I continue to be asked how children can opt out from standardized testing. Here’s what I found: If you don’t want your child to take state-mandated standardized tests, your only guaranteed method is to keep them home from school during testing.
I am not advocating for you to keep your child home from school. I am not advocating for you to opt out of standardized testing.
I am providing information about how, if you believe your child should not participate in standardized tests, to make that happen.
I am also asking you to do your homework in your local school district before you opt out or keep your child home from school on testing day.
There is no official state form to use to “opt out”. There is no statutory or other legal way to “opt out”. I have seen forms and examples floating around the internet, but you must realize that sending a letter asking school officials not to administer tests to your child in school that day is only a request.
There is currently no legal way to demand tests not be administered to your child any more than there is a way to demand that a teacher not teacher certain subject matter during a social studies course.
Schools are mandated to administer standardized tests, but (and this is a “but” that must be carefully considered), there is also no statutory or other requirement forcing Alabama public school students to participate in standardized testing.
Dr. Bice’s Memo
This memo from state superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice, dated April 16, states:
Over the past several weeks our office has received inquiries from the field regarding parents requesting their child(ren) to opt out of our state-approved summative assessments. There is currently no such option available in our state according to Alabama law and the Alabama Administrative Code 290-4-2-.01.
If any parents makes an opt-out request, please provide them with the above statement and a copy of the attached code citation.
Should a student be absent on the days of testing, please apply the current criteria for determining the correct coding for that absence, based on the attached definitions for excused and unexcused absences.
Should you be challenged by a parent, please refer them to my office for a response at 334-242-9704.
Here’s section 290-4-2-.01 of the Alabama Administrative Code, regarding the Student Assessment Unified Coordinated Statewide Testing Program:
(1) The policy of the Alabama State Board of Education is to have a unified, coordinated state testing program.
(2) Alabama’s Student Assessment Program is a system of assessments that measures the knowledge and abilities of students in Alabama’s public schools for the following purposes:
(a) To provide information to educators and parents regarding the educational strengths and weaknesses of individual students.
(b) To provide information to assist local and state educational personnel in reviewing and planning for instructional and curricular improvements.
(c) To provide information to iocal and state educational personnel, policy makers, and the general public regarding the educational performance of Alabama’s students.
(3) The Alabama State Board of Education shall choose the tests to be used, grades to be administered, and when chosen tests shall be administered.
(4) All students must be provided the opportunity to participate in the state testing program. See 290-040-020.03 for specific procedures regarding students of special populations.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement of supporters who believe that standardized testing is detrimental to their child’s education and public education. As a result, parents are being encouraged to “opt out” of standardized testing. Other states have offered (or folks have figured out) a way to officially “opt out” of the standardized testing requirements.
Earlier this week, in Georgia, one family was met by a policeman when they arrived to speak with their daughter’s principal about their desire to opt out. This blog post has a lot of the details and original documents, including a phone call between the mother and the principal. Very interesting phone call. Worth a listen.
The most frightening part of the Georgia experience is where the policeman tells the mother and father that since they are attempting to oppose what the school is trying to do, they are kinda trespassing. Say what? If you don’t go along with everything the school wants you to do…..you’re trespassing?
Take a look at the various headlines for this story. Talk about Us Versus Them.
To say that this is reaching a boiling point is to underestimate the fortitude of those fighting against standardized testing.
It’s rare to find a balanced article about standardized tests, particularly with respect to opting out, but this one is as good as it gets, IMO.
This story, from Florida, gives a student-centered reason for opting out. Take a look.
Before You Opt Out, Make Certain You Understand the Consequences Your Child May Face
If you are considering opting out, please do not make that decision in haste or fueled on emotion. If you believe you have a good reason that your child should not take the standardized tests, please take the time to talk with your school and district officials. The dialogue that occurs may open up a whole new discussion about how our school officials think about, talk about, and use the results of standardized testing.
Remember, too, that even though there is no state law or rule forcing students to take standardized tests, each local district may have its own policy about standardized testing. I have known many schools to reward students for participating in testing back in the days when it took a whole week to complete the tests and participation rates were part of the equation determining whether a school passed or failed Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The flip side of that was that children who missed a day of testing were not allowed to receive or participate in the reward that was offered.
I have also known of school districts who use standardized test results to determine which children are placed into advanced classes. If the student does not take the test, be certain you know what alternatives exist for placement in those classes. And the only way to know that will be to ask your school officials.
Be certain you understand the consequences for your child if you choose to keep them home on testing day(s). While we would all certainly hope that no consequences would be given to a child due to the choice of the child’s parents, there are no guarantees. Nor are there any clear rules or laws to prevent districts from inflicting consequences.
Do your homework. Talk about your concerns with your local school officials. Open that dialogue.
Today marked the first statewide administration of The Act Test plus Writing to all eleventh-grade public school students across Alabama. The window to administer the ACT Aspire for grades three through eight begins on April 28.
More reading: Fair Test Testing Resistance News