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.

For more information, check out our new book!

OPTING OUT

-- NYS ASSESSMENTS --

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.

- FAQ -

Opting Out

Pupils raising hand in classroom at the elementary school

TEST REFUSAL & IMPACT ON SCHOOLS

The formula the state uses to figure out school rankings is quite confusing. As a result, there are schools with high opt-out rates that have remained in good standing and schools with low opt-out rates that are placed on the CSI (Comprehensive Support and Improvement) list.

This happens as a result of using multiple measures/indicators to determine CSI and TSI (Targeted Support and Improvement) schools, including, but not limited to students who opt-out of the state assessments.

For a more detailed explanation, see the next question, “How are schools identified and rated?”

TWO OTHER POINTS WORTH CONSIDERING

1.  How do we define a “good” school?  What is the measure of school, “ranking”? test scores? which ones? Should we rank schools based on standardized tests that are inappropriate, poorly constructed and come with hidden agendas? If we settle for these as a measure of a “good school” what else are we simply “settling” on?  What becomes of a curriculum that is deep and rich with meaning, thought provoking and creative?  Does it go by the wayside because it cannot be measured on a standardized test?  

2.  Also, consider the sources of who is pushing parents to “opt in,” those who are afraid of the perception of a dip in school ranking?  the consequence of paperwork?  Again, what does that actually mean?  We need to dig down deep and ask ourselves if it’s worth sacrificing curriculum that speaks to a well-rounded, whole-child for the sake of a curriculum that narrowly focuses on teaching to a standardized test because of, rankings. 

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.)

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.)

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 REFUSAL & IMPACT ON MY CHILD

Students who refuse will be coded as “not tested” and will not receive a score.  There are no legal consequences for refusing the NYS Assessments.

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)

REFUSAL RATES BY DISTRICT

REFUSAL RATES ON LONG ISLAND

ASSESSMENT TESTIMONIALS AND STORIES

- HOW TO -

Opt Out of NYS Assessments

In addition to the NYS Assessments, depending on the district, there are also local standardized assessments given to our children throughout the school year.  Use the following documents to learn more about the different assessments and how to opt out of them.

TITLECONTENTFILE TYPEDOWNLOAD LINK
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

-- TOP THREE --

Reasons Why Parents Don't Opt Out
(and our response)

I want them to learn to take tests. It’s good practice for the Regents/SATs/MCATs

OUR RESPONSE

Some parents believe that standardized testing in 3rd through 8th grades is good preparation for standardized test they will face in high school and beyond. However, the NY State tests are not similar to the SAT’s or any other standardized exam. The format, content, answer choice patterns, question types and patterns, and duration are all different with different purposes for each one. Each one requires its own analysis and practice in terms of breaking down question types and answer choice patterns.

It doesn't matter, I don't really see the need to opt out

OUR RESPONSE

It does matter. Refusing to take the state assessments is about a persistently calling attention to how standardized testing is tied to corporatization and privatization of public schools, narrowing curriculum that results in “teaching to the test,” and evaluating teachers based on test scores. It moves people to action and in turn, places pressure on our elected officials by demanding deeper more thoughtful whole-child education, not a one size fits all regurgitation of information.

I like to see how my kids are doing

OUR RESPONSE

Every year we post SEVERAL examples of NYS Assessment questions that are above grade level, poorly constructed, and developmentally inappropriate. A better, more reliable way to to see how your child is doing is to check in with his/her teacher and simply ask. Weekly assessments that are created by their teachers, developmentally appropriate and used to guide instruction will also tell you how your child is doing.


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