Common Core @ Home: ELA - I heard about parents keeping their kids out of the tests this year. I was thinking about it, but was afraid of the consequences. What can happen if you opt out?

Part Three of a continuing series

Kiersten Greene, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy education at SUNY New Paltz. She was born in the Hudson Valley, and recently returned to the region after living in New York City for 15 years, where she taught 5th grade. When she’s not reading, writing, or teaching, you can find her knitting.

Do you have a homework question for Kiersten? Submit your question here. 

Dear Kiersten, I heard about parents keeping their kids out of the tests this year. I was thinking about it, but was afraid of the consequences. What can happen if you opt out?

I'm really glad you asked this question. With the mounting pressure from standardized testing in this country, more and more students, parents, and teachers want to know what their rights are when it comes to opting out.

The short answer to your question is: there are no immediate consequences for students who choose to opt out of high-stakes testing. It is the right of parents and students to sit the tests out if they so choose.

Administrators may claim that they need the results of the state tests to determine support services for students. This is not true. Teachers conduct and have access to an array of assessments from which they can make determinations about students’ individual academic needs. In fact, it could be argued that the state tests are less of a fair measure than classroom-based assessments, since they are not based on everyday instruction.

Others may claim that the school will lose funding if students sit the tests out. This is not true, either. There is no documented case in which a school has lost funding due to students opting out, and there is no evidence that such penalties will result in the future.

As international measures recently demonstrated, the United States lags far behind many other nations in education. Therefore, some believe we need rigorous assessments to compete in the global economy. But there remains no proof that more testing leads to higher educational achievement.

Excessive time is spent on test prep in the classroom, which takes away from valuable instruction in other subjects—art, music, physical education, science, and social studies instruction has diminished with the rise of standardized testing. There just isn’t enough time in the day.

While no one is arguing against the idea of assessing students, the way standardized tests are being used is problematic. A growing number of students, parents, and teachers argue that the tests aren’t fair or relevant.

Last year, about 6,000 students opted out of the tests throughout New York State; this year, more than 32,000 students refused the tests. So many people are taking a stand that the news media has started referring to anti-test sentiment as a “movement.”

Ultimately, parents have the right to direct the education of their child. If you feel like keeping your child(ren) out of testing next year, I have a feeling you won’t be alone.

The pressure to teach to the test permeates most public school classrooms, and it makes sense that people want to know more about what’s driving the decision to test or not.

Find out more about opting out at Rethinking Testing or Change the Stakes.

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