By Sally Absher

Parents and teachers are beginning to recognize the negative impact that high-stakes testing has on education. They see the billions of public tax dollars going to Pearson and others in the testing industry. They see discouraged teachers resigning in record numbers, neighborhood schools closed and replaced by privately managed charter schools, and children as young as kindergarten hating school and experiencing very real physiological symptoms of stress.

Parents and teachers also recognize that the time available to offer instruction in the arts, science, history, civics, foreign language and physical education has been vastly reduced in order to focus on English/Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics and the almighty high-stakes standardized test.

All of this has led to a national “opt out” movement. A recent NPR story reported, “As standardized testing increases in public schools, so do concerns about its consequences.” They cite a recent poll in which 60% of parents agreed there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in schools.

It is hard to pin down the exact number of standardized tests students take. There are 17 standardized tests required at the federal level. But state boards of education and local districts add more tests to the mix, including English-proficiency tests and end-of-course exams.

The Council of the Great City Schools organization is conducting the first-ever national inventory of testing policies in 67 urban school systems. Preliminary findings indicate that students on average take about 113 standardized tests between pre-K and 12th grade. Kindergartners are the least tested, and 11th graders take the most tests.

Wisconsin’s schools superintendent, Tony Evers, told NPR that it isn’t not the amount of testing that should concern parents; “I think it’s rather a question of what testing is used for. If it’s used to punish and to put more pressure on the system, instead of … to identify weaknesses and strengths in kids, we’ve morphed into using tests for high stakes accountability, which is ridiculous.”

Diane Ravitch says, “Testing every child every year in grades 3-8 and 11 is an enormous waste of money and instructional time…Teachers should write their own tests; they know what they taught and what their students should have learned. Use normed standardized tests only for diagnostic purposes, to help students, not to reward or punish them and not to reward or punish their teachers or close their schools.”

The reform policies such as Common Core and TVAAS-based teacher evaluations in Tennessee have led to an explosion of high-stakes standardized tests.  The time devoted to testing and test preparation is growing to previously unheard of levels.  Parents need to say no to the “testing culture” and say our children’s education needs a diverse curriculum, age appropriate standards, and teachers who are respected rather than being blamed as the cause of the problem.

Although the term “opt out” is frequently used, in fact only two states, California and Utah, have state laws expressly allowing parents to prevent their children from taking standardized tests. But ALL parents have the right to refuse to allow their child to take a standardized test, despite what many state or local boards of education are saying.

No Child Left Behind expressly provides: “Parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children, and States . . . have the primary responsibility for the supporting that parental role.” 20 U.S.C. § 3401.

Your right to refuse to allow the state to compel your child to submit to a standardized test (or assessment) has Constitutional dimensions that have been recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States for nearly 100 years. The Supreme Court’s “Parental Rights Doctrine” gives parents the right to refuse common core tests, assessments, lessons, and assignments (since the curriculum and content are inappropriate). This is extrapolated from the First, Ninth & Fourteenth Amendments, and applicable Supreme Court cases.

We are not advocating that parents take action without carefully considering the consequences. The TCAP and End of Course (EOC) assessments do count as a percent of your child’s grade, although the net effect in grades 3-8 will be to lower the second semester grade by half a grade – e.g., from a B+ to a B. Rep. Dunn and Senator Briggs are sponsoring a bill in the legislature that would remove the requirement that the local education authority (LEA) must include student scores in a TCAP subject area as part of the student’s grade in that subject.

But for those who wish to consider this option, there are many resources available. A simple “Google” search will turn up literally hundreds of thousands of results. New York has been a leader in this movement, with 80% of students in some districts refusing the annual state assessment last year. is a good place to start.

It only takes 6% of students refusing the test to invalidate the results. Starving the beast begins with parents, but local school boards can do much to mitigate the situation. In February, the Board of Education in Montclair, NJ passed a policy regarding parents’ right to refuse a test. This policy isn’t “in opposition” to state policy, but simply recognizes parental rights.

The policy states, in part: “…The Montclair BOE recognizes that some parents may choose to have their children decline to take one of more of such standardized tests. It is the policy of the Montclair BOE that the parental decision to decline testing should be met at the district level with educationally appropriate and non-punitive responses. The superintendent is directed to establish a procedure in accordance with this policy.”

Notice that the Superintendent in Montclair, NJ works for the BOE, not vice versa…