April 07, 2021

NYSUT spreads the word on opt-out rights

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source:  NYSUT Communications
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know your rights

Placing ads on billboards, buses and bus shelters all over the state, NYSUT is going big to let parents know they have the right to opt their kids out of this spring’s state standardized tests.

“This year has tested our kids enough,” the union campaign says. “Parents: Know your rights to opt your kids out of state tests.”

With the state’s English Language Arts testing slated to begin April 19 for grades 3–8, the union’s four-week campaign will feature billboards in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and Syracuse, along with placards on buses and bus shelters in Albany, Westchester and Long Island.

NYSUT will also run digital ads on social media promoting a web page — nysut.org/optout — where parents and educators can find fact sheets with updated information on test refusal rights and why the union believes this year’s tests should have been canceled due to the pandemic.

“In a year that has been anything but standard, forcing states to administer standardized exams is just plain poor federal policy,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Know Your Rights

“We have grave concerns that standardized tests at any level can be administered in any sort of equitable way,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango. “While high-stakes tests have never been the best way to measure what students know and are able to do, they are especially unreliable this year when the schools have been offering such a wide variety of in-person, hybrid and remote instruction.”

With no statewide opt-out process, it is up to individual school districts to set procedures and inform parents of their rights. While some districts have pro-actively sent out links to make it easier for parents to submit opt-out forms, other administrators have provided parents and teachers with inaccurate information on the consequences of opting out and the procedures for testing in 2020-21.

Some districts, including New York City, Ossining, Rye, Brookhaven and Arlington, have instituted policies where parents “opt-in” their students, if they want them to take the grades 3–8 tests. (Here's a sample memo from Arlington.) Other administrators are strongly encouraging participation.

“Our fact sheets attempt to clear up any misinformation so that parents can make an informed decision,” DiBrango said. “NYSUT fully supports parents’ right to choose what is best for their children.”

While SED is continuing to push for a long-shot federal waiver, State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa and the Board of Regents have done what they can to ease the testing burden and minimize consequences for opt-outs:

  • There are no consequences for students who do not take the grades 3–8 state tests in ELA and math; or grades 4 and 8 science.
  • Students receiving remote-only instruction do not need to come to school just to take tests. If parents want their remote-only students to take the tests, they can schedule it with the school.
  • The tests will be shorter: There will be no field questions and students will take only one session with multiple choice questions.
  • The grades 3–8 testing window will be expanded to provide more flexibility for districts. ELA exams will be administered between April 19–29 and math assessments are slated May 3–14. Students receiving hybrid instruction can take tests on the days they ordinarily attend. Schools will not be required to test the entire grade on the same school day.
  • Unlike previous years, there is no threatened funding fallout for districts with high opt-out rates this year. The U.S. Department of Education is waiving the 95 percent participation rate requirement and the state’s accountability system is placed on hold.
  • SED has canceled all high school Regents exams not required by the federal government. The only Regents exams that will be administered are English Language Arts; Algebra I; Living Environment and Physical Setting/Earth Science.
  • Regents exams will not be required for high school graduations. Students must only pass their courses to get credit toward Regents diplomas.

For more information, here is the state’s updated testing schedule and SED’s release on Regents exam exemptions and revisions to 2021 diploma requirements.

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