Latest on Opt-Out: Is it Legal?

EdWeek has a good round-up of test season news (with links to stories at the NY Times and others). 

Even as assessment pushback grows, however, the state of the law on the right to boycott tests isn't as clear as you'd expect. The Education Commission of the States, a research group based in Denver, took on the thorny question of what's permitted, and found a confusing assortment of laws and policies, and a whole lot of even-more-confusing silence on the question on opting out.

In a new white paper, the ECS found that only a handful of states have clear laws one way or the other on whether parents can keep their children out of state-mandated tests. But in most states, there is no law on the subject, or the law isn't clear. In such murky terrain, some state departments of education have clarified their policies on opt-outs, but others "are often silent on the issue," the ECS says.

From the report on what happens in Washington State:

According to the Department of Education, a parent may refuse to have his/her child take state tests. However, high school students must to pass certain state assessments before graduating. 
Meanwhile Chicago has caved to Arne Duncan's pressure and will be giving the PARCC assessment.  This after Chicago Public Schools said their schools were not ready to give the test and they would only test 10%of students.   Diane Ravitch explains.


Anonymous said…
What does our law say? Can we get a citation of actual WAC or RCW?
Anonymous said…
curious, there is no RCW or WAC that addresses the ability of parents to opt-out. The closest you're going to get in terms of documentation from the state is OSPI's assessment FAQ. Check out question #3:

--- swk
Anonymous said…
This increased testing will be a boon to private schools who will most likely see increased interest and enrollment.

NM OptOut said…

Students in New Mexico walk-out on PARCC
Anonymous said…
Look at this litany of tests for 8th Graders at our school:

SBAC Math: 5/21, 5/22

SBAC ELA: 5/4, 5/5, 5/6

MSP Math 6/8

MSP ELA: 6/8

MSP Science: 5/12 *Paper

This is just insane!

Anonymous said…
Let's not forget the 4 Amplify tests in May that your 8 th grader will get. And, there's the Amplify check point. A number of schools are giving this between mainline Amplify. You can never be too well tested. There's always room for 5 more.

HS List said…
SAT Prep- 4 hours
SAT -4 hours
Possible repeat SAT- 4 hours
IB 1-2 hrs
AP 1-2 hrs
LA final - 1-2 hrs
Math final- 1-2 hrs
History final 1-2 hrs
Science final 1-2 hrs
Elective Final 1-2 hrs
8 hours SBAC

Anonymous said…
My understanding is that if your school is conducting MAP testing, then they do not have to conduct Amplify testing. True or false? My above post should have read MAP ELA and MAP math testing on 6/8 (not MSP). Regardless of my typo,my point is the same: It is all just too much!

- Fedmomof2
Anonymous said…
The high school list is just sicko!!!

-parents wake up
Again, more district than state testing. You have much more input at the district level; talk to your Board members and Superintendent.
Lynn said…
Information on opting out from the district website:

Families who refuse to allow their children to participate in assessments, including Smarter Balanced, must submit the refusal in writing, signed and dated, to go in the student's permanent record file. Parents or guardians must submit this refusal annually. Here are the consequences:

Students who do not participate will receive a "zero" score on the assessment and no score report for teachers or families to view.
A zero will negatively impact the school's overall results.
Teachers will not receive results that could be used as a tool to measure the student's academic growth.
Families will not receive results that will enable them to chart the student's growth over time.
High school juniors without assessment results will not be eligible for the remedial testing waiver offered by state colleges (see above).
Students who do not participate will receive supervision but not instruction during assessment time.
Anonymous said…
"Teachers will not receive results that could be used as a tool to measure the student's academic growth.
Families will not receive results that will enable them to chart the student's growth over time."

Notwithstanding the fact that no reliable test outcomes are expected over the next 2 years. Really, SPS will say anything.

Anonymous said…
Skeptic, SBAC will be able to provide valid and reliable test scores this year and next and into the future. There have been others who have raised legitimate concerns about external validity but there are no legitimate concerns about being able to provide reliable scores.

Do you have some evidence of your claim that "no reliable test outcomes are expected over the next 2 years."

--- swk
Anonymous said…
Teachers will not receive results that could be used as a tool to measure the student's academic growth.

