By Pat Loeb

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Teachers at a Philadelphia Middle School have been called to an “investigative conference” tomorrow, after advising parents about how to exclude their children from standardized testing.

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School district spokesman Fernando Gallard says teachers at Feltonville School for Arts and Sciences gave information and other materials to parents without the principal’s knowledge. He found out after nearly 20% of the school’s parents “opted out” of the state PSSA’s.

The tests are mandatory but the state allows parents to opt out if the exams conflict with their religious beliefs.

Gallard says the principal has requested the conference to determine whether the information the teachers gave parents about opting out was accurate, whether it was presented as their opinion or official information from the school or district and whether certain students were targeted.

“It’s not that the opt out information was given, it’s how they went about it,” says Gallard. “We don’t know what kind of information was given and under what circumstances.”

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Opting out is a growing national movement among parents and teachers who believe standardized testing is strangling curriculum without providing a meaningful measurement of children and schools.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan, in defending the Feltonville teachers, said the state’s PSSA “actually borders on being cruel.”

“Many children have shown a tremendous amount of anxiety, frustration, they’ve even become ill,” he says.

He says English language learners– who make up about a fifth of Feltonville students– are particularly vulnerable.

Parents United for Public Education and the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools have also come to the teachers’ defense, as have three city council members.

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“Until we put some limits on this obsession with testing students, we will see protests like that at Feltonville,” Councilwoman Quiñones-Sánchez said in a statement.