Mercedes Schneider reviewed a poll conducted by the conservative publication Education Next, claiming that the public supports high-stakes standardized testing and opposes parents’ rights to opt out of testing. Clearly the intent of the authors, Paul Peterson and Martin West, is to influence the Congressional conference committee that merges the differences between the House and Senate bills reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka NCLB). Respected public polls about standardized testing, such as the PDK-Gallup poll show majorities of the public and public school parents opposing the current regime of high-stakes testing. The 2014 poll reported that 54% of the public say that standardized tests are “not helpful,” as do 68% of public school parents.

Schneider challengesthe EdNext poll’s claim about opting out. She looks closely at their survey results and the limitations of the poll as well as the way questions were posed.

Schneider makes an interesting point:

There is yet another issue about the Peterson and West survey finding of “little public sympathy” for opt-out. In its opt-out provision in SSA, the House is not telling parents that they must opt out. It is simply allowing parents to make the decision for themselves. Though 52 percent of parents opposed allowing other parents to opt out, one might easily say that it is the parent’s decision, and if 32 percent of parents favor opting out, then 32 percent of parents should be able to choose to opt out. (Note: Not sure the exact number of “parents.”)

The 52 percent who opposed it could “opt in”– if they even have children who test. Again, not sure about this since Peterson and West do not clarify exactly how many parents this is or whether the parents in the study were even asked if they have children attending public school in the grades that are tested.

That makes sense. If 52% do not want to opt out, that should be their choice. If 32% do want to opt out, that should be their choice. Of course, it is not clear if these numbers represent parents with children in the public schools, the ones who are best informed about opting out.

Schneider concludes:

Education Next promotes school choice, yet it would snuff a federal government possibility to honor parental choice in the form of opting out.

Think about it: Opting out might be the only “parental choice” not riddled with scandal. (And here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here. I’ll stop now.)

A final thought:

Even if resulting ESEA compromise bill ditches the SSA’s federal opt-out provision, that does not mean that parents will not choose to opt out. It only means that the federal government would have chosen to make no blanket provision for it at the federal level.

Peterson and West reported it themselves: One in three parents supports a federal-level, blanket opt-out provision.

I consider that noteworthy. The House and Senate should, too.