Monday, February 24, 2014

Our 2014 Refusal Letter

Please note that our family has boycotted the state assessments for the past two school years.  Feel free to modify the wording if this is your first year "refusing".



{ School Administrator/Superintendent/Principal name(s) }

Dear { School Administrator name }

We are writing on behalf of {child 1, 2, 3... names} to refuse the New York State Assessments in English Language Arts and Mathematics this spring. As we have expressed numerous times in the last two years, our family is very concerned about the direction of education in our state. The increase in mandated standardized testing is having a significant negative educational impact on children and contributes to the financial crisis facing districts across the Empire State. Thank you once again for listening to our concerns.

We have no issue with properly written tests that monitor our children's progress but the current assessment system does not help parents or educators achieve that goal. Despite what state education officials repeat ad nauseam, teachers are provided with very little data from the state assessments to “inform instruction”. Parents receive a vague score report that does not assist families in assessing our children's academic progress. The secretive nature of the state assessments contributes to the need for significant reversal in education policy in our state and nation. It short, the current New York assessment system has no educational value for the students of our state.

Regarding the state assessments, we respectfully direct your attention to the NYS Student Information Repository System (SIRS) Manual[1], which directs that our children be scored as a "refusal," with a final score of "999" and a standard achieved code of "96" on ELA and math. Please note that a "refusal" is not the same as "absent" as they are defined differently and scored with different standard achieved codes[1]. Also note that "The makeup dates are to be used for administering makeup tests to students who were “absent” during the designated administration dates."[2] Children scored as "refusal" rather than "absent" should continue their education in the regular classroom environment during the administration of makeup test periods. We are reserving the option of removing our children from school during the test administration session depending on the emotional state of our children on the day of refusal.

We ask that, if possible, the school please provide an alternative activity for our children, as well as others who are refusing the tests, during administrative sessions of the assessments. We are willing to partner with the school to find appropriate activities that will not exert undue stress on the teacher and/or classroom. We understand that an alternate activity is not required on the part of the school. If you are unable to accommodate an alternate activity for our children we would ask that you please utilize the provision of the Educator Guide which explains "... that student may be permitted to read silently."[3]

Please understand that this refusal is in no way a reflection on the school district, administration, staff, or teachers. Our purpose in sending this letter is to provide a written record of our family’s refusal request, should it be needed. We truly appreciate the accommodations the {school name} staff has made for families who have decided to refuse the state assessments in the past. Thank you again for all you do!


{parent(s) name}

[1] NYS Student Information Repository System (SIRS) Manual, page 63.
[2] 2013 Edition School Administrator's Manual, page 25.
[3] NYS Educator Guide to the 2014 Common Core English Language Arts Test (page 9) (ELA) and Mathematics(page7)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An Opt Out must: The PARCC field tests.

The PARCC field tests are coming to selected schools around New York State.  What is PARCC?  A new online assessment that will be used by many states.  PARCC will most likely replace the NYS Assessments in 2015-16.  These exams will dramatically increase the amount of mandated testing for our children and will be triple the cost of the current assessments.  Schools must make significant and costly updates to their technology infrastructure to meet the minimum requirements for the PARCC tests.  With all the backlash over testing and the Common Core,  NYS Board of Regents has been strangely silent on PARCC recently, but we can be sure they are quietly moving forward with this plan.

What is a field test?

For more on PARCC (including testing time-frames):

Examples of PARCC testing discussed here:

The bottom line is that our children are losing more instruction time to "try out" the new PARCC assessments.  For 3-8 students, add in the six days NYS Assessments in April, and we can see the impact of high-stakes testing on our children.  High Schools are also impacted by the PARCC field tests and will lose valuable time as the important Regents Exams approach.

The field tests do not count towards your child's grades, teacher evaluations, and school ratings- so this is easy--- OPT OUT and REFUSE!

If your local school is on this list, advocate with your school board or administration to drop the plan to administer the field tests.  Invoke your family's right to "refuse" another test that takes away from real learning opportunities.  Your child can also just "click through the test and finish without really answering any questions, thereby ruining PARCC's plan to gather data to create future exams.

Important notes:

  • Some schools will be completing paper versions of the test, others will be trying out the new online version.  
  • If your school is assigned the "Performance-Based Assessment (PBA)" the window for the testing is from March 24-April 1, right before the start of 3-8 State Assessments.  

  • If your school is assigned the "End of Year (EOY) " Assessment, the window for the testing is from May 5- June 6.
  • Find out which version of test and the exact dates from your school and advocate against wasting more of your child's education.'
  • I was able to obtain a separate list of Western New York schools that breaks down the type of PARCC field test and the testing window for each school.  Scroll to the bottom of this entry to view.

Here are the NYS schools who will be giving the PARCC exams:

Download the file or larger/ alternative view here:

WNY PARCC breakdown - click to enlarge images.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

"Sit and Stare" not required.

There is much confusion about how schools should administer the state assessments to children whose families have made the decision to "refuse" the state examinations. 

As these two documents show:

1. Your child does not have to have the test placed in front of them for refusal- a parent letter will take care of the refusal.

2.  Your child does not have to "sit and stare" while other students work on the test.  I recommend working with your school and other parents as soon as possible to plan accommodations for students who are not taking the tests.