Updated - March 14, 2018
As the next round of state tests approach, it is important to review the facts around opting out of state tests. Since this fact sheet was last updated, the state’s accountability system, including treatment of opt-outs, has changed to comply with the requirements of The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As this fact sheet points out, ESSA as adopted by Congress, continued the 95 percent participation requirement but placed responsibility for how to address it in the hands of the states. New York State’s new accountability system was approved in January 2018. The approved plan describes how participation rates will be factored into the accountability system. However, the new state regulations that will govern how the new system is implemented have not yet been presented to the Regents. At this point, this fact sheet stands as the best information available on opting out of state tests.
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. Despite the temporary moratorium that eliminates certain consequences of the state tests for students and teachers, these tests are still administered and used for “advisory” purposes and for identifying low-performing schools.
Some school districts have provided parents with inaccurate information on the consequences of opting out. This NYSUT fact sheet attempts to clear up any misinformation teachers may hear by reviewing the federal requirements for participation in the state assessments and potential consequences of opting-out for districts, students and teachers.
ADVICE FOR LOCAL LEADERS
We recognize that many members have strong feelings about this issue. As an organization, NYSUT has been clear that students should not be subjected to over-testing or burdened with field tests. NYSUT is on record as supporting districts that choose to opt-out of field tests. Additional action is recommended at the local level:
- NYSUT encourages members to exercise their rights as citizens and professionals to speak their mind about high-stakes tests in general and to consider refusing the tests for their own children. NYSUT will defend teachers against disciplinary action if a district pursues 3020-a/b charges. (See page 5, below)
- Districts with persistent high opt-out rates will be required to develop improvement plans. Encourage the district to work with stakeholders to develop appropriate policies for students who choose to opt-out. Students should not be subject to punitive, harmful “sit and stare” policies.
- Ensure that there are processes in place to track students who take part of an assessment and then choose to opt-out. These students are still counted as tested. This data may be grounds for a teacher to appeal a growth score or SLO after the moratorium is lifted.