What is Opting-Out? (Download our flyer!)
“Opting-out” is when a parent/guardian (or a student who is old enough) chooses to have a student not take the state standardized test. Families have that right without personal penalty.
- High-stakes testing – tying teacher and principal careers and school programs to high or improving test scores – fosters a culture of teaching-to-the-test.
- The “failing schools” media narrative of the last several decades is false. National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) scores have been increasing the last 30 years and have been at record highs. It is a test administered randomly, and not high-stakes. High school graduation rates are also at record highs when extended to the age of 24 and attaining alternative diplomas such as the GED.
- U.S. schools teach all students. Many of the countries we’re measured against only test select students to game the system, and the highest-ranking countries have much lower student poverty rates than the U.S.
- Time and resources spent to meet individual student needs and a rich curriculum are lost to prepping students for stressful, high-stakes tests in only a few subjects.
- The tests typically have racial and economic biases that benefit white and financially advantaged students, but are detrimental to students who are English language learners, non-white, or financially disadvantaged.
- Decades of high-stakes testing show the same results, decade after decade: students in poverty do not do as well as other students. But rather than address poverty, policymakers pretend that if we test students harder we will not have to address the core problem of high student poverty and the underlying economic issues. We need to talk about poverty, not more testing
- Opting-out of high-stakes testing gives families and students a say in public education. People will take notice and demand better for our schools.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Will opting-out cause my school to not receive funding?
A: By law, all students are entitled to a free, public education. It would be illegal to withhold funding from schools if students opt-out. There is no connection between funding and participation in state testing.
Q: Won’t test scores be required for college entry?
A: No. Opting-out of the high-stakes state test does not exclude choosing to take the SAT or ACT College Board tests many colleges and universities use as part of the admission process. We do not have a stance on taking the SAT or ACT, but it was interesting to find during our research there are 815 SAT/ACT-optional colleges and universities, including several in Oregon: http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional
Q: Won’t opting-out hurt the ranking of my child’s school?
A: It can. Schools that do not meet participation targets in all disaggregated groups will have their overall rating lowered by one category level. All disaggregated groups with at least 40 students in assessed grades over two years combined must meet the 95% participation target.
However, those targets are set by bad policies that have not been shown to help students. The opt-out movement is growing nationally, with parent groups and student groups leading the way. Along with being the right decision for students, it is a form of mild protest that will force policymakers to respond to public concerns about how these mistaken education policies need to be changed. The last two years have shown significant progress in using the right to opt-out of high-stakes testing and put pressure on bad policies.
Q: I’m a school administrator, and I’m freaking out! How will this opt-out thing not get me fired if too many do it?
A: Administrators (including superintendents) are speaking out in favor of opting-out in other states. It’s a matter of time before administrators in Oregon start finding the courage to push back against test-and-punish education policies that don’t work. We know district administrators whisper to each other about how much they dislike this culture of over-testing. If districts started punishing principals for the opt-out actions of students & families, they’d be risking a lot of lawsuits.
“Testing is not a substitute for curriculum and instruction. Good education cannot be achieved by a strategy of testing children, shaming educators and closing schools.” – Diane Ravitch
Opt out resources:
“Turn On, Tune In, Opt Out” from The Nation, 11/5/2013
“Students Launch Testing ‘Opt-Out’ Protest”, article about Opting Out by Portland students, March 21, 2013