Archives for category: Opt Out


The New York Legislature is considering legislation to affirm that parents have a right to opt out of state testing, and that school officials have an affirmative duty to inform them of their rights. The current testing regime is invalid and unreliable. It does not inform instruction. It has no purpose other than to demoralize students and teachers. Please add your name in support of this legislation. 

The New York State Allies for Public Education urges you to:

Write your Legislators to sign onto the OPT OUT bill

TAKE ACTION NOW by supporting Senator Jackson and Assemblyman Epstein by getting your own NYS Senator and Assembly Member to show their support by signing onto the proposed legislation as a co-sponsor. This is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for years and there is no time to lose. Senate bill S5394 and Assembly bill is forthcoming.

Families HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE the New York State grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments. Nevertheless, and as we have seen over the past several years and throughout the state, too many schools disregard that right, fail to communicate it clearly, or worse, take punitive measures against children when their parents exercise their rights.  

Simply enter your name & address, and the form will automatically generate emails addressed to your specific elected officials. PLEASE SEND your letters TODAY and share with anyone else who wants to see our rights and our children’s rights respected!

Thank you for all of your continued advocacy to protect children and bring whole child policies to your schools!  



Corporate Reformers in Oregon joined with their allies in the business community to kill a bill (HB 2318) called “Too Young to Test,.” Modeled on laws in New York and New Jersey, the bill would have prohibited mandatory standardized testing from pre-k through grade twoMost of the testimony favored the bill.

The purpose of HB 2318:

Prohibits State Board of Education from requiring, and school districts from administering, certain assessments to students enrolled or preparing to enroll in prekindergarten through grade two. Makes exception for assessments administered for diagnostic purposes as required under state or federal law.

The Corporate Reformers and the business community killed it. 

No one, the Corporate Reformers insist, is ever too young to test.

They also focused on killing a bill to strengthen Oregon’s opt-out law.Then they killed a bill to strengthen Oregon’s opt out law. (SB 433). Here is their letter of opposition to SB433.

They claim they need the test scores so they can effectively advocate to meet student needs. No one should be allowed to opt out of testing, no matter how young.

Apparently they don’t know that standardized testing is highly correlated with family income and family education. They should read Daniel Koretz’s The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better.

Stand for Children was part of the pro-testing lobby. SFC is heavily funded by the Gates Foundation and other pro-testing, pro-privatization foundations. Stand for Children advocates for high-stakes testing, charter schools, and test-based evaluation of teachers. Dana Hepper of “The Children’s Institute” also lobbied against these bills and in support of standardized testing of kindergartners; she previously worked for Stand for Children. In addition to endorsing the joint statements, here is her testimony supporting mandated standardized tests for children of all ages and opposing opt out.

They say they need the scores so they know what children need.


Teachers in Oregon are on strike to advocate for smaller classes, nurses, mental health counselors, librarians, and social workers.

Where are the corporate reformers?

Fighting for more standardized testing, even for kindergartners! Fighting parents’ right to opt their children out of standardized testing!

Are they joining the teachers to demand more investment in schools? No.

Are they on the picket lines demanding smaller classes? No.

Are they lobbying for increased funding for nurses, social workers, librarians, and mental health counselors? No.



In recent years, the New York State Education Department and many school districts have threatened and tried to intimidate parents and students who wanted to opt out of state testing. The historic U.S. Supreme Court decision Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) protects the right of parents to make decisions about their own children. This decision is apt in the current environment, where the state has decided that every child must sit for a pointless standardized test, without regard to their parent’s wishes.

That decision protected the right of Catholic schools to exist at a time when they were under threat of closure. The Court affirmed that parents could choose the school their child attended, though it did not say that the public was bound to pay for private choices. The key point in the decision was that ” The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

Now Senator Robert Jackson, himself a historic figure in the fight for fair funding for public schools, has introduced legislation to protect students and parents and to prevent school officials from bullying them if they wish to opt out of state testing. Students are not the mere creatures of the state; their parents “have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare them for additional obligations,” including the obligation to resist injustice and official stupidity. As Senator Jackson affirms, schools should inform parents of their right to opt out and should not use pressure, threats or rewards to compel them to take state tests if they choose to not take them in protest against their meaninglessness and possible harm to the student’s education.

