Mississippi students who refuse to take this year’s statewide assessment risk suspension and the loss of a high school diploma, but some parents say it’s their right to opt out of controversial PARCC exams.

Wright then advises districts to provide an alternative, supervised setting for non-testing students and to submit their names and grades to the district test coordinator, who will enter it into the Pearson database.

Pearson won the Mississippi contract to administer PARCC, a series standardized tests created by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and aligned with Common Core State Standards.

Developed as a national set of rigorous new education standards to put American school children on par with other nations, Common Core has suffered mounting criticism from parents and politicians alike who distrust its backers’ motives and dislike its many tests.

Legislation in Mississippi to dismantle Common Core and end the state’s alliance with PARCC likely will become law later this year. Meanwhile, though, students in grades 3-12 began taking the computer-based tests earlier this month.

Brandon Smith of Oxford said his son will not be among them. Smith told the Oxford Public School District that he and his wife, Angel, oppose PARCC testing and have instructed their fifth grader not to participate.

“I never get the see the results of the test; even the schools didn’t see the scores,” Brandon Smith said. “We have to take Pearson’s word on what the score really was. They won’t let me see the test questions, either. That’s ridiculous.”

The family first shared its stance at the beginning of the school year and again in January, Smith said.

In response, the district said it would assign a “disciplinary consequence” that could include in-school and out-of-school suspension for the Oxford Intermediate School student. The school begins its PARCC assessments Tuesday.

Testing will take place over the course of about 13 days and last approximately 75 minutes per day. It’s unclear how long suspensions would last.

“We feel like it’s retribution,” Brandon Smith told The Clarion-Ledger on Monday. “It’s punitive. It’s intimidation. And we believe it’s inconsistent following of policy in the handbook.”

The Smiths now are seeking legal counsel.

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