To the House Education Committee
In Support of HB 1389
January 31, 2017
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am Linda Thorson, the State Director for Concerned Women for America (CWA) of North Dakota. CWA is the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization. Education has been established as one of our Seven Core Issues on which we focus our efforts. CWA supports the reform of public education by returning educational authority to parents. We believe excellence in academic achievement begins with the acknowledgment of parental rights.
CWA of North Dakota is in strong support of HB 1389 to respect and support the right of a parent to opt their child out of public school and any activity, practice or testing, with no interference from the state.
Parents have the authority to make decisions regarding their child’s education and wellbeing. The purpose of the bill is to address concerns about a misguided focus on assessments to the determent of academic content instruction. I am a retired speech language pathologist, who has worked in public school settings with students ages Pre-K through High School for 26 years.
Our school climate today places too much emphasis on federal control through mandated tests. As North Dakota Superintendent of Schools, Ms. Kirsten Baesler, wrote in A Vision for North Dakota Schools from October 31, 2016,
“In North Dakota, we have a proud tradition of local control of education. We elect our school board members and put our trust in them. We have a chance to reinvigorate this tradition as we go about the task of implementing a new federal education law, called the Every Student Succeeds Act.
“This law gives more flexibility to our state and local education officials than we have had in more than 25 years.
“The previous law put too much emphasis on academic standards and test results as a way of measuring the quality of our schools.”
She is correct about the over-emphasis on test results. Consider our students who, beginning at a young age spend hours, days and weeks in their classrooms, often behind a computer, taking practice tests and achievement tests. HB 1389 addresses the ability of parents to opt out of test assessments such as:
- Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Tests, Practice Tests and Training Tests that cover Reading, Mathematics and Science and administered annually to all public school students in grades 3,4,5,6,7,8 and in at least one grade level selected from 9-11.
- Interim Assessments – Which may include tests given monthly or quarterly like the DIBELS – Dynamic Indicators of Early Literacy Skills (beginning at kindergarten), STARS – Standardized Testing and Reporting including the STAR Early Literacy, STAR Reading and STAR Math, NWEA-MAP or Measures of Academic Progress, Grays Oral Reading Test and Grays Silent Reading Test.
- Career Interest Inventory – career interest inventory for Middle School, Career Interest Inventory for High School.
- Summative Assessments – The ACT, including the Writing ACT and/or three WorkKeys Assessments to measure essential workplace skills.
Much of the opposition to the Common Core and aligned assessments among parents is related to the amount of testing students now undergo and the fact that instructional time in the classroom is diminished. There are good assessment measures that help teachers make decisions about instruction and intervention. Teachers and parents can use test results to improve student learning. But, as the list of tests (which is not complete) makes clear, students are under the test microscope far too often.
How did we get here? Common standards call for common assessments. In 2009, 48 states and the District of Columbia joined together to launch the Common Core State Standards initiate. High-stakes testing of student’s mastery of those standards is the reason for the simultaneous requirement that students in North Dakota take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests. 
The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association desired to unify K–12 standards through the Common Core initiative with the goal “all students, regardless of where they live, are graduating high school prepared for college, career, and life.” However, commitments to the consortia’s assessments has weakened in the last five years. The number of states planning to use the tests dropped from 45 in 2011 to 20 in 2016. Thus, it is no longer possible for interstate comparability of student achievement.
CWA of North Dakota urges you to look at the facts. Listen to the request of parents; enact parental directives for the administration of tests and assessments. Vote a “Do Pass” for HB 1389.
As Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ms. Kirsten Baesler stated, “No more. This new law reinforces our authority in North Dakota to determine for ourselves how to measure the progress of our students. It gives us more room to develop their creativity and entrepreneurship, and to help them become productive citizens of our state, nation and world.” That authority begins with the respect and support of parental rights.