Legislators, Activists Try to Make It Easier to Opt Out of Testing

Published July 5, 2015

In response to a growing opt-out movement across the country, legislators and groups are trying to make it easier for parents to have their children excused from some standardized tests.

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm, designed a Common Core opt-out form for parents concerned about threats to their children’s privacy from educational data mining. According to TMLC’s website, “Information which parents can opt-out of sharing ranges from test scores and religious and political beliefs, to biographic, biometric, and psychometric data, such as fingerprints, DNA and information related to children’s personality and aptitude.”

In 2014, 60,000 parents opted their children out of New York State Common Core-aligned tests, according to the website of state Assemblyman Jim Tedisco (R-Glenville). Tedisco introduced legislation in February to require school districts to notify parents of their right to refuse to have their children in grades 3–8 participate in Common Core standardized tests. The bill, referred to the education subcommittee in March, has yet to come to a vote.

“Parents have watched their children’s schooling become more and more test-focused over the past decade,” said Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center in Colorado. “While most parents are fine with testing as a regular part of school, the standard-based testing and accountability systems have now distorted children’s education, so a growing number of parents are pushing back.

“The opt-out movement gives relatively powerless parents a way to voice their objections and to try to change the system,” Welner added. “Here in Colorado, some schools and districts inform parents of their rights to opt out and make the system responsive to those parents’ requests. Others do the opposite. Assemblyman Tedisco’s bill in New York makes sense from the perspective of trying to ensure that parents across the state at least have equal information about the opt-out option.”

Kyle Olson, founder of the Education Action Foundation in Michigan, says parents should have a choice regarding standardized testing.

“On the one hand, I think some standardized testing is good because it gives an impartial assessment at where students are at academically,” Olson said. “But given the huge amount of personal data being collected, I think it’s a good idea to let parents opt out. They don’t want their kids to be data providers to corporations and [federal officials], and that should be a decision left up to them.” 

Tom Gantert ([email protected]) is senior capitol correspondent for Michigan Capitol Confidential, a daily news site of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Image by Natalie Freitas.