Today I received a communication from a ROPE reader. She told me she had received a letter from her Assistant Principal in response to her request to opt her child/children out of state testing. The letter said, in part:
As guided by the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), indicating laws and rules set by our legislature, we are required to assess all enrolled students who are present on scheduled test days. In fact, "Because of these statutory and rule requirements, there is no "opt-out" option offered through the OSDE. In addition, 70 OS Section 5-117 states that local school boards of education do not have the authority to take actions inconsistent with state law or rules that have been adopted by the State Board of Education."That sounds very official. Even a bit scary.
Here's the deal. The federal Department of Education (DOE) set out rules in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) regarding how students will be tested. You can find those rules here.
Because the DOE provides states with money to offset the cost of state testing, they feel justified in setting guidelines for states to follow when administering state tests. One of these guidelines is that states must test 95% of all students. Unfortunately, school districts don't often understand what that means.
The test percentage threshold is set out in law to prevent schools from testing only the top performing students and then reporting those results to the NCES (National Center for Educational Statistics) - the nation's clearinghouse for student data. Because the results of state tests help provide an accountability measure for parents and taxpayers, it is important these not knowingly be skewed in favor of better scores.
Now here's the kicker - that law is NOT MEANT FOR PARENTS. IT IS MEANT FOR STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENTS.
Schools can not force your student to take state tests. Let's think about this rationally. What if your child didn't take the state tests?
- Teachers don't even get results from these tests until after school is out, so they can't have any bearing on your child's current classroom/subject grade. Nor can they help the teacher assess your child's learning in any way - they are used mainly for accountability reasons.
- Are school officials going to come to your home and put you or your child in 'school jail' for not taking a state test? I suppose in some world better left in the book 1984, yes, but we're not there yet.
- Could administrators kick your child out of school for not taking state tests? No. I suppose a very active administrator could refer you for release based on an obscure disobedience infraction from the school handbook, however, schools are granted operating funds based on the amount of students attending the school every day. Bottoms in seats = money in the budget.
The ESSA rules regarding the 95% testing threshold for state tests do not apply to parents, only to the OSDE and district schools. Since there is no law requiring parents to submit their children for state testing, I choose to opt my child out of state testing.
The Parental Rights Act of Oklahoma, Section 3.A.7.C. says that parents may consult with schools regarding their right to develop procedures to "opt out of assignments". This law also asserts my ultimate right as a parent to withdraw my child from school activities of which I don't approve.
Consequently, I am opting my child out of state testing as per this letter of notification, dated _________________.
Don't forget. YOU are the PARENT, it's your JOB - and your right - to make reasonable and appropriate DECISIONS for the education of your minor child.