I still don't quite understand how testing opponents (CTU, MTAS, PURE, etc.) didn't figure out ahead of time that all the opt out forms they were getting parents to sign didn't have any real legal basis. Maybe they found out about it and guessed (correctly) that any last-minute "revelation" like we had on Monday would distract from the relatively paltry numbers (compared to their campaign effort) and make CPS and ISBE look bad. Maybe they were caught by surprise (like I was) and simply made lemonade out of lemons. About CPS, well, that's a whole other sad story that others have already told.
Curious about the national scenario on opt outs, I reached out to various organizations and got a bunch of helpful information. The short version is that only a few states (CA, CO, KY) have official opt out procedures in place or in the works, but that parents often find unofficial ways to opt out using religious exemptions (or just keeping their kids home on testing days).
Districts and administrators sometimes urge parents to reconsider or even in a handful of cases suggest scary effects if parents opt out, but they're bluffing. "We have yet to see a public school attempt to stop opt out when parents push back," notes United Opt Out's Peggy Robertson. "The school district always back down."
Testing opponents sometimes try and pressure parents to join them, too, as we saw in the recent WTTW Chicago Tonight clip.
According to NCSL's Michelle Exstrom, states require students who are at school to be offered to take tests not to be jerks about it but to force schools to test all kids they are in charge of educating and not exclude low-performing ones.
"Historically schools were lax on this and some low performing students just weren’t encouraged or required to take the assessments and schools/districts/states weren’t held accountable for the achievement gap."
A recent search of statutes included "a few pieces of legislation that would have allowed parents to opt their students out most commonly for those demonstrating disabilities, but this is definitely not a widespread policy."
There's been more activity about this recently but it's mostly been focused on districts opting out of CCSS, not schools or parents: "KY is considering legislation that would allow several districts already freed from some regulations to use their own C&CR assessment, and AZ has similar legislation. CO has legislation that would study the entire statewide assessment system to determine whether the number of assessments are appropriate and whether a district could offer its own C&CR assessment."
See NCSL's Common Core database for specifics [click "assessments"] and note that the CO proposal would also consider the issue of parental opt outs.] What about federal law? "To my knowledge, there are no federal provisions allowing parent opt-out."
FairTest's Bob Schaeffer sees much the same thing as everyone else: "To the best of my knowledge, most state laws (and regulations) are mute on opting out." That means states and districts have to figure things out - with the help of educators in some places and against the wishes of educators in most.
According to Schaeffer and others, CA is the only state that has a a specific provision empowering parents to submit a form to exempt their children out of a test. [ECS's Kathy Christie notes she's been told that CA gives students with waivers a score of not proficient (rather than absent or excluding them from the testing pool, which might be illegal). "I would not be surprised if other states do that as well."] In other states, says Schaeffer, parents have used religious exemptions originally designed for sex ed classesto stop test from being administered to their kids.
According to Peggy Robertson at United Opt Out, there is no clearinghouse of state laws and proposals regarding parents and opting out other than her organization's informal state by state guidance. "Some states have loopholes," notes Robertson. Colorado's opt out law just passed the House committee. The SDE in Kansas just sent out a letter allowing parents to opt out, which Robertson describes as "a rare find."
Most states and districts have ad hoc procedures. Only CA has a clear-cut policy.
Nothing from CCSSO or USDE yet. I'll let you know.