State Assessments: Can My Child Opt Out?

Test day has long been a source of angst for students, parents, and teachers alike (yes, teachers get test anxiety too!), but a pop quiz is a far cry from the sort of massive standardized assessments that seem to dominate the school year.

If you have children with disabilities or severe anxiety, you may wonder whether the ordeal is worth it. Does your child have to take the test?

What's at Stake?

The short answer is….”no, he/she doesn't necessarily have to take it.” But there’s a huge caveat with that answer. While schools usually won’t penalize parents who opt their students out of taking the test, schools need at least 95% of their students to participate in testing. Most schools will reserve that precious 5% leeway for students with disabilities too severe for even a modified assessment.

If participation drops below 95%, the school will not meet their Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). If a school does not meet AYP for two years in a row, they are identified as a school needing improvement. The school begins losing funding, or spending the little money they do have to make the improvements and pay to transport students to another school of their choice.

Add a third year to that, and the school is required to take “corrective action,” which can mean drastic reforms. In some states, class performance on the test is linked to teacher salaries or promotions, too. No matter what way you look at it, that’s a lot of pressure for a single test.

The Upside to Testing

Of course, no one student is going to be the downfall of an entire school, but if too many people opt out, the school can suffer. And it’s important to realize that assessments are a natural part of teaching and learning, whether they are The Test with a capital “T,” or smaller daily assessments that gauge student progress and inform instruction.

These standardized tests have put pressure on schools to teach every child. As a result, math scores for minority students and those in the lowest socioeconomic bracket have risen nearly half a standard deviation, effectively narrowing the achievement gap, according to an article in Education Next.

Still, standardized tests are a mixed bag, and for some kids, taking them is unthinkable. Ultimately, whether to opt out or not is a personal decision parents have to make.

Sources:

Dee, T., & Jacob, B. A. Evaluating NCLB. Education Next, 10. Retrieved July 28, 2014, from Education Next

How NCLB Relates to Opting Out of Tests. (n.d.). Retrieved July 28, 2014, from FairTest

Lahey, J. (2014, April 10). Why Students Are Tested, and Why Some Parents Opt Out. Retrieved July 28, 2014, from Motherlode Blog

No Child Left Behind. (n.d.). - ED.gov. Retrieved July 28, 2014, from U.S. Department of Education

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