Spring assessments are right around the corner so parents who want to opt their kids out should start that process now.
We wanted to highlight information found on our opt-out info page here at TAE.
1. Know your state’s law.
Each state is different, and school officials will sometimes say things to parents that are not true. In most cases, there is no state law requiring students to take an assessment (sometimes state departments of education try to give guidance that tells schools otherwise). If possible, speak with an attorney familiar with education law in your state.
Also, federal law requires schools to administer assessments, but it does not require students to take them.
If you receive push-back from your school, we recommend that you place the burden on school officials to cite the law that states that you can’t. In many cases, they will parrot guidance from their state department of education that provides their interpretation of the law, but not what the law actually says (or, just as important, does not say).
There have been school officials who have told parents that state and federal laws require every child to take the assessment. This is not true and parents should challenge this by asking the school officials to cite and provide a hard copy of the state and/or federal law requiring participation in state assessments. School officials directing parents to find the law for themselves is not adequate. Officials have also told parents there are no opt-out provisions in the law. This is often stated to make parents think it is not legal for them to opt out. While it is true most states do not have opt-out provisions in the law, that does not mean the law requires every student to participate in state assessments. Parents should put the responsibility on the school officials making such claims to cite in writing the state or federal law requiring every student to take the assessment. It is not good enough for the school official to say such laws exist; they must cite the law in writing so parents can verify it for themselves. If the school official says they are following a state directive, ask to see the directive in writing. If the laws don’t exist, they cannot produce and show them to you.
2. Request to opt your student out in writing.
Parents should opt out of named or described specific assessments. It is important parents clearly state what they expect.
Examples that are specific:
- My child will not take or is not to be administered the (name of whatever assessment is used in your state).
- My child will not take or is not to be administered any online assessments.
- My child will not take or is not to be administered any assessment until I, as the parent, have had the opportunity to view the state assessment in its entirety to deem whether I feel the content is appropriate for my child.
- My child will not take or is not to be administered any assessment or test that is not written in whole or in part by my child’s regular classroom teacher.
You have the authority to make decisions regarding your child’s education and well being.
If you wish that your student not take an online assessment, do not wait until assessment time to make such a request. That request should be made early in the year if possible. The request should also prohibit their child from using any online computer or device at school. This sets a precedent that makes your case stronger when it comes to assessment time. This way at assessment time the school officials can’t come back at the parent and say, “Well, gee, you let your kid do all kinds of other things online at school all year.”
3. If the school requires or requests face-to-face communication, be prepared.
Some school officials request, maybe demand, to meet with parents regarding their desire to opt their child out of assessments. If parents wish not to attend such a meeting, it would be prudent to check your state’s laws and possibly consult an attorney licensed in your state on your legal obligations to attend such meeting. With regard to such meetings, here are some recommendations.
- Be polite and non-confrontational.
- Remember, school officials work for you, not you for them
- You are welcome to take someone with you to the meeting, legal representation if needed
- Also, record the meeting. A lot of smart-phones have voice memo apps pre-installed you can use to do this.
- You have the power to end the meeting at any point. Just stand up and say, “This conversation is over,” and then leave.
- Follow up with a written summary of the discussion
If communicating by phone, follow up by writing up a summary of the conversation and send, in writing, to the school official and others. Written communication should visibly be copied to other people—your lawyer, a family advocacy group, friends, family, known community members. This lets the school official know others are watching the situation and they will be less likely to bully you and more likely to treat you with respect.
Here are some things you might expect when you communicate with school officials. They may ask why you don’t want your child to take the assessment. You are not required or obligated to give a reason why. They may try to convince you to change your mind. They may tell you your child is required to take the assessment (this has been addressed earlier). School officials may try to convince you of benefits of taking the assessment. If this happens, ask specific questions about those benefits and ask them to provide evidence of the benefits they mention. You can always ask for evidence of how the assessment will help your child. Ask for evidence of how the teacher will use the results to further your child’s education. Ask how the results will show your child’s academic achievement/standing with regard to content knowledge. It is important to note, don’t just ask how but ask for the evidence of how.
If you are requesting your child not be administered a state assessment, you probably already have good reasons already. Here are some reasons people object to their child being administered a state assessment.
- Confusing questions
- Complex format
- Computer use
- Religious reasons
- Data collection on students and families
- Assessments have no evidence proving validity or reliability
- Misguided focus on assessments rather than academic content instruction
- Teacher evaluations tied to assessments that are not valid or reliable
- Assessments and preparation for them take away time from quality instructional experiences
- ELA and Math are emphasized while other subjects are neglected
- Developmentally inappropriate
4. Try to get as much information about the assessment as you can.
You may want to see the assessment before it is administered in order to see the content material prior to it being exposed to their child. That may help in making the decision to opt out. If you can’t see the assessment in its entirety, they may not want their child to take the assessment.
You may want to ask for a copy of the validity and reliability report for the assessment. If such a report is provided, please share it and look it over carefully, or have someone else look it over to determine if it is legitimate and reasonable. If school officials can’t or won’t provide you with proof the assessment is valid and reliable, why should your child take the assessment? You should insist a copy of a written report be provided rather than just being told where the information can be found or that it is available online. This may prevent you from being sent on a wild goose chase or as a tactic to send you on your way.
You should ask if and when you will receive test results for their child. You should ask for a sample of a results report. If you are not going to be provided with a results report or can’t see a sample, why should you allow your child to take the assessment?
5. Prepare your child for the assessment days.
You should discuss with your student about what to expect if your child is going to be in school on assessment days. Parents should request their child be engaged in suitable and appropriate educational activities. The practice of having non-participating students sit and stare during the assessment is not acceptable and is seen as unreasonable and punitive. Non-participating students should not even be in the testing environment. The PARCC Test Coordinator manual states that non-testing students are “prohibited from entering the testing environment”. That prohibition should apply to other formal assessments as well.
If you choose to keep your child home on assessment days, you should make sure there are legitimate reasons so as not to run afoul of truancy issues or of being reported to a child protective services agency. Will the school try to administer a make up assessment upon the child’s return to school? Also, beware of the window of time for the administration of the assessment.
You need to follow up on their request for opting out. Submitting a letter or opt-out form is not a guarantee the request will be honored. Prior to the administration of the assessment, you should remind the school officials of their request and ask what arrangements have been made for their child during the assessment.