Opting out of Standardized Testing

Refusing to allow your child to participate in standardized testing is not necessarily an easy decision. It is a choice that for many of us contradicts the faith and trust we have placed in the public educational system.

Your reading this suggests that you are at least curious as to what this is all about. Truly that is where this ought to start, as concern and "due diligence” for the well-being of your child.

"Why does opting out make sense?”, "Is it my right to opt out?” and finally "How do I opt out?”: these three questions represent what many parents really want to know. People may answer these questions in perhaps slightly different ways or with greater emphasis on one point or another; however, there are common aspects to these explanations.

The goal of this section is to provide answers to those common questions, resources for you to learn more about the opt-out movement, and if you do choose to opt your child out of testing, the resources to do so.

Click on a link to go to a specific section of this webpage:

What tests are given in Connecticut?
What are the laws governing testing in Connecticut?
Why does opting out make sense?
Is it my right to opt out?
How do I opt out?
What can I expect to happen next?
Sample opt-out letter

What tests are given in Connecticut?

According to the Connecticut State Department of Education, the Connecticut summative assessment systems that will be used for the school year 2014-2015 are:

 

  • Smarter Balanced assessment for Grades 3 through 8, and Grade 11.
  • Students are also assessed on CMT/CAPT SCIENCE in Grades 5, 8 and 10.
  • Students with significant cognitive disabilities in Grades 3 through 8 and 11 are assessed with the Connecticut Alternate Assessment.
  • For children in K-3, the Connecticut State Board of Education (CSBE) approved a menu of research-based Grades K-3 reading assessments for Grades K-3. The menu of research-based reading assessments must be used by districts for the purpose of Universal Screening for Reading of the entire K-3 student population.

 

Please note that districts do continue to use their own assessments as well, for example, some parents have reported their districts using something called NWEA MAP. It’s important to remember that if you choose to refuse to let your children be tested via standardized tests, that you let the school know you are refusing ALL of them.

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What are the laws governing testing in Connecticut?

  • Sec. 10-14n. Mastery examination. (1) For the school year commencing July 1, 2013, and each school year thereafter, each student enrolled in grades three to eight, inclusive, and grade ten or eleven in any public school shall, annually, in March or April, take a mastery examination in reading, writing and mathematics.

    (2) For the school year commencing July 1, 2013, and each school year thereafter, each student enrolled in grade five, eight, ten or eleven in any public school shall, annually, in March or April, take a state-wide mastery examination in science.

    (e) No public school may require achievement of a satisfactory score on a mastery examination, or any subsequent retest on a component of such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.

    (f) Not later than April 1, 2014, the Commissioner of Education shall develop and implement a state-wide developmentally appropriate kindergarten assessment tool that measures a child’s level of preparedness for kindergarten, but shall not be used as a measurement tool for program accountability pursuant to section 10-16s.

  • Sec. 10-14q. Exceptions.
    The provisions of this chapter shall apply to all students requiring special education pursuant to section 10-76a, except in the rare case when the planning and placement team for an individual student determines that an alternate assessment as specified by the State Board of Education is appropriate.

  • Sec. 10-223a. Promotion and graduation policies.
    (b) On or before September 1, 2002, each local and regional board of education shall specify the basic skills necessary for graduation for classes graduating in 2006, and for each graduating class thereafter, and include a process to assess a student's level of competency in such skills. The assessment criteria shall include, but not be exclusively based on, the results of the mastery examination, pursuant to section 10-14n, for students in grade ten or eleven. Each local and regional board of education shall identify a course of study for those students who have not successfully completed the assessment criteria to assist such students to reach a satisfactory level of competency prior to graduation.

 

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Why does opting out make sense?

There are many good reasons passionately explained all over the internet. But here, one parent from Alabama explains the most common concerns.

 

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Is it my right to opt out?

Deborah Stevenson, an attorney here in Connecticut, says "yes”.

Additionally, a memo sent to districts by the CT State Department of Education in December 2013 states that:

There is no opt-out language in state or federal law governing assessment… there are no legal/policy directions when parents seek to remove a child from statewide testing. Until recently, there have only been a handful of requests for exemptions each year. Districts are now reporting greater numbers of parents desiring to remove their child(ren) from participation in the statewide testing program.
Finally, on March 12, 2014 at a public hearing held by the Education Committee in Hartford, then Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, was asked that if parents opted out "is there a consequence for them, or for their children, if they do not take the test, either now or forever?,” and he replied:
On an individual level, I don't believe that there's any specific provision in law regarding consequences... To my knowledge there are no state provisions that are specific, or no federal provisions that are specific to an individual student.

 

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How do I opt out?

First, while you need to convey to your child's school that you refuse to let them be tested, there is no one way to get it done; some people are calling, some people are emailing, and some people even suggest sending certified letters. We’ve even created a place where you can drop in your personal information and we’ll send the letter for you. But the choice is yours. You need to do what you are most comfortable with, and what you are most confident will get the job done. No matter what you decide, we strongly suggest that you have everything in writing, and if you do speak to anyone by phone or in person, that you follow up with something in writing to confirm what you discussed... "I am writing to confirm that during our conversation we discussed... please let me know if I misunderstood any of this information... if I do not hear back from you I will take it to mean that you are in agreement that this is how our conversation went...”

