Is Your Child Opting Out? A Parent’s Guide to State Testing
By Stephanie O’Leary, Psy.D., Author of Parenting in the Real World
The time of year for standardized state testing has arrived and if you have school-age children, there’s no way to avoid this topic. Everyone has strong opinions when it comes to the issue of “opting out,” so how do you decide what’s best for your child? To help you make the best decision for your child, let me debunk some common parental concerns when it comes to opting out:Will opting out spoil my child or teach them to avoid responsibility? No. State tests are not real life situations and many parents and educators feel they are poorly constructed and developmentally inappropriate. You can teach your child to be responsible on a daily basis by having them do chores, manage more of their morning and evening routine, and face the natural consequences of practical slip-ups (i.e., forgotten permission slips, lunch bags, homework assignments).Will opting out leave my child unprepared for future tests? No. Our public education system includes plenty of opportunities for students to practice taking tests on a weekly basis in the classroom. Your child’s preparedness for future SAT or ACT exams has nothing to do with how often he or she sat for state tests starting in grade school. In fact, hearing year after year that scores don’t matter and that there’s no way to prepare may set a negative precedent and make it even harder for kids who take state tests to gear up when preparation does count and scores do matter.Will there be negative consequences at school if my child opts out? No. State laws vary, but national laws protect a parent’s right to opt their child out of standardized tests. Furthermore, even states that threaten to change district funding if opt-out rates exceed a certain percentage have never acted on those warnings. Might you ruffle a few feathers or get an ear-full from an administrator if you opt your child out? Sure. Will opting your child out endanger their standing as a student or their ability to move on to the next grade? Absolutely not. After you’ve made your decision, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- You’ll need to write a letter. You can find resources online about specific information to include in your state, but a simple opt-out statement is really all you need to begin with. Click the button below to download the sample letter I use:
- Your school district may have specific policies or procedures they ask you to follow. You can do your best, but at the end of the day sending a simple note to your child’s principal is sufficient to start the process.
- There’s no deadline, so if you’ve made your decision closer to the test date(s) send the letter in anyway—even if it’s the day of the test.
- Ask what your child will be doing while peers are taking tests (most will be asked to engage in quiet activities in an alternate classroom or location, such as an auditorium or gymnasium).
- Know that if you keep your child home from school on the day of testing he or she will miss instruction that’s provided after the testing is over.
- Most districts do not consider it a legal/excused absence if you list the reason as “opting out of standardized testing.”
Most schools will allow you to keep your child home during the hour(s) of testing without an attendance penalty if your son or daughter arrives in time for educational instruction (you can call ahead and ask about timing for your child’s specific test).
About the Author:
Stephanie O'Leary, Psy.D. is a Clinical Psychologist specializing in Neuropsychology, mom of two, and author of Parenting in the Real World. She provides parents with a no-nonsense approach to navigating the daily grind while preparing their child for the challenges they’ll face in the real world. www.stephanieoleary.com