Apr 20, 2011 4:53 PM by Andy Koen
The mother of Colorado Springs fifth grader intentionally requested that her son not take Colorado Student Assessment Program test last month and now he cannot enroll for school next year at the Rocky Mountain Classical Academy, a charter school in Falcon School District 49.
Nina Bishop says her son Levi has never taken the test because of medical reasons. Levi has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, anxiety disorders and some Aspergers characteristics; all of which she says make testing too difficult.
"The testing is stressful, C-SAP in particular, because kids as young as 8 years old are tested up to 12 hours sometimes," Bishop said.
The Colorado Department of Education requires schools make appropriate accommodations for students with medical needs, like Levi, out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, it doesn't grant those students an exemption from testing.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Bishop chose to keep Levi from testing and emailed the school in February to express her wishes. The elementary principal replied and promised that there would be no retribution because of her decision.
Bishop says she was surprised to then hear from the middle school principal that Levi wasn't enrolled.
"I face-to-face asked her are we enrolled or not and she said no you are not enrolled. If you will not test, he cannot come here."
The school requires parents to sign a consent form called a Parent Letter of Commitment. When Nina filled out Levi's enrollment papers, Nina drew a line through the portion of the form that mandates he take the C-SAP and other tests.
We requested interviews from school administrators and the charter board, but they declined.
Board President Scott Cathey sent us an email that reads:
"Rocky Mountain Classical Academy is a Falcon D49 Charter School. We are a school of choice. We require all of our families to support the school by endorsing our uniform policy, parent volunteer hours, standardized testing, and eight other items. These commitments are given to parents in writing at the time of enrollment and parents are asked to seriously consider them before they agree. If any of the items in our parent commitment letter are not acceptable to a family, then we encourage that family to make a different choice in schools. Only unaltered parent commitment letters are accepted for enrollment, and RMCA requires parents to re-sign the parent commitment letter prior to re-enrollment of their students each year."
There is some debate over the legality of parents opting out of the C-SAP. Education advocate Angela Engle of the group Uniting for Kids says parents have the right to refuse the test.
She also thinks that charter schools are unfairly using their status as schools of choice to force students like Levi out.
"They're receiving 100 percent publicly funded dollars," Engel said. "They should be required to take public school students regardless of their ability to test, regardless of their parents decision to subject them to testing."
Mark Stevens, the Director of Communications for the C.D.E. says that state law mandates that all students take the C-SAP. He also points out that there is not provision to enforce that mandate statute.
Attorney Kelly Dude performs legal work on behalf of many school districts in the Pikes Peak region and says he believes that mandate was written to keep the schools honest.
"I think the reason that is in there is to keep schools from discouraging lower performing students from coming to school on test day," Dude said.
He adds that the schools suffer the most when parents intentionally keep their children from taking the C-SAP because their non-test is counted against the school as a whole.