Most States Don't Allow Opt-Outs [But Parents Still Can Do It]

Most States Don't Allow Opt-Outs [But Parents Still Can Do It]

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.


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  • CPS created its own opt-out policy to support parents who have sincere objections to testing their children. That was a parent-friendly policy. CTU and its front organizations pervert the policy. CPS still tries to let parents with sincere objections opt-out. ISBE objects; CPS works out an accommodation. CTU and their shills trash CPS. WTF?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Right on, CTU and its front organizations pervert the policy. raise your hand, more than a score, pure, parents for teachers are all just a few loud mouth mom's with too much time on their hands. All white middle class demonstrating no class. It is absurd that they portray themselves as organizations. Look into the facts press people! These tiny rag organizations are a miniscule handful of people with incestuous ties to ctu. In no stretch of the imagination do they represent any volume of parents.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Right . . . pretty convinced that 400 parents at Saucedo did not act to opt out on their own . . . they were solicited by teachers and other anti-testing zealots, some of whom were using some rather questionable tactics according to parents (and the zealots of course feel totally justified by the righteousness of their cause).

    So the tool was used to advance a political cause. That's not what the policy was for . . . so its purpose was perverted . . . even a zealot can admit that right? Slap . . . oh . . . what was I thinking.

  • Well, where are the parents who want all of this testing? I think that a silent majority of CPS parents who quite simply are worn out trying to pay the rent/mortgage, raise a family with one parent or just get by are very happy for the vocal minority no matter the race. I have had parents in tears when their child with special needs who read at the second grade level was forced by CPS to take the ISAT/ITBS at grade level (seventh or eighth) I went through this until the year I retired in 2012. It was heart breaking to have to tell a child repeatedly, "Just do your best, I know this is very hard" especially when I had spent the whole year building up their self-esteem only to have it crushed. I complained at sped ed meetings, tot eh case manager and at IEP meetings but no one cared-it is ISBE's rule I was told-ad nauseam…..the scores were invalid/not used for anything but we were forced to administer…..the joke one year was that one of the sixth grade students who read at a second grade level somehow guessed so well that he scored at the fifth grade level and someone from CO wanted him removed from services because he scored so high…...

  • The parents just had their kids sharpen a #2 pencil and take the darn test. We don't have to seek press coverage to take the test. My kids are not over tested and I want to know how they are doing. It is a mix of grades, regular tests, homework, projects, curriculum scrutiny, collaboration with teachers and yep standardized tests.

    Your special needs story is sad, but that doesn't mean testing should be eliminated district wide.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    You are a true warrior for the standardized testing status quo. Your defense of CPS would be admirable in Bizarro World.

    The test-happy educrats and eduprenuers are losing. Teachers and students- y'know, the people that are the most invested, most involved, and most knowledgeable- are winning.

    The facade that teachers don't care about students, but somehow CPS paper pushers, politicians, Wall St. bankers, aldermen, soulless Emanuels, TFA temps, corporate blogsters, and charter charlatans care more is wearing thin.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Talk about Bizarro must be visiting this blog from there. Where do you get "teachers don't care about students"? Huhhh?????? My kids have mostly had caring dynamite teachers. Certainly had some that should retire or change profession. In total, no teacher complaints from me. How the heck does having your kid take a standardized test ---and being fine with it--mean what you say?

  • I never said standardized testing should be eliminated. I think that the amount needs to be reduced and eliminated for children with disabilities.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Ok, thank you for clarifying. It does make sense that students with disabilities should have more one 2 one assessment of progress that is done with compassion.

  • Alexander- parents thought they had the right to opt out because CEO Byrd-Bennett sent two letter to parents this winter telling them they had the right to opt out. We confirmed this with the Accountability department at CPS early on and then told parents of their opt out rights. The Friday before ISATs we were informed that ISBE said the opt out letters didn't count and kids would have to refuse the test if they didn't want to take it.

    I don't think any of the groups mentioned above had any contact with Saucedo parents about opting out. I know Raise Your Hand didn't. We didn't coerce anyone to do anything, only tried to share what we thought were parent rights.

    To the anonymous poster who says RYH has too much time on our hands. I actually really need a volunteer coordinator because we are so busy. I am getting about 300 emails a day from parents. The press calls us constantly because we put them in touch with parents across the city, all the time. Sorry if you don't like it.

  • In reply to WendyKatten:

    Learned to ignore any numbers from raise your hand. Yet not surprising for a gossip monger to cycle 300 emails. Big deal. Good to know that the press is just lazy calling the same source with the same skewed view. Press is too lazy to find a viewpoint that isn't actively seeking press coverage. Twisted way it explains much.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Huh? Do I know you? I'm a gossip-monger? It is so bizarre when people who don't even have the guts to identify themselves make weird personal comments as if they know someone. RYH has built a pretty decent network through a lot of hard work. Again, sorry if you don't like it. If you want to change something, try identifying yourself and not being anonymous..

  • In reply to WendyKatten:

    Typical reply. When the truth is revealed, blame the poster for being anonymous. Meow!

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