The Senate defeated an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act last week that would have made it possible for parents across the nation to opt their children out of federally required state standardized tests while at the same time not putting school districts at risk of federal sanctions.
The Washington Post's Emma Brown reports the vote was 64 to 32 against the amendment proposed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and was spurred by a notably adverse reaction to the mandated standardized tests. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who was the co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill, was a vocal opponent to the amendment and felt it would take away each states' right to decide whether parents could opt out or not.
"I say to my Republican friends, do we only agree with local control when we agree with the local policy?" said Alexander, who has framed the bill as an effort to transfer power over education from the federal government to the states.
Currently, school districts must ensure that 95% of children take the exams as a measure to keep school officials from suggesting that low-performers stay home on standardized testing day. The Senate bill requires that 95% of children who are required to do so take the exams, but does allow states to decide whether children who opt out are among the children who are required to be tested. The House bill, however, says that parents who opt their children out of tests would not be counted in the participation rate of any state, which, for all intents and purposes, will remove them from the accountability system completely.
This could create a loophole to hide achievement gaps, say Democrats and civil rights groups.
The Senate also passed by a unanimous vote an amendment written by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA.) to the Every Child Achieves Act which would ensure that parents can access the information necessary to make decisions concerning their child's education by mandating that schools receiving federal funding notify parents of their rights to opt their children out of required testing. This amendment would necessitate any local educational agency that receives Title I funds to alert parents of each student who attends the school that they are allowed to request information about any state or local policy, procedure, or parental right concerning participation in any mandated assessments, according to Political News.
"Every parent has the right to know whether or not the state allows an opt-out [of standardized testing] or not. That way, if a state does not allow the ability for parents to opt their child out of testing, then it is a parent's right as a citizen to go to the Board of Education to voice their opinion and ask for an opt-out," said Isakson.
Sen. Alexander, the author of the Every Child Achieves Act, joined with Isakson and praised him for his work on the legislation and his efforts to give parents the ability to control their child's education through the opt-out provision in the bill.
"Parents, not politicians or bureaucrats, will have the final say over whether individual children take tests," Lee said, according to the Washington Post, regarding his amendment.