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The Daily Dish: What Parents Miss When ‘Opting-Out’

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April 23, 2015 04:20 pm

Students Testing

The Daily Dish digs deeper into one of the day’s top news stories on K–12 education. Make sure to add High School Soup to your RSS feed for all the latest updates and follow the Alliance on Twitter at @All4Ed for more education news.

As the school year nears a close, millions of K-12 students are engaging in new standardized assessments. In some states, parents have chosen to opt their students out of the tests aligned with Common Core State Standards. But some argue that parents who remove their students from testing are in fact opting themselves out of the opportunity to be closer to their child’s learning experience.

Robert Pondiscio, senior fellow and vice president for external affairs at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, argues in an opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report that refusing testing actually “gives away parent power that could be used to productively push back against the worst effects of testing, not just the tests themselves.”  Pondiscio contends a more effective approach by parents in lieu of the opt-out – which he says solves nothing – would be to demand the “overdue” conversation on improving the quality of education for students and testing’s role in doing so.

Push back on testing has been in part due to opposition to the Common Core. But in Florida, parents who are seeing the standards in action are not pulling students away from testing. Writing for The Hechinger Report, Jayne Ellspermann, principal of West Port High School in Ocala, Florida asserts her school has not seen a single student opt out of testing. Ellespermann attributes this to her school’s on-going efforts to “make sure our community understands the Florida standards by providing tools and training for our teachers, students, and parents.” She goes on to say assessments show parents and teachers what students are capable of.

Robert Rothman, senior fellow for the Alliance for Excellent Education, would agree. In a March blog post, Rothman stated the information parents can gather about their students from these formal assessments is nothing short of valuable. Because of this, Rothman said he would be ‘opting-in’ letting his daughter to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Allowing his daughter to engage in a few hours of testing, Rothman explains, would provide him with a lasting understanding of what she knows and can do. He writes:

“If I opted out of the test, I wouldn’t have that information, and the school’s results would be skewed. And what would that accomplish?”

According to a February 2015 report from the Education Commission of the States (ECS), some states – such as California and Utah – have explicit policies that allow a parent to opt his or her student out of testing. Still, many other states are currently working to clarify laws that surrounding withholding.


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