some metro Atlanta parents are protesting the state’s new “Georgia Milestones” standardized test and urging other parents to refuse it for their own children.
 
This week, thousands of students across the state in grades three through eight will be taking the exam, which state officials say will provide schools with data about student achievement.
 
Kay Draper Hutchinson’s children aren’t among those taking the test.
 
“It’s not going to be good for our kids,” she told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik.

Draper Hutchinson, a former school counselor, has co-founded a group called “PACT with Tact,” laying out what she believes are misconceptions about the exams and the concerns that she and other parents have about them.
 
“They’re unproven. They haven’t been properly vetted,” she said. “So our kids are the lab rats to try this out.”
 
Draper Hutchinson argues that the test is not developmentally appropriate, especially for younger children, in part because of its alignment with the controversial “Common Core” curriculum.
 
“We have gotten on a crazy train in education, and somebody needs to pull the emergency stop and get all the children off,” she said.
 
She said she’s also concerned that the tests put too much pressure on students, teachers and principals.  Starting next year, state officials told Petchenik, a portion of a teacher’s evaluation will be tied to the test results.
 
“The tying of the test scores to the teacher evaluations to the tune of 50 percent for teachers and principals is putting this vise grip on the schools,” Draper Hutchinson said.
 
Former school teacher Maureen Curtis told Petchenik that she never felt that kind of pressure in years past when the stakes weren’t so high.
 
“The things that we did in class definitely prepared them because of the teaching methods at that time and how we did engage the learners, which I don’t feel is happening anymore,” she said.
 
Parent Jenny Friedman said she’s refused the test for her children because she feels it has snuffed out the creativity of learning in the classroom.
 
“The children are being turned into these little robots who can only regurgitate information on tests, and they’re not being taught to think critically or creatively anymore,” she said.
 
A spokeswoman for Fulton County schools told Petchenik that they estimate that fewer than 1 percent of the testing population refused the test.
 
Department of Education Spokesman Matt Cardoza told Petchenik that the state currently doesn’t have an “opt out” policy when it comes to the test, but officials respect a parent’s right to refuse the test for his or her child.
 
“Nothing is perfect,” he said of the exams.  “But we do feel when we have these educators involved (in the process), it’s as close a representation of what’s being taught in the classroom.”
 
Cardoza said that starting next year, third-graders must pass the reading portion of the exam to automatically move up a grade level, and students in fifth and eighth grades must pass reading and math. 
 
If a student fails the exam or refuses to take it, Cardoza said school officials must then meet with the parents to determine if a student can move to the next grade level.
 
Cardoza said the state doesn’t condone “teaching to the test,” and said if teachers are educating students based on the curriculum, “the test will take care of itself.”