Opting-out is the process of refusing to participate in state and district testing programs for grades 3-8.

  • Parents can write and submit a refusal letter to refuse their children from taking the NYS Assessments grades 3-8. 
  • What is the difference between “opting out” and “refusing?” In practice, nothing.  But the official term to use in your letter is “refuse.”
  • Districts MUST accept parents’ refusal letters since it is a parent’s right to opt out of the NYS assessments.

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2020/2021 Summary

  • NYS is required to submit the federally required 95% participation rate number that includes all students who take ELA and math assessments. This number includes score results for all students, including those not tested.
  • There will be two indices measuring student performance; one that is submitted to the Federal government and one that is used for accountability in NYS.
  • NO, your district will not lose funding for opting out.
  • No school is solely identified because of high rates of test refusal.
  • Only schools that meet ALL six criteria will be required to create a participation rate improvement plan.
  • On either the ELA or math assessments, a subgroup at the school must:
    1. Fail to meet the 95% test participation requirement in the 2017-18;
    2. Fail to meet the 95% test participation requirement in the 2018-19;
    3. Did not improve its participation rate between 2016-17 and 2017-18;
    4. Did not improve its participation rate between 2017-18 and 2018-19;
    5. Did not perform at Level 3 or 4 on the Weighted Average Achievement Index in the 2017-18 school year; AND
    6. Did not perform at Level 3 or 4 on the Weighted Average Achievement Index in the 2018-19 school year.


Opting Out

Click here for our “Know the Facts, Ignore the Noise” fact sheet

Pupils raising hand in classroom at the elementary school

Test Refusals & Impact on Schools

accountability and nys test refusals summary

The original purpose of the 95% rule was to ensure that schools did not selectively exclude low-performing students and students with special needs from taking state assessments; it had nothing to do with parents exercising their rights to refuse the tests.  Furthermore, there is no language in the law that states schools will be financially punished for failing to meet the 95% participation rate as a result of refusing to take state assessments.

Not yet… and… it depends. A new APPR law was enacted this past April 2019. That law supersedes the moratorium that was scheduled to end in 2020. Under the new law, your school district must continue to implement its currently-approved APPR plan until your school district receives approval from NYSED of a new APPR plan. Until such time, your school district must continue to determine student growth scores and ratings using whatever measures are delineated in its currently-approved APPR plan, including any SLOs based on teacher and course-specific results; principal and building-specific results; school- or program-wide group, team, or linked results; or district- or BOCES-wide results. But, this is only until the Collective Bargaining Agreement covering the existing APPR plan expires, and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is entered into, AND the Commissioner approves your district’s new plan. This is a situation in extreme flux; every district will be different, so it’s best to ask your district administrator where they stand with respect to their plan and Collective Bargaining Agreement.

So, what else does the new law require? Under the new law, NYS grades 3-8 ELA and math assessment scores, and grades 4 and 8 Science assessment scores, are no longer *mandated by law* to be included in teacher ratings. However, local districts that *want* to include such test scores in their APPR plan may do so. Whether to include them or not is now subject to local collective bargaining and negotiation. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the APPR statute continues to include a student performance/growth component, which is still 50% of the APPR matrix (the other 50% being observations), and that student growth component must be derived from a pre-approved NYSED list of assessments or SLOs. (However, it is important to note that the grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments, and grades 4th/8th Science assessments, continue to be used for federal ESSA accountability, ranking, and sorting purposes.)

accountability and nys test refusals summary

Your district superintendent would be responsible for filing reports and corrective action plans. Most districts on Long Island have a very slim chance on making receivership.  See our ESSA page for more details

For schools that are more concerned with achieving high scores on state tests rather than developing well rounded curriculum for students, then yes, curriculum can become more narrowly focused towards “teaching to the test.”  Thoughtful whole-child developed education that incorporates how ask questions, think through big ideas, work in a team, develop leadership skills, become more inquisitive learners gives way to “drill and practice” test prep.

Students filling out answer sheets at exam

Test Refusals & Impact on
My Child

Portrait of serious little boy wearing checkered jacket and holding palms in front of him stop sign gesture isolated on grey background with copyspace.

How to Refuse (Opt Out)
of State Tests

The process is different in each district; some may have a standard form to fill out, others will require something in writing.  If your district does not provide a form, feel free to use the following sample letter. (If you choose to write your own letter, we recommend using the word “refuse” because technically there is no provision for “opting out.”)

Many schools request that letters are sent in as soon as possible so they may make necessary provisions based on the number of opt outs they receive (alternate location, activities etc).

New York State has no formal policy regarding opting out of state assessments at this time. However, since a new provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires districts to inform parents and guardians of opt-out policies, and affirms a parent’s right to have their children opt out of statewide standardized tests where state and local policies permit,  SED (State Education Department) no longer questions a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state tests. 
       [ESEA III2 (e)(2)(A)]“IN GENERAL.—At the beginning of each school year, a local educational agency that receives funds under this part shall notify the parents of each student attending any school receiving funds under this part that the parents may request, and the local educational agency will provide the parents on request (and in a timely manner), information regarding any State or local educational agency policy regarding student participation in any assessments mandated by section 1111(b)(2) and by the State or local educational agency, which shall include a policy, procedure, or parental right to opt the child out of such assessment, where applicable.
Feel free to use this information to point out to him/her or contact us for help with this matter (if you’re not in our district, we can put you in contact with and education advocate in your area)





Opt-Out of NYS Assessments

Refusal LetterOpt-Out Refusal letter and instructions for 2020/21PDFDownload
Refusing Computerized AssessmentsHow to refuse computerized assessments PDFDownload
Local Assessments The different types of local computer assessments used by different districts PDFDownload


Reasons Parents Don’t Opt Out
(and our response)

why opt out 2020 poster
know the fact ignore the noise handout