This statement was released today by the Alliance for Quality Education in New York City.


Despite years of advocacy, court mandates and promises from politicians, the new NYS budget plan once again locks in educational inequality. And while politicians refuse to cough up $1.6 billion to begin fully funding our schools, the state spends over $1.5 billion a year on its high stakes standardized testing program.

For years, Albany has told parents that standardized tests will help close the “achievement gap” in our schools – but year after year of testing, while refusing to fully fund our schools, has not closed this gap, which is an “opportunity gap” and NOT an “achievement gap.”

The truth is, you won’t heal the inequities that plague our schools by administering something that is toxic, and these high stakes tests are toxic, for our kids, and for our schools. You want to close the gap? Start by funding our schools.

While Albany keeps expecting our schools to do more with less, while the tests lay the foundation for closing and privatizing more neighborhood public schools, we keep calling, writing, traveling to Albany, meeting with legislators, rallying and petitioning. We keep working within a system that won’t respond to our needs.

What do we do with a system that won’t respond?

We break it. Albany has ignored us for years. We succeed when we make ourselves impossible to ignore.  Enough is enough. We are joining the hundreds of thousands of parents and educators that have had deep concerns on the corrosive effects of these tests.

Math exams administration dates are May 1–2, with make-up exams on May 3, and May 6–8. You have a right to opt out with no consequence to your child. The right to refuse the state tests in encoded in ESSA, the federal law that governs education policy, which explicitly recognizes that right.

As we know from history, the power of a boycott is huge. If Albany won’t comply with a court ruling to fully fund our schools, why should we give Albany what they want? Join the hundreds of thousands of New York State families who making their voices heard in a most powerful way, and consider joining boycott the state tests this week. A sample opt out letter is here and questions can be sent to


Our blog poet, self-identified as SomeDam Poet, wrote the following poem about testing, opting out, and New York State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. Reading the poem requires cultural literacy about arcane education jargon.


“The Mywayman” (after “The
Highwayman”, by Alfred Noyes)

THE VAM was a torrent of darkness
among reformy goals
The school was a ghostly galleon tossed
upon rocky shoals
The Test was a ribbon of Pearson tying
the Common Core,
And the Mywayman came riding—
The Mywayman came riding, up to the
school-house door.

He’d a half-cocked plan in his forehead,
a shill of Gates for his spin,
A coat of the cleanest whitewash, and
breaches of law within;
Though served with a Lederman wrinkle
(the suits were up to his thigh!)
He rode with a jeweled twinkle,
His ed-u-bots a-twinkle,
His Tests and VAMs a twinkle, under the
New York sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and
clashed in the dark school-yard,
And he tapped with his Test on the
shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and
who should be waiting there
But the Test Lord’s VAM-eyed Super,
Elia, the New York Super
Planting a bright red “Opt Not!!” inside
the “Opt out” lair.

And dark in the dark old school-yard a
rusty swing-set creaked
Where Diane the Blogger listened; her
curiosity piqued;
Her eyes were filled with sadness, her
worry was plain as day,
For she loved the public schoolhouse,
The American public schoolhouse
Alert as can be she listened, and she
heard the Governor say—
“Hear this, my well-paid Super, I’m after a prize to-night,
And I shall make Opt-out parents fold
before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry
me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though
parents should bar the way.”

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce
could hide his rage ,
He tried to mask what the case meant,
but face read like a page
As the franks and beans from the dinner
were mingling with his bile
He cursed its taste in the moonlight,
(Oh, putrid taste in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his reign in the
moonlight, and galloped away to Long

He did not come in the dawning; he did
not come at noon;
And out o’ the tawny sunset, before the
rise o’ the moon,
When the Test was a Möbius ribbon,
looping the Coleman lore,
An Opt-out troop came marching—
The parents all came marching, up to
the Governor’s door.

