To Survey or Not To Survey…Oh, and Opt OUT of State Testing :)

State testing isn’t the only thing parents have control over in their child’s time at public school. There are other things you can opt out of besides state testing. One of them is the Kansas Communities that Care survey. I’m attaching (at the bottom of the post) it here so you can see it for yourself. This one is sometimes viewed as an “opt in” rather than an opt out. So, that means that they have to notify you about it, you have to sign that you DO want your kid to do it, or else it is assumed that your child will not be participating. I’ve seen a few variations on this, so, it’s possible that your district could be offering either opting in or opting out.

Basically, this is a big data collection point. Some districts, like my own, no longer offer it. If yours does, then you can absolutely opt out of it. Many districts just send home a form to sign and it’s just that easy.

One of our KACC leaders submitted testimony about this survey back in February of 2015, I think. In part, here are some of the points she made:
• Parents are told the surveys are anonymous. However, the first 20 items the kids fill out are personal identifiers. These include: school district, building number, age, grade, gender, race, number of siblings, grades (A, B, etc.) usually received, parents’ level of education. Consider this being administered in a small school district; it wouldn’t be very hard to pretty accurately determine individuals.
• If the information on the surveys is completely anonymous, then why isn’t the complete data from the surveys available to parents and the public? Per Nancy White, with the Southeast Kansas Education Center – Greenbush administering agency, they “protect” the data, with only data down to building level being provided to school superintendents. If it’s anonymous, why does the individual survey level data need to be protected?
Considering the amount of personally identifying questions in combination with the type of questions and manner in which they are phrased, it is disturbing to me that, until recently, parents were not even apprised of their kids taking the test. But even the notification we received last year was misleading, at best. And, parents only having the option to “opt-out”, rather than “opting-in”, especially without explicit knowledge of the survey, is concerning.
• Do the intervention programs change student behavior? I asked Nancy White whether there was any data to substantiate whether the Intervention programs implemented as a result of these surveys actually resulted in a change in student behavior. She said “no”, her agency doesn’t have evidence based programs with measurable results. She mentioned that some organizations may have evidence based programs, but that hers doesn’t. One such organization that does have evidenced based programs is the Regional Prevention Center in Olathe, KS. Schools may also elect to forward survey information to other organizations, such as the Johnson County Mental Health Center.
• School approved activity. From a broader perspective, I have to ask WHY is the inclusion of these types of activities deemed acceptable in our education institutions. This survey is not germane to the education of a student. While education institutions have taken on the mantra of the myriad of social issues and causes, I do not want schools “instructing”, and thereby “influencing”, my kids in these areas. I especially do not want my kids being tracked, inventoried or graded in these areas.
CONCLUSION
At issue is the fact that, as Nancy White with the Southeast Kansas Education Center – Greenbush explained to me, passive permission by parents was changed last year to now require an active permission to occur for kids to participate in this survey. Her concern is a perceived lower participation rate due to parents having to actually “opt their kids in” to taking the survey. She stated that “parents forget to send things back”.
So, there is concern that fewer kids will complete the survey. There is concern that parents will forget to submit the permission form. The concern over not “enough” students completing the survey because parents may not “do what we perceive they need to do”, results in agencies and institutions setting up environments to make allowance for perceived lapses in human beings to “do the right thing” to “force” or “ensure” the desired outcome.
However, in my (a parent’s) opinion, the needs and goals of the agency are super-ceding what is in the best interest of the student. The needs and goals of the agency have super-ceded the express right and responsibility of the parent to determine what is in their child’s best interest. This is an invasion of privacy of children and families.
There used to be an assumption of privacy. If a person or group wanted an individual’s personal information, they had to go through steps to acquire that information. Now, there appears to be an assumption of a lack of privacy. With this presumption of no individual privacy, the individual must go through steps to protect and prohibit others’ acquisition of private information. This is backwards.
I find it amazing that this and other agencies have a problem with acquiring parent permission to collect data on students. Students are not the property of the state or any agency or any other institution. Students are individuals whose parents have the sole responsibility for their well-being. There is not a baby factory spitting out kids somewhere in Kansas, who are then “placed” by the state with adults to be raised under the auspices of the state. Babies are born to parents, who have the privilege and responsibility of raising them to the best of their ability (even abilities not necessarily looked favorably upon by others) and protecting them. Data on students attending educational institutions, whether it be obtained through surveys or other processes, is not the innate property of those institutions. It is the student’s data, and parents must be allowed every opportunity to prohibit the data collection in the first place. Having to ask for permission, “mother may I”, to acquire data seems a simple and civilized thing to do.

As a general rule, I say “no” to all of these sorts of things and much, much more. Believe it or not, you have more say in your child’s education than you think. So, say no to this survey and ones like it, and then since you’re on a roll, go ahead and say no to state testing while you’re at it. 🙂2016-KCTC-Comprehensive-1-1

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