Saturday, September 22, 2012

How to OPT OUT.

Opting Out 2013

My letter for this school year.  If your child is PreK-2nd grade, just delete the state assessment portion of the letter.  Feel free to modify and use my letter.

 2013 Opt Out/Refusal guide.


Opting out or "refusing" the spring state assessments.

A new opt out letter has been produced after analysis of NYSED assessment regulations.  

 Feel free to use, share and modify. 


After my own experience and discussions with other parents from around New York who opted out last year, here are some suggestions to boycott all mandated high-stakes testing this year:

Contact your child's school as soon as possible to inform the administration that your child will not be taking the state exam or any state/federal mandated test.  Use example letters from here, here and here.

Opt-outers from around New York State have found a variety of different reactions to the exam boycotts:
  •   Some schools have been completely receptive to the opt-out request by allowing:

    • Students who opt-out to go to kindergarten or first grade class and help out! 
    • Students to stay home during the exam time and return to school after the test without having to make up the exam.

    • My children's school is cooperative this year, as my children have been allowed to read a book while their classmates take the RTI assessments.
    • Encourage your school to allow the opt-out based on what other schools did last year.
  • Other schools stated they could not honor the request saying all students must be tested.  If your school reacts in this manner, try to following:
    • Appeal the decision, have a face to face with the administrator or principal.  Most school leaders understand and support ending high-stakes testing when they "take off their administrator's hat". Sadly their hands are somewhat tied because of top-down decision making from state capitals and federal government.
    • If needed Middle school students (and even fourth or fifth grade students who are strong willed),  can sit quietly through the testing time frame and leave the test blank or write “refuse” on it.  This is a great lesson in civil disobedience; again most teachers will be supportive of this stance.
      • Students should not purposely answer questions incorrectly as scores below a 3 may require Academic Intervention Services (AIS).  If a student refuses to take the test, they should not attempt to answer any questions.

    •  Removing your child from school on the exam days is an option for families who are able to do so, but NYSED makes it difficult for families who do not have child care options.  The NYSED exam schedule has three days for each the ELA and math in 2013.  Exams are usually scheduled for part of the school day, either morning or afternoon.  Check your child’s school website to find out this information. The three days following each exam are designated as exam makeup days, so a student who missed any of the exams days is pulled to make up any missed portion.     (NYC parents go here for more info on NYC issues) 

    •  Pull your child out after he or she has been seated with the test.  Wait about 10-20 minutes from the start of the testing.  If your child opens the test booklet and then leaves the school, he cannot complete that portion of the test.   Be sure to tell your child not to answer any questions.  This will result in a "refusal".  This will not hurt your child's academic record, their teacher or school.    This is the method my family used successfully during the ELA and math exams in the spring of 2012 & 2013.  Work with a group of families in your community to help each other with child care if you choose this method.

    •  Families who opt-out together can organize "real learning", anti-test theme days.  Take a group trip to a museum or historical site.  If the weather is nice, go for a hike or to the playground.  How about an art project?  We created an opt-out quilt with copies of practice state tests last spring!
  •  Organize with other parents.  A school district near Seattle had 550 students opt-out when parents were tired of over-testing and spending significant amounts of money on exams while class sizes were exploding and programs were being cut.  This school has faced no consequences for the mass opt-out.
  •  Present to your school board or PTA, or call for a community forum.

  •  A school administrator may try to scare you.  Understand that school leaders are under a great deal of pressure because of high-stakes testing.  For example, an administrator may state that a child who leaves the test blank or opts out would receive a "1" as a score and then that student would have to take an AIS class the following year in the subject of the test.  THIS IS NOT TRUE.  Students who refuse do not count what-so-ever as a score or number.  When a student chooses not to take the test, the scorer will bubble in a "Refuse" code(999) on the test which results in the test not counting towards a student, teacher or school score.  How do I know this?  I am a teacher who has proctored and graded state tests for years and my child opted out of the third-grade ELA and math exams last year. 
    • If a school official makes such bold statements, ask for that information in writing: that way you will know if the statement is true or not! 

    •    In NYS standardized testing does not count towards a students graduation or promotion until high school.  The test scores do not have any effect on your child’s grades or progress.  Some eighth grade students who take advanced Regents level courses in Science or Math should do their best as most of those courses are at a high-school level and the Regents Exams are a graduation requirement.  (please note that NY City students have different rules on promotion and state tests)