They said no word to the Test Lord, they
mocked the test instead,
And they nagged the Super and grilled
her about everything she’d said;
All of them knew what the case meant,
with Lederman at their side!
There were parents at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
Elia could see, through the window, the
road that he would ride.

They had tried to get her attention,
‘bout many an invalid test;
They had written a letter to meet her, to
discuss the VAMs and the rest!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they
dissed her.
She heard the Governor say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though
parents should bar the way!

She twisted her claims for the parents;
but all their Not!s held good!
She waved her hands at the figures, she
said were “misunderstood!”
She stretched and strained credibility,
and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,

The tip of one finger touched it! The
statute at least was hers!
The tip of one finger touched it; she
strove no more for the Test!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the
statute above the rest ,
She would not risk a hearing; she would
not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the
moonlight throbbed to the Gov’s refrain
The quote of laws! Had he heard it? Her quote of NY laws?;
Her quote of laws — from the distance?
The “Rights of Parents” clause?
Down the ribbon of Möbius, over the
brow with his bill,
The Mywayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The parents looked to their stymying!
She stood up, straight and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot,
in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face
was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; her
heart, it missed a beat
Then her fingers moved in the
Her pen-stroke shattered the moonlight,
Shattered the tests in the moonlight,
sealing the Gov’s defeat

He turned; he spurred to the West; he
did not know who blinked
Bowed, with her head o’er edict,
drenched with her own ink!
Not till the dawn he heard it, and his
face grew grey to hear
How Elia, the New York Super,
The Test Lord’s well-paid Super,
Had watched for the Gov in the
moonlight, determined his future there

Back, he spurred like a madman,
shrieking a curse to the sky,
With Elia caving behind him and his
testing vanquished nigh!
Wide-read- were his slurs on the
Twitter; wide-spread was the parents’
When they opted out on the test day,
In droves and droves on the test day,
And he lay in the flood on the test day,
with a bunch of ‘rents at his throat

And still of a winter’s night, they say,
when the VAMmers roam like trolls
When the school is a ghostly galleon
tossed upon rocky shoals,
When the Test is a ribbon of Pearson
tying the Common Core,
A Mywayman comes riding—
A Mywayman comes riding, up to the
school-house door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs
in the dark school-yard,
And he taps with his Test on the
shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and
who should be waiting there
But the Test Lord’s VAM-eyed Super,
Elia, the New York Super
Planting a bright red “Opt Not!!” inside
the “Opt out” lair.

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After months of threats and bribes and warnings, the New York State Education Department released a statement affirming that students have the right to opt out of state testing.

This is a victory for the Opt Out movement, the parents, superintendents, principals, and teachers who have said that the exams are flawed and of novalue to students.

This is the statement:


As students in grades 3 through 8 take New York’s state assessments this week, we appreciate the efforts of school leaders to ensure parents have all information to make a decision about the assessments that is right for their family. We would like to remind school leaders of the importance of honoring requests received by parents to opt their children out of the exams. While federal law does require all states to administer state assessments in English language arts and mathematics, parents have a right to opt their children out of these exams. To be certain, the vast majority of schools honor parents’ requests to have their children not take the tests; however, we have also heard of isolated but troubling reports of parents’ requests being ignored.
We thank New York’s parents, teachers, and school administrators for their support and understanding as we continue to work together in the best interest of all students.

Numerous studies have shown that students do better on paper and pencil tests than on computer tests. For the record, the tests are a massive waste of time. But students often get lost online. They scroll up and down. They lose their place and their train of thought. Online testing is so flawed as to be useless.

Some states, like Tennessee, have had computer testing ruin the whole testing process.

Yet MaryEllen Elia clings ferociously to computer testing because she just plain loves it. She believes in computer testing no matter how much it fails.

Parents are sick of it. 

Many know that it wastes students’ time, steals instructional time, and wastes millions of dollars.

Wise parents Opt Out.

Computer testing is so yesterday.



Last year, a majority of juniors at Palo Alto High School did not take the state tests. State law protects the right of students to opt out. The tests have no value other than to prop up the testing regime.

