New Mexico Lawmakers Consider Ending Repercussions for Families that Refuse Tests

Published February 3, 2014

Parents and legislators in New Mexico hope to pass a law that lets families chose to remove their children from state tests without negative repercussions. Last month, state Rep. Tim Kellar (D-Albuquerque) suggested a proposal to a New Mexico legislative committee that would enable children who do not take standardized tests to participate in school sports and other extracurricular activities. Although it is legal for parents to remove students from certain tests, that is not the case for every state in the country.

Kellar explained the inspiration behind his proposal in a column he wrote for the Las Cruces Sun News: “[N]ow a test is the ultimate factor in determining how intelligent a student is and how well a teacher can teach. School rankings, teacher evaluations and retention reform efforts stack on top of many national and existing testing requirements, making our schools mere testing machines. This takes away focus from the curriculum, designed to prepare students for higher learning and life in general.”

The desire to opt children out of state tests is growing across the country as states implement federally funded national tests to measure Common Core education standards, said Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at the American Principles Project. But parents across the country do not enjoy the freedom to do this. That is why legislators must start fighting to let parents opt their children out, she said.

The most progress in addressing this concern can be made in charter schools, said Jonathan Butcher, education policy analyst at the Goldwater Institute in Arizona.

“Charter schools and certain private schools should be allowed to opt out of Common Core [national tests],” Butcher said. “Charter schools are already exempt from some state regulations. It doesn’t have to be on case-by-case basis. All charter schools should be exempt. This is a palatable way to allow schools to either choose to opt in or choose to opt out.”

Charter schools are a good venue to experiment with schools rejecting Common Core, Butcher said. The charter school design allows parents to see how a publically funded education program can thrive without implementing nationalized curriculum. The state or district can quickly readopt Common Core if testing scores do not reflect good academic achievement.

Image by Nathan Nelson.