Opting Out Should Affect Policymakers And Testing Companies

3 min read

The Common Core Standards rollout increases the amount of standardized testing within schools; this has fueled a growing Opt Out movement. Some of the impetus behind opting out of tests come from within the corespiracy, while other efforts are grounded in a strong and valid concern of the effects of overtesting on children.

However, what is largely missing from the planning and advocacy in the Opt Out movement is a way to opt out that doesn't create a potentially adversarial relationship between students, parents, schools, and teachers.

No Child Left Behind created the requirement of annual report cards based on standardized tests. In many (all?) districts, if under 95% of students take the standardized tests, the scores from that school are not valid, which means that the school's overall ratings fall. Additionally, with teacher evaluations in many districts now relying on standardized test scores, large numbers of students opting out can hurt a teachers chance of being rated effective or highly effective, which in turn hurts their ability to retain their job.

The onus for enforcing testing policies falls on principals and teachers. In Portland, OR - where I live - the district prepared a set of talking points dated February 2013 that encourage principals, teachers, and school staff to "follow their anti-bullying protocols to intervene with students" who talk with other students about not taking standardized tests.

While people working in education understand that rankings based on standardized scores are an inaccurate representation of how well a school teaches children, school report cards are misused in many ways.

The overall affect of these district, state, and national level policies on testing limits the immediate impact of opt out movements to students, parents, teachers, and schools. This structure creates a potentially adversarial relationship between the people who are closest to a child's education. This is wrong, and it needs to change.

Policymakers are immune from the immediate effects of opting out - if a school within a policymaker's jurisdiction has a high opt out rate, the policymaker can blame the school, or, as is more likely, teacher's unions.

The companies selling and administering tests still make their money, regardless of whether or not students show up.

For the opt out movement to be successful, the discomfort needs to be shifted away from parents, teachers, students, and schools. The opt out movement needs to directly impact district level policymakers, state level policymakers, federal level policymakers, and the companies that profit from test development and administration.

How can the opt out movement shift the impact of opting out onto policymakers and testing companies?

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