Now the district superintendent, in an all-Out effort to break the opt out, is pulling out all the stops and offering prizes and awards to students who take the tests. 

“All juniors at Palo Alto High School will be required to participate in the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress this year, in an effort by the school board to assemble a higher participation rate, according to Supt. Don Austin.

“The Palo Alto Unified School District is offering incentives to students who complete all of the CAASPP examinations next week, according to an email forwarded to Paly parents by Assistant principal Tom Keating, from Superintendent Austin.

“Through a raffle, students will be able to win student parking permits for the 2019-20 school year (which usually cost up to $100), athletic passes for the 2019-20 school year, 2018-19 yearbooks or VIP parking passes to the 2019-20 graduation ceremony.

“Regardless, all students who complete all of the testings will win one item of Paly “swag,” according to the letter.

“Last year, only 40 percent of Paly juniors completed the test, compared to the 95 percent required participation rate, Austin stated in an email to parents on Feb. 28.

“In the email, Austin stated that although parents are highly encouraged to permit students to take the exam, parents or guardians are able to submit a written request to the principal of their student’s school to excuse their child from any or all parts of the CAASPP summative assessments.

“Compared to Henry M. Gunn High School, which had a parent-guardian exemption percentage that fell from 64 percent in 2016  to 28 percent in 2017, Paly has a previous history of having an abnormally low attendance record compared to other schools, according to an article by Palo Alto Online. 

“In the email, assistant principal Keating also stated that one of the major benefits of taking the exam is state recognition and awards upon graduation. Students are able to earn three additional awards or seals with the completion of the exam.”

The local paper claims that the tests are “mandatory.” But they are not.

Opting out is legal! 


The editorial board of the Albany Times-Union editorial board is one of the wisest in the nation. It understands, as few other editorial boards do, that the annual standardized tests are a waste of instructional time that do nothing to help students. Their only error in this editorial is to assume that the tests measure school performance. They don’t. They measure school demographics, which can be obtained without the testing.

The editorial board objects to the state and districts’ efforts to bribe or threaten students to take these useless tests.


Which word or words best describe some schools’ approach to last week’s state English tests for grades three through eight?

(a) misguided

(b) disappointing

(c) both of the above

Take out your No. 2 pencil and bubble in (c). New York has been working hard to make testing better. But last week’s reports of how schools are incentivizing test participation show we have a long way to go.

Some schools.. have dangled a deal in front of their students: Take the statewide English and math tests and you’ll get out of taking your core subject finals in June. Other schools have promised pizza parties if enough students take the tests or have held pep rallies to encourage them. 

Still others have taken a sterner approach, pressuring parents or doing away with “refusal rooms” for students whose parents opted them out…

All of these approaches are troubling.

Let’s recall what the tests are for. They aren’t a measure of children’s progress. They’re a measure of schools’ performance. They’re not designed to help the kids who take them, at least not directly. The results don’t even arrive till the next school year…

Instead, these assessments — mandated, along with a minimum 95 percent participation rate, under federal law — have warped the curriculum, chipping away at social studies, science, art, even recess, in the push to provide more English and math instruction. Emphasizing standardized tests over regular classroom work — yes, including final exams — is a distraction from real education.

Pep rallies for an exam? Why not a pep rally to encourage, say, participation in the science fair? And bribes and cajolery are not the tools of a system that’s working correctly. They’re signs that we’ve lost sight of what’s really important. Hint: It’s not increasing a school’s test participation rates.

And perseverance and resilience? Better for children to learn to persevere through a long-term project like a science experiment or a poetry portfolio; better to learn resilience through a chance to revise a tough math worksheet or the challenge of presenting in front of the class. Perseverance certainly isn’t taught by tests plagued by the kinds of computer glitches we saw last week, which only raise kids’ frustration and parents’ ire…

Save the pep rallies for things that really count.


Opt Out lives!

Meanwhile computer glitches across scattered districts caused student answers to disappear and other problems.

Computer-based assessment is a dumb idea.