There is also advice from different people on who you should contact about your decision; Board of Education members, Superintendents, principals, teachers. Again, you need to do what you are most comfortable with, and what you are most confident will get the job done. We recommend school principals, as well as your children’s teachers.

After you decide who to contact, and in what way you will contact them, you need to decide what you want to say. Make sure that if you choose a form letter that you choose one that you agree with in all of its talking points. But first, be sure that you feel you need to share your reasons at all; you are not required to tell the school why you don't want your children taking the test; you do not need to justify yourself. If you choose, you can refuse to let your children take the test without ever telling the school why. But if you do choose to tell them your reasons why, make sure they are your reasons, and not just the reasons your form letter suggests. You can find sample letters here, and here. We also provide a sample below that does not contain any reasons for opting out, only that you are doing so.

CT Against Common Core suggests the following guidelines:
  • Submit a letter to your school principal and your child’s teachers indicating that your child will not be taking the test.
  • Let them know that you are aware that you are not required to keep your child home during the testing windows.
  • Ask them what arrangements they will make for your child during that time.
  • Know the legal requirements for graduation (§10-223a) and if the school mentions them, advocate for alternative assessments to be used to determine proficiency in the required subjects, such as an examination of previous report cards, or an interview with current teachers.
  • Be adamant in your resolve to exempt your child from testing. This may mean
    • Making sure your child understands that he/she is not to take the test, even if the school forces them to the testing area. Explain to your child that he/she should sit quietly and not participate.
    • Organizing and/or attending regular meetings with opt-out support groups, or consulting with online groups, such as our group on Facebook.
    • Seeking legal assistance. The CT Facebook group has more than one lawyer who regularly participates and is familiar with the laws in CT.
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What can I expect to happen next?

With any luck your district will respond with respect and tell you that they accept your refusal and what their plans are for your child during testing times. However, more likely, they will continue on the path set during the 2013-2014 school year, and send you a letter like this one.

Do not let this letter alarm you. It's the response that districts were advised to send by the Academic Office of the State Department of Education. It is a form letter, so don't take it personally. Back in December of 2013, in response to "greater numbers of parents desiring to remove their child(ren) from participation in the statewide testing program" they sent out suggested protocols for schools to use. Most people last year reported that their districts were following the protocols very closely. The good news is that while the protocols tell the schools how to respond each time you say no, they also tell you that you can, and precisely what to say. So look through them, refer to them in your correspondence with the school if you'd like to, and simply continue to say "no" until the school says "OK”.

Some districts, however, reportedly responded with phone calls and threats. It has even been reported that "some districts have threatened to treat opting out as truancy, and to call in DCF for child abuse." To this, you simply need to continue to assert that you know your rights, and that it is within your rights to refuse to let your children take the test.

If districts try to tell you that you are breaking the law by not allowing your children to be tested, ask them to show you the law they are referring to; there is no law that says you can't opt-out, so that will effectively end the conversation.

It's important to note that in all cases we have heard, all parents have been, with perseverance, successful in opting out their children in Connecticut. So have faith that you can get the job done too. If you have any questions, join our Facebook group and ask away.

 

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Sample opt-out letter

Refusal letter - cut and paste, then provide specifics for you and your district.

February 27, 2017

Superintendent X
Superintendent of Schools
School of CT Public Schools
1 School Address  Dr
Anytown, CT  00000

Dear Superintendent X,

We are writing to confirm our decision to refuse standardized testing for our children xxxxx (Gr x) and xxxxxx (Gr x). This includes all standardized tests and standardized test practice at xxxx Elementary School and xxxx Middle School during the 2016 – 2017 school year, including but not limited to SBAC and CMT-Science tests. Our children should not be registered for any tests, and should never be asked to "log in” for any test. 

Our decision is based on our beliefs that:
  1. Practice, preparation for and administration of standardized tests takes away precious time from other more meaningful learning and arts activities;
  2. Standardized tests do not advance our children’s learning or overall school experience in any positive way;
  3. Tests developed by for-profit corporations rather than our children’s teachers and administrators are not in our children’s best interests;
  4. Standardized tests should not be high-stakes instruments for teacher and school evaluation; currently the Smarter Balanced Assessments have no credibility - they have no external validity. http://missourieducationwatchdog.com/sbac-tests-show-no-validity-or-reliability/
  5. Testing is an invasion of privacy and presents extensive opportunities for identity theft. **As such, we request that any identifying data (including but not limited to names, SSN, date of birth, address) about our children be removed from building and district testing data and reports so that the records of these tests do not present an invasion of their privacy, do not provide opportunity for identity theft, and are not part of their permanent school records. 
While we understand that xxxxx and xxxxx do not need to stay home during the testing or practice tests, we will make arrangements with each school’s principal and teachers regarding each testing event to minimize disruption for teachers and classmates.

___________________
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