Opting Out of Standardized Tests

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Opting out of Common Core testing in 3rd grade

Oct 2015

I just received the results of my 3rd graders SMI (math) standardized test (that they take on the often-crashing Chrome books) and it was shockingly low like a whole grade level lower than where she actually is. In our parent-teacher conference the teacher also showed us a paper math assessment she'd given and my child had gotten a 96% on a 50 question test. So, there's clearly a problem with the test or the format.

While I appreciate the multiple ways to get to an answer with the Common Core curriculum, I do not understand this testing regimen nor do I understand why they would be testing 3rd graders on things they haven't been taught yet (like division of triple digit numbers). Why put kids through the stress and pressure, and risk them feeling like they can't do math. My child had a lot of trouble with the test, was one of the last students to finish in the class. It's frustrating to me also because we weren't even told this was happening. I'm just just of overwhelmed by the amount of testing. 3x a year for math (SMI), 3x a year for reading (SRI), and then another--the SBAC (or something)--which I'm unclear if that's given more than once.

I've asked a couple of parents at our OUSD school and there doesn't seem to be much interest or support for kids opting out of this kind of test. I wonder if others have had experience in opting out. Our school has a new principal, so I have a feeling he's probably under pressure about scores. I don't want to have to go on a quest, battling to opt my kid out, so I wonder if it's possible to just write a letter & have it done. Have other opting-out parents get a lot of pressure? Have your kids felt alienated because they're taken out of the classroom? I've been surprised that a lot of parents I know have just accepted it as a necessary evil despite it's absolute uselessness. Not a fan of standardized testing

I'm sorry that your daughter didn't perform as well as you expected her to. To me, this would be a reason NOT to opt out of testing. Accept the fact that if your daughter is going to receive a higher education, she will need to be able to perform while taking standardized tests. While you think that the tests are useless, I think that they are preparing her for reality. Do you think that she'll have an easy time with the SAT, LSAT, Bar exam, GMAT, medical boards, CPA exams, etc. if she can't take the basic tests now? Look at this as practice in testing which is an extremely valuable skill to have.

Also, not all of life is fun or fair. What message are you giving her when you tell her that she doesn't have to do something that isn't easy for her? You're teaching her to be a whiny quitter who may never have the skills to support herself and move out of your house. Is that really what you want for her life? Parents who get their kids excused from homework, testing, etc. are not doing their kids any favors. You're just teaching them to be weak quitters who expect to have everything handed to them.

Don't opt out as it is not in your daughter's best interests. She needs to improve her test taking and her willingness to tackle things that aren't easy for her.
Quitters don't succeed

This is the original poster here. I wanted to clarify a mistake in my post & address the person who wrote that I'm teaching my child to be a ''whiny quitter.''

In my OP I had written that my 3rd grader's SMI score was one grade level below (so 2nd grade). That was incorrect. The score actually placed her below a 1st grade range (so kindergarten). However, in a written test of the current curriculum, my child scored 96%. That's the major discrepancy that I'm wanting to address by opting out of THIS test.

My objection to this test is that it tested math functions that these students had not been taught yet. What is the purpose or usefulness in testing a 3rd grader on division of a triple digit number before they've been taught any kind of division at all?

If it were an accurate assessment of my child's skills & progress AND was given in a manner where best practices were being incorporated, then I'd probably feel differently. However, neither are true. So, I'm surprised by the response that children & parents should basically just suck it up, in spite of the fact that it doesn't make any sense. Private schools aren't doing this kind of testing. So by your logic private school parents are turning their kids into whiny quitters because they are choosing another path for them?

I was hoping for responses from those who had opted out. Maybe more with come. Thanks! OP -----

Hi, I don't have experience opting out of the standardized testing at OUSD but I just wanted to say that it is fine for you to look into the issue.

A third grader not taking a standardized test does not mean she will be destined to fail the GMAT a decade from now & never move out of the house.

Best of luck to you. Kathleen

I'm sorry I didn't see your original post, but I did see the very harshly worded response you received (and which I am amazed the moderator let go through). Since I didn't see the original I don't know how old your child is, but I daresay she has years and years to develop test-taking skills and won't end up being a ''whiny quitter'' if you opt out of these tests. Some kids learn how to be good test-takers; some don't. Fortunately, many colleges these days are test-optional, and as to the LSAT or MCAT -- well, if she wants to pursue law or medicine, she will learn how to take those tests.

Standardize tests are good at getting a snapshot of how a child is doing but they are a limited way to assess a child's progress. Thoughtful teachers doing authentic assessments of a child's work, with an eye to the child's temperament, strengths and challenges are a better way to measure progress. Personally, after years of public schools, I found those tests of very limited value in helping my children progress through school, and I had one who did poorly on the tests, and one who did well. Life's too short to suffer over these things. If you feel it would be best for her to opt-out, do so. feeling your pain

I don't have the original question available, but I wanted to share our experience because it seems that the person whose response I saw has no direct experience, just a strong opinion.

