Testing Opt-Out Movement Spurs Examinations, Legislation


Parents across the country are increasingly joining in on the opt-out movement over federal Common Core testing, causing educators and legislators to examine more closely their testing regimes and each state's implementation of the standards.

According to a national poll performed earlier this year by Fairleigh Dickinson University, only 17% of those polled approved of the standards in comparison with 40% who disapproved. 42% who were unsure. Women were found to be less likely to support the standards, with only 12% of women offering their approval compared to 22% of men.

In addition, wealthy parents were found to be even less likely to approve of their use and are voicing their opinions through more than merely participating in polls. Hundreds of thousands of students across the country are participating in an opt-out movement, or boycott of Common Core-aligned state tests. Current estimates suggest that between 150,000 and 200,000 students opted out of the mandatory English exam administered in New York State last month compared to only 49,000 who did so in 2014, writes Jason Riley for The Wall Street Journal.

New legislation was recently approved in Delaware that would allow parents the right to opt their children out of participating in the standardized tests given in public schools in the state. The bill was approved in a 36-3 vote, highlighting the tension mounting between state education officials, who feel that the testing holds schools accountable and allows for data-driven decisions that improve schools, and a number of educators and parents who feel the state is become obsessed with testing.

The Parent Teacher Association in the state stood in approval of the bill, saying that parents have the right to take their child out of a testing situation if they believe it is causing too much stress, using up too much instructional time, or not resulting in useful information for parents or teachers.

"Our position today is the same as it always has been. We support parents' right to opt their children out of testing," said Kristin Dwyer, a lobbyist for the Delaware State Education Association, the largest education union in the state. "However, we are not going to tell a parent whether they should opt their child out or not. The real issue is how we assess our kids, how often and what other curricular activities it is taking a child away from. What are they missing out on?"

Meanwhile, Governor Jack Markell's administration opposed the bill, arguing that test scores offer important information for state leaders concerning how students across the state are performing in school. Without such data, issues such as the academic achievement gap for low-income and minority students cannot be effectively addressed, writes Jonathan Starkey for Delaware Online.

Under a bill introduced last week in Wisconsin, school districts would be required to make it clear that parents have the right to opt-out their child from statewide testing at any point between the third and twelfth grades. Districts would need to make public a list of all tests they administer, including details pertaining to the amount of time spent preparing for each exam and how long it takes to administer the exams. The list would have to be distributed to all parents.

State law currently allows parents to opt their children out of testing for some grade levels. It is left up to the school board's discretion for the remaining grades. However, an increasing number of parents opted their children out of the new state achievement test this spring, receiving little pushback from principals or school boards.

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