That one struck caught my eye too, but for a different reason. Has anyone actually had a teacher use their child's prior year standardized test results for measuring growth? None of my kids' teachers have ever mentioned such a thing, but I'd be interested in hearing from any teachers that do use these. Do teachers really measure students against standardized test data from the prior grade under the prior teacher? And will teachers get the current year's SBAC results in time for them to actually use these data to measure anything?

Watching said…

"High school juniors without assessment results will not be eligible for the remedial testing waiver offered by state colleges (see above)."

What does this mean?

swk, I did read that SBAC test scores won't be valid this year. I wish I had time to find the document.
Anonymous said…
Watching, I know I'm being a pain about this but "valid" and "reliable" are not the same thing. They are related when it comes to testing but they are different.

Valid means that a test is able to do what it is designed to do. In this case, SBAC is designed to accurately measure a student's knowledge of the CCSS.

Reliable means that a test would give a student the same score if taken more than once, and a scorer would give the student the same score if scored more than once, and two different scorers would give the student the same score when scoring the student's test.

Skeptic made a claim about reliability. I said there was no legitimate concerns about reliability. I acknowledged some legitimate concerns about a very specific type of validity called "external validity."

--- swk
Anonymous said…
The purpose of testing under NCLB was not to measure individual student growth but to measure schools and districts--and disaggregate data by race, ethnicity, income, etc. Over time, NCLB testing morphed into also using the tests to measure individual teacher performance.

The purpose of this large scale testing movement never had the goal of measuring and improving upon an individual child's learning. Even Road Map types of projects, which "follow" a child's educational career, are intended to track teachers and systems rather than help individual students.

Common Core claims to be about outcomes for the individual child. But as long as CC is attached to states' receipt of federal funds and teacher evaluations, it will continue to exist for that from which it spawned.

I have found a student's prior testing information helpful (though I'm very against the overtesting mess). Sadly, this is a side effect rather than the purpose.

--enough already

Anonymous said…
I'm struggling with this opt-out issue. On the one hand, it seems like a bad idea to have kids spend so much time taking tests rather than learning, particularly if the tests aren't useful to the classroom teachers (or students, or families...). On the other hand, my children have often enjoyed the standardized tests--they saw them as fun challenges, a chance to stretch a bit and demonstrate what they knew. For an 8th grader taking the SBAC ELA exam, for example, I think there's a good chance that the reading and analysis they'll be asked to do will be more intellectually stimulating than anything they'd be doing in the classroom on a typical day, so I have a hard time seeing the harm in that. Similarly, test prep that requires them to read and analyze and infer isn't such a bad thing either. If the curricula and instruction on a daily basis were so amazing that we didn't want to lose any time, that would be one thing. But in our experience, testing is often the most interesting part of school.

Yes, the time required for SBAC seems excessive. But HS List, are we really going to start complaining about the fact that kids already have to take final exams in their courses, and perhaps AP or IB exams and college entrance exams too? Assessments are a part of education--you learn the material, study it well, get tested on it, move on to the next thing, right? Studying for exams helps reinforce knowledge, helps you to see the larger connections, etc. Quizzes, chapter tests, etc. are probably stressful, too--should we get rid of those?

Anonymous said…
enough already, I could not agree more with each of these statements.

--- swk
Anonymous said…
@ enough already, thanks. Can you share a little more about how you would actually use prior standardized test scores in the classroom? And have you heard similar things from other teachers? This might be helpful info for some parents considering whether or not to opt out. In the past we have always checked with our current teachers to make sure they wouldn't miss the data, but I realize now that it's really future teachers who are the ones who'd have the opportunity to use the data.

Anonymous said…

"It depends of what the meaning of is is" or "Is waterboarding actually torture?" can be excellent questions for the prospective law student or debating class.

Your arcane factual information and need to correct every non-expert's comment is missing this existential point:

This subject (apparently, your job) that you are strongly defending at every posting is having REAL LIFE negative effects on people's children and teachers' ability to do their jobs. Does that matter to you?

The math teacher on the other thread made that painfully clear and direct. So are the people who are tired of their children's educations being sold out.

Obama, Emmanuel, Gates and Duncan's kids are not taking these tests. That says it all.

--enough already
Anonymous said…

I'm a veteran, considered highly effective, teacher and I have two words of advice on this topic:

Opt out.

The information garnered from these tests does not begin to compensate for the lost learning time and unethical use of your children for corporate profits and political gain.

