FEA joins "Opt Out" discussion

Posted at 6:09 PM, Apr 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-13 18:09:36-04

JUPITER, Fla. -- As students continue with state standardized testing this month, the conversation about “opting out” is growing. Now one big education organization is joining in the discussion.

The Florida Education Association, or the teacher’s union, has posted a very public message on its website about the "opt out" movement. It’s a message many parents locally are calling a small victory.

9-year-old William Owen left school a little early Wednesday morning. “Pretty much everything in class is based on what we’re going to do in the FSA,” said William. .

He was opting out of the Florida Standard Assessment for reading. “All of the other kids, they look really stressed,” he said.

His mom Sharon has been a local advocate for the “opt out” movement.

It’s parents taking a stance against state standardized testing, telling their kids not to take them.

For some parents like Sharon, it’s a form of protest. For others, they don’t like the stress the tests put on the kids and teachers.

“A lot of time is being lost when the kids could actually be learning rather than teaching to a test,” said Sharon.

The District and the State have maintained that students are required by law to participate, warning of harsh consequences if the students don’t participate.

However, with the push back from parents, the teacher’s union locally says teachers have been caught in the middle.

“We can’t either encourage or discourage the “opt out” movement because it is against State and District policy to do so,” said Kathi Gundlach, the president of the Classroom Teachers Association in Palm Beach County.

But now there is a voice speaking up on behalf of the teachers. Their union.

The Florida Education Association has joined the conversation publicly.

It posted a message on its website saying while it still cautions teachers to avoid the conversation, that should not come across as opposition for parents.

“They’re not opposed. And that’s what they’re saying,” said Gundlach.  “What they are saying is this is not a change in their policy. They are telling teachers to be extremely careful in this area.”

It’s a message that many parents, like Sharon Owen, see as a step in the right direction.

“I think it shows support for the teachers and I think the teachers need that right now. Their hands have been tied,” said Owen.

Many parents are having their children “minimally participate.”

This is where the students write their name but do not answer enough questions for the test to be counted.

They believe this allows them to “opt out” and still comply with the state law.

Neither the District nor the State has commented on this.