Testing/Assessments and Learning Standards, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Middle-Level Education
March 13, 2017

Fact Sheet 15-01: Opting Out of State Tests

Source: NYSUT Research and Educational Services

Updated - March 13, 2017

As the next round of state tests approach, it is important to review the facts around opting out of state tests. Each year misinformation about the impact of opt outs is presented as fact. Since this fact sheet was last updated, the federal requirements around opt out have changed twice. As this fact sheet points out, The Every Student Succeeds Act adopted by Congress continued the 95 percent participation requirement but placed responsibility for how to address it in the hands of the states. During federal rulemaking, former Secretary King tried to re-assert federal authority for holding schools and districts accountable by requiring states to have a plan that included punitive measures for any school or district not meeting the 95 percent participation requirement. NYSUT sent a public comment letter opposing efforts to re-assert this authority. While the regulations were set to take effect as the Trump administration took office, Congress has interceded to begin repealing the regulations leaving the law to guide state plans. The House and Senate have already repealed the regulations and the President is expected to sign the repeal.  With this change the remainder of this fact sheet stands as the best information available on opting out of state tests.

Parents and teachers share deep concerns about the standardized tests used by New York state for accountability purposes. Those include: stress on students, in-appropriateness and lack of validity of the Common Core-aligned tests, loss of learning time, misuse of tests for high-stakes decisions, erosion of local control over school decisions and lack of transparency on state test content. Parents who decide it is not in their children’s best interests to take these assessments are part of an “Opt-Out” movement that is growing nationally and in New York state.  Despite recent changes that eliminate certain consequences of the state tests for students and teachers, the tests will still be administered and used for “advisory” purposes. NYSUT fully supports parents’ right to choose what is best for their children— including NYSUT members who decide as parents to opt their child out of state tests.

Some school districts have provided parents with inaccurate information on the consequences of opting out. This NYSUT Fact Sheet attempts to clear up the misinformation by reviewing the federal requirements for participation in the state assessments and potential consequences of opting-out for districts, students and teachers.