Social Media Effort Looks To Dismantle High-Stakes Testing

By  //  September 9, 2014

Leaders In Brevard Differ From Counterparts In Central Florida

BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – A social media grassroots effort to dismantle high-stakes testing in Brevard – led in part by a teacher on leave-of-absence – is underway, but is challenging certain efforts made in other districts.

While many of the “opt-out” movements in Florida are bound together by the common goal of eliminating End Of Course exams because they “result in punitive consequences for students, teachers, and schools,” leaders in Brevard differ from counterparts in Central Florida when it comes to student involvement.

Liz Mikitarian
Liz Mikitarian

The divergence in strategy lies with whether or not students should take matters into their own hands and simply refuse to take yearlong summative assessments on test day.

Liz Mikitarian, who has taken leave from her teaching job and is helping with a Facebook page called “Opt Out Brevard,” said that she believes Brevard students and parents should not use this option recklessly.

However, Central Florida parent/advocate Sandy Stenoff, who runs “Opt Out Orlando,” is in favor of encouraging students to refuse testing and has her children follow the practice.

Sandy Stenoff

Stenoff wrote a blog post that lists steps a student can take on test day to refuse to take an assessment. The list includes, “After they are instructed to open their test and start testing, they must break the seal on the test and refuse – they should simply push the test away and say, ‘No thank you.’ Any additional prompting from test administrators may be considered coercion or intimidation. The test security breach is what precludes them from having to sit for the makeup test. The student should NOT write on the test.”

Mikitarian says that the Brevard group does not simply advocate student test-day opt out, but that they want to work with the school board, administrators, teachers and parents to change the system.

Much of the opt-out movement stems from a recent Lee County vote/re-vote to first end testing and then to re-establish it. One school board member changed votes a week after its initial passage due to concerns about student graduation policies and federal/state funding.

Andy Ziegler
Andy Ziegler

Andy Ziegler, District 5 incumbent and candidate, noted that Lee County should have asked a lot more questions before they voted.

“What will it cost to replace books? What will it cost to replace End of Course exams? Will this impact accreditation of diplomas and cause students any grief getting into college? Will there be any financial impact from the state? What will our plan be for standards? Will we still be able to measure our performance against other districts? How will our schools be graded? And what impact does it have on evaluating teachers?”

Ziegler said that he plans to ask staff to research these questions and others at Tuesday night’s school board meeting in Viera at 5:30 pm.

Denise Coyle
Denise Coyle

Denise Coyle, Ziegler’s opponent for the D5 seat, added, “I believe they took a bold initiative to bring attention to this crisis that certainly needs to be addressed. My hope would be for Brevard County to pay close attention to this matter and work towards what is in the best interest if our students and teachers.”


Charles Parker is a longtime resident of Brevard County and has been writing for various publications for the last 40 years – both print and digital. Parker covers space, politics, religion, and other news and special events for Space Coast Daily.

Charles Parker
Charles Parker

Currently, he is an aerospace engineering teacher at Merritt Island High School. He is also the director of both the da Vinci Academy of Aerospace Technology and the Academy of Hospitality, Entrepreneurship, and Tourism at MIHS. He is a professor of Humanities and World Religions at Eastern Florida State College and Valencia College.

Parker has worked extensively in the tourism and aerospace industries in Brevard. He has also been a United Methodist pastor and director of a non-profit to help young adults aging out of foster care. He was formerly a board member at Brevard Achievement Center and the Childcare Association of Brevard. He was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush to the Children’s Services Council from 1999-2003.

Parker earned a BA in Organizational Management from Warner University and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. He is married, has four children and one grandchild.

AUTHOR NOTE: These views are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Brevard Public Schools, Eastern Florida State College, or Valencia College.

You can follow Parker on Twitter @cparker_scd