As states across the country roll out new standardized tests this spring aligned with the federal Common Core standards, more parents are looking for a way out. A roundup of opt-out policies found that while some states offer clear cut wording pertaining to whether or not parents have the right to opt their children out of the testing, many states do not.
New York is one of those states. While parents do have the option to opt out of participating in the exams, many say their schools are not allowing them to refuse. Schools in the Albany region are asking parents to submit a letter to their principal explaining why they are choosing to not participate. A confirmation letter should then be sent back to them.
Other schools in the state are telling parents that the state education department said the tests are required by the federal government and that participation is therefore mandatory. However, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco said these schools are twisting the truth.
“They should be providing parents with the truths and the facts and their rights,” he said. “And their rights are yes, they can opt out of something they haven’t opted into. They can refuse something for their kids they’ve never opted into.”
Many schools argue that if they do not show participation rates of at least 95%, their standing on the failing schools list could be in jeopardy. Those schools would not make adequate yearly progress, or AYP.
“If they don’t make AYP for several years, then they start to get identified as a school in need of improvement and they would need to have some sort of corrective action plan,” NYSED Senior Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said.
However, the state education department reported that would happen over a matter of several years and would not affect state aid, although a school’s chances for grant money could be affected.
The department ended by saying they do expect students to take the tests. “There’s no provision that allows you to refuse to take the tests,” Wagner said. Although, he did not deny that there is nothing that says parents cannot refuse.
“Yeah, bottom line, semantics aside, I really believe that parents, of course, want the best for their students, and the only way we can know if our students are making progress is if we have a meaningful measure,” he said.
In the meantime, a statewide petition was launched this week by Tedisco and other state lawmakers in an effort to decrease confusion surrounding the tests.
“What it’s going to affect is the test and the testing process,” Tedisco said. “They’re going to go back to the drawing board to do it right.”