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#InsideOptOut: The Parent Pushback Against K-12 Testing

Parents are demonstrating their potential to change the conversation about the types and quantity of tests their children are taking in K-12 schools. The opt-out movement has captured the attention of many communities, at times rattling school leaders and vexing state and federal policymakers.


  1. In response to the discontent around mandated testing, Education Week asked its Twitter followers their feelings about the opt-out movement. Responses poured in from across the country and Canada. This word cloud reflects the nature of the #InsideOptOut Twitter conversation.
  2. Although it's hard to gauge the overall number of students who are opting out of state-mandated tests, 14.5 percent of high school juniors in New Jersey opted out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, exam. In two counties in Long Island, N.Y., about 48 percent of the student body, or roughly 32,700 students, in grades 3-8 opted out of the math test, according to Education Week staff writer Andrew Ujifusa.
  3. The No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools test 95 percent of their students. Colorado was the first state to ask for leniency when it comes to opt-outs affecting a school's 95 percent threshold. In March, at Education Week's Leaders to Learn From event, former Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah S. Delisle was asked by an audience member about the effect that opt-outs could have on Title I funds. Ms. Delisle responded:
  4. "One of the things we would judge by is, what has Robert Hammond, the [Colorado] state chief done, to get [folks] to [go ahead with testing]. Let's say he sent a letter that said, 'Oh, just opt-out. It's not a problem, we'll deal with it, no ramifications.' We would deal with that differently then if Robert Hammond goes around to every district saying, 'Hey look, [this] is federal law, you've gotta comply' ... " Ms. Delisle added: "We may look at something other than [withholding] Title I."
  5. Ask the Ed. Department: A Leaders To Learn From Panel
  6. Later that month, the U.S. Department of Education did note the sanctions states could face for not complying with the law, writes Education Week Staff Writer Lauren Camera.
  7. Education Week asked Twitter followers: Do you support opting out of standardized tests? Their responses varied.
  8. For a special collection, Education Week Commentary invited parents, researchers, and others to offer their perspectives on the opt-out movement.
  9. Fred L. Hamel and Catherine Ross Hamel opted out of state-mandated tests for their two children from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s. In a Commentary Q&A, the Hamels interview their daughter, Teddi, who reflects on life at school without tests.
  10. In many districts, especially in New York, pushback from parents has reached a "breaking point," writes Rebecca Page Johnson, an assistant professor of education and a teacher-educator at Elmira College.
  11. In their study, Jessica K. Beaver and Lucas Westmaas of Research for Action found that School Performance Profiles, Pennsylvania's new school rating system, were "sensitive to opt-outs."
  12. The opt-out movement demonstrates the need for policymakers to engage families in decision-making, write professors at Miami University in Ohio, Michael P. Evans and Andrew Saultz.
  13. Although a number of civil rights organizations recently discouraged parents from opting out in the name of school accountability, Judith Browne Dianis, John H. Jackson, and Pedro Noguera say opting out is a civil right.