--enough already
Anonymous said…
This was my favorite "negative" from the district's list reasons to not skip the SBAC:

"Students who do not participate will receive supervision but not instruction during assessment time."

Are we to assume that the students chained to a computer for eight hours will be receiving "instruction" during the test? I highly doubt it. If it's a negative to not receive instruction, why are they doing just that to all the kids who are not opted out?

I see no point in giving data to a for profit corporation about my child. The MAP test was NEVER a benefit to my family (no teacher ever discussed it with us and my child's instruction was never changed), and this will be no different. We are done.

Maureen said…
I'm not clear on this distinction, but when I asked to opt my 11th grader out of the SBAC, the testing coordinator told me that there is no such thing as an "opt out" for this test. There is "parent refusal" and "student refusal." She said she would file my request under "parent refusal" and my daughter would be marked absent for the test. BTW, when I asked, she confirmed that students can refuse on their own --they don't need parent permission. (Not sure if this only applies to HS kids?)
HS List said…

" But HS List, are we really going to start complaining about the fact that kids already have to take final exams in their courses, and perhaps AP or IB exams and college entrance exams too? "

No. I am calling attention to the amount of time spend on end-of year tests, and juniors shouldn't be expected to take 8 hrs. of SBAC. I'd prefer to skip SBAC and allow teachers to prep for final exams.
Anonymous said…
enough already, I agree with your statements above in regard to the purpose of testing and the misuse of testing in teacher evaluation and you choose that opportunity to castigate me. Charming.

And the purpose of many of my posts regarding the technical nature of assessment is intended to make things less arcane, not to defend assessments per se. There are readers who appreciate it and there are readers who are infuriated by it. I'll go ahead and count you in the latter group.

--- swk

HS List said…
I also note that High School students can spend as much as 30+ hrs. taking tests. IMO...that is excessive.

It should also be noted that juniors may take the SAT more than once.

Anonymous said…
Until our child takes the SBAC tests once and we get scores and feedback, it's hard to feel strongly one way or another about opting out (...not in high school yet). I'm more inclined to opt out of district assessments - results from Amplify tests haven't even been shared with parents and I don't see the point of them.

From my standpoint, CCSS have not improved classroom instruction. There is a decreased emphasis on content coverage and LA has been reduced to "support with evidence." Our child recently took a quiz where they were told they didn't have to have the right answer (the right answer required content knowledge), they just needed to supply justification for their response (right or wrong). Huh?


P.S. I appreciate swk's clarification on terminology
Anonymous said…

I was busy typing what you felt castigated by when you high-fived my NCLB comment.

To be clear, your information is helpful and I've said that before.
What I am responding to is the fact that you have apparent ties to the testing industry, and your lack of response to the real life consequences of your job (?) is palpable.

You had both facts and animus about the preschool initiative, in part because your wife is in that field (as you made more than clear).

On the other hand, I have detected no ethical concern whatsoever by you about the effects of testing on real people.

Many here feel like you did when the preschool issue affected your family. Call it personal, but you're the one who told us.

You can be both factual and have an ethical judgment about this issue, too. You can correct people's factual errors without seeming to rebut their larger, usually moral point. So far, that's not happening.

--enough already

Anonymous said…
I'd like to move to a disabilities-specific examination of the SBACs. I was surprised when I took the LA training tests for 6th graders. Yes there are tools such as masking and windowing (the latter tool has usability issues), but for students with executive functioning and attentional challenges, the availability of these tools don't really matter because the District is stating that having an adult prompt the student with these disability characteristics to use these tools constitutes an "unfair advantage" vis non-disabled peers.

You have to love it: not only is the test not designed with all learners in mind, the District test administrators see special education supports and services as an unfair advantage anyway.

I am incredibly perplexed. I am not an somebody who opposed all standardized tests. But under these circumstances, I am not even sure why the District is not "refusing" the SBAC on behalf of students with disabilities, at least those who due to difficulties with planning, working memory, meta-cognition and attention, will be like lambs to the slaughterhouse on SBAC testing day in my opinion, given the District's stance that adults providing prompts and supports constitute that "unfair advantage".

Annie said…
Maureen: I hope you see this in time. But you're child should not be counted as absent for not taking the test. If she is onsite, in a classroom, being monitored by staff, she is NOT ABSENT. Please follow up on this and make sure she is not penalized for opting out. Not taking a test is not the definition of absent. Let us know how this worked out. :)

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