The Schools' War on Arizona's Children: Part 2 Online Charter Schools
Some Arizona parents, disgusted with the diabolical determination of their local schools to bully their children into taking the highly controversial AzMERIT exam, are considering online education for their children.
Think again. Online charter schools are worse. The extra harsh treatment is completely legal, based on ARS 15-808(B). The online charters are merely "following orders" as dictated by Arizona's legislators. "If a pupil fails to comply with the testing requirements and the school administers the tests pursuant to this subsection to less than ninety-five percent of the pupils in Arizona online instruction, the pupil shall not be allowed to participate in Arizona online instruction."
According to Facebook comments from several parents who refused to allow their children to take AzMERIT, their children were "locked out" of learning. They couldn't log on to their computers.
April 5. This parent posted: "Received a call from K12 (Arizona Virtual Academy, where 'students come first') at 3:10 pm -she said if we did not call her back before 3 pm today..AND if we did not show up tomorrow at the testing site- they would lock our account. Meaning student could not do his work..meaning they are dropping us from the school. IS THIS legal?"
The parent did not call, nor did she and her 3rd grader make the long drive to the remote testing site. The trip would have required her to take off work, over a period of 3-4 days, for a few hours each day. (NOTE: The "online" school doesn't administer AzMERIT "online." One parent stated that she would have to drive 120 miles to the testing site nearest her home.)
April 6. Parent received the following email:
From: Flagg, Cory firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 2:23 PM
Subject: State Testing - PLEASE READ
To: (Name redacted)
I attempted to contact you today in regard to AZMerit testing for your student. AZMerit testing is a required test for students in Arizona public or charter schools and you were not at the testing location today. We need to make arrangements for your student to complete these tests, so PLEASE contact me right away to discuss your testing options. You can reach me at email@example.com, or through k-mail. You can also call me at 623-742-3880
Please be aware, that Testing at AZVA is a requirement. Families are made aware of this during enrollment and confirmation calls. Because AZVA is a state funded charter school, our students must comply with state regulations. Failure to do so may result in a student’s withdrawal from our program.
Thanks for your immediate response.
Family Engagement Coordinator
April 7: The parent's son was locked out and could not obtain his lessons, receive instruction, do homework. Nothing. Per mother, "I honestly do not even want to speak to these people! Talk about 'doing best for the kids.' Is having my son in tears the best?"
Another parent: "I got the exact email and calls. I even sent them an email with my refusal letter. They blocked my son's account this afternoon."
Another parent: "Our daughter was locked last Wednesday. I requested a withdrawal from the school on Friday. She was withdrawn today. I lost respect for the head of school who, in my opinion, is a bureaucrat, not an educator. Locking my child out of her schoolwork as punishment for not taking a test with no educational value was unconscionable. We started our homeschool program this past Monday and all is going well."
April 12: "My son goes to an online school. He's in 8th grade, and they have locked him out of his courses so he is now behind. They said that if 95% of the students took the test they will unlock it, and if less than 95% took it then they will withdraw him from their school unless he takes the AZ Merit. Can they really kick him out if he doesn't take it?" (See below for the email from the school explaining why the school refused to unlock this student's account.)
April 14: "AZVA still has my son blocked and is saying he has missed school due to attendance ...that they will term him for absences! He can't log in."
Another parent: "The AZK12 program is totally controlled by the CC loving people at the state. I have heard from others that they are doing that to them, locking them out because of the AZMerit refusal. It's time to look into other options not controlled by the state."
Another parent: "They did that to me a couple years in a row, because I refused to subject my children to testing. I kept my kids on track and called the principal every other day. I know they were thinking if they wait long enough my kids would be too far behind to pass. Well, they were wrong. Turns out my kids were ahead by a week. After three years of public online school b.s. and poor curriculum, I am now a true home school mom. We use Eclectic Education Series. My kids now know how to do real math without all the b.s. They have even learned a lot of easy ways to do math. The history is good too. Grammar and Spelling seems logical as well."
April 14: Parent stated: "Fortunately 95% of students took the test and they unlocked his account, but next year he will be going some where else for sure."
And on and on .....
"Can someone tell me if it is mandatory for my daughter to take the AZ MERIT test? She is an online student with Gilbert Global Academy. I opted out at Ben Franklin with my other daughter and did not have an issue. Received this email:
This is not an opt out type of test. This is required by the state to stay as an online student. Testing is part of education.
Scott Lymer, M.Ed.
Global Academy and Online Learning Programs
Gilbert Public Schools
500 S. McQueen Rd
Gilbert, AZ 85233
Email sent to Parent explaining why her son was blocked from online learning:
"I wanted to update you on the account lock for (name redacted). I was able to speak with our principal Melody Williamson this morning and clarify that the account can’t be unlocked until we have the completed testing numbers. We will have the completed percentage late today since there are still some makeup tests being completed. As I mentioned when we spoke, the school is required to test 95% of our students. If we reach that percentage withtoday’s final numbers, the account will be unlocked tomorrow (Wednesday). If the total completed tests falls short, M. can be withdrawn from AZVA. Ms. Williamson shared with me an excerpt from our middle school handbook:
"State Standardized Testing
"Pursuant to A.R.S. 15-808 B, AZVA must notify students and Learning Coaches of mandatory state testing requirements. AZVA students are required to participate in the state-mandated academic assessments. The testing window for standardized testing is determined by the Arizona Department of Education and listed on the school calendar. Specific testing days and locations are distributed closer to the actual testing window. These tests are administered by an AZVA teacher or administrator. These assessment tools provide useful information to Learning Coaches and teachers about their students’ academic progress. The performance of AZVA students on the state-mandated assessments are also an integral part of assessing the success of the virtual school program. If AZVA fails to test 95% of its students, the students who did not take the test become ineligible to continue enrollment in AZVA.
"Below is A.R.S 15-808 B as referenced in the State Standardized Testing paragraph above:
"B. Each new school that provides online instruction shall provide online instruction on a probationary status. After a new school that provides online instruction has clearly demonstrated the academic integrity of its instruction through the actual improvement of the academic performance of its students, the school may apply to be removed from probationary status. The state board of education or the state-approved charter authorizer that sponsored the charter school shall remove from Arizona online instruction any probationary school that fails to clearly demonstrate improvement in academic performance within three years measured against goals in the approved application and the state's accountability system. All pupils who participate in Arizona online instruction shall reside in this state. Pupils who participate in Arizona online instruction are subject to the testing requirements prescribed in chapter 7, article 3 of this title. On enrollment, the school shall notify the parents or guardians of the pupil of the state testing requirements. If a pupil fails to comply with the testing requirements and the school administers the tests pursuant to this subsection to less than ninety-five percent of the pupils in Arizona online instruction, the pupil shall not be allowed to participate in Arizona online instruction."