Number of Parents Opting Out of Standardized Tests On the Rise

The number of parents taking a stand against standardized testing by keeping their children at home on exam day is growing nationwide. Parents who opt their kids out of testing do so for different reasons, from what they see as excessive pressure placed on students to discomfort with the use of testing data to make high-stakes staffing and school closure decisions. But whatever their concerns, their numbers are growing and their voices are getting louder.

Although a few years ago parents made those kinds of decisions for their kids alone, thanks to the growth of social media, families involved in "the opt-out movement" now have more ways to spread the word and connect with like-minded individuals. A Facebook group for parents who are keeping their kids from tests in Long Island alone has more than 9,000 members, writes Katie Zezima of the Associated Press.

In Washington, D.C., a group of parents and students protested outside the Department of Education. Students and teachers at a Seattle high school boycotted a standardized test, leading the district superintendent to declare that city high schools have the choice to deem it optional. In Oregon, students organized a campaign persuading their peers to opt out of tests, and a group of students in Providence, R.I., dressed like zombies and marched in front of the State House to protest a requirement that students must achieve a minimum score on a state test in order to graduate.

"I'm opposed to these tests because they narrow what education is supposed to be about and they lower kids' horizons," said Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at the Seattle school. "I think collaboration, imagination, critical thinking skills are all left off these tests and can't be assessed by circling in A, B, C or D."

Although it's unlikely that parents or their kids will face any consequences for opting out, for the states, the stakes might be higher. The conditions of No Child Left Behind waivers of at least some states mandate that they test at least 95% of all students in order to avoid penalties for failing to hit NCLB achievement metrics. Therefore, it's likely that if the opt-out movement gains steam in those states, parents might find themselves on the receiving end of legislation mandating that their kids take the exams.

Kristen Jaudon, a spokeswoman for the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, said the test Seattle deemed optional is not required by the state. Ninety-five percent of students in a given school must take standardized tests that are required by state law. She said parents who pull their children out of testing wouldn't be able to identify if a student was having problems in a particular subject and the move would deny educators the chance to see if the curriculum is working.

"We are bound by state law to test kids in our state. It's not optional," she said.

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