My child had an anxiety disorder, and opting out of standardized testing starting in 5th grade improved his experience at school, prepared him for excellent results on the SAT's and, in general, led to a more calm, positive, and confident approach to testing throughout high school and college. The school's attitude towards standardized testing in his Berkeley public elementary school tended towards hysteria. The incessant prep, the obsession about the importance of the tests, the special breakfasts and snacks, the continual reminders to get a good night's sleep all combined to heighten my child's anxiety out of all proportion -- even though he performed pretty well on the tests he had taken. Opting him out of testing freed him from taking on the school's and teacher's anxiety and put things back into perspective.

I'm glad we decided to try it for one year to see how it would go.The effect was so positive we never considered going back. By high school, he had developed a healthier, more balanced, and strategic attitude towards taking tests -- from pop quizzes, to finals, to standardized tests. With strong scores on the SAT's, he attended a highly-selective college, his first choice. He'll be taking the GRE's soon, and I'm sure it won't be a problem. Do what your gut tells you is best

How Do We Opt Out of the Standardized Tests?

April 2012

The standardized tests are causing lots of stress for my child. My boy actually scores very well and I'm worried the school will pressure him to take the test so they can meet their goals. The tests, after all, ludicrously ''grade'' the teachers, the principal, and the school as a whole. However, the stress the teachers put on the test is working my kid up too much. I myself consider the tests a drain on the education system (millions of dollars could go to actually educating the kids instead). The school also bribes the kids with packets of drawings to take the test and then on test taking day, they hand out mints, candy, and bars to ''help kids concentrate.'' I would opt out just to stop participating in this nonsense. Recently, my kid said he didn't want to take the test anymore. His anxiety level is up already and we are still over a month from the test. So, what do we do to opt out? Write a letter? Keep the kid home for half a day? Have you done this? Has your child been retaliated against? My kid is in the BUSD school district, if that helps. Anon

I can't address the opt-out part, but if your son does take the test, I have a couple of suggestions: 1) ask the teacher if you and other parents can bring in healthy foods for test days. I can't believe the teacher gives them candy! Are you sure it's a school-wide thing? 2) Say what you can to your son to take the pressure off of him. I'm not a fan of the tests, either, but it's not the district's doing and I don't want to penalize the school. Like it or not, there is plenty of test-taking in our society and learning how to take tests isn't a bad skill to learn. My daughter doesn't mention the tests to me so I don't talk about them to her. public school parent

Opting out in California requires that you submit your intention to opt your child out in writing to the district. I would cc one to the principal, superintendent and board. I would also explain exactly why you are opting out, even though you don't need to offer any reason. That is all. It's the law. ''CA Ed Code 60615. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a parent's or guardian's written request to school officials to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant to this chapter shall be granted.'' http://unitedoptout.com/state-by-state-opt-out/california/ -Richard

It is your right as a parent to opt out of state testing. Just right a letter to your principal. Anon

Maybe the more appropriate question is not how to get your child out of the test, but how to help him cope with stress. Will you call his college professors when he's too stressed to take his finals? He can't avoid tests forever. Get him the help he needs now in dealing with stress and anxiety. Left untreated, it will only get worse. (I say this from experience.) Anon

Standardized tests are a fact of life that you and your child need to learn to deal with. The current tests are good practice for the tests that really matter later- the SAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, Bar Exam, Medical Licensing Exam, etc. Teaching your child that he doesn't have to do things that are boring, stressful, etc. is really good preparation for having your child live in your basement for the rest of his life. If he's having learning problems that make the tests really hard, now is a good time to focus on figuring out what the problems are and fixing them before it's too late. But if he's just getting stressed out, this is a good time to teach him how to deal with that. You really think that this is the only obstacle that he will ever face during his educational journey? Besides being incredibly short-sighted about your son's future, I also think that you are doing your school a disservice. These tests are a fact of life and a lot of the school's funding is based on them. If your son can help the school do better, I really have a hard time understanding why you would even consider keeping him home so that he misses the test. You might be among the first one to scream and yell if any of the school's funding is taken away due to low test scores. If you really think that these tests are so awful, start working to change the law so that NO kids have to take them, not just yours. anon

It is very simple to opt out of the standardized the tests - and it's every parent's right. You just need to write a letter to your school's principal, stating that you are choosing to have your child opt out of all of the state tests. Schools usually provide ''alternate activities'' during testing week, but know that it will be likely entail sitting quietly in a room, as the school's focus will be on keeping the campus quiet for testing. And since schools (and principals) are judged on the testing, including the percentage of children tested, there will be little incentive to giving your child anything interesting to do. anon

We opted out of STAR testing for one of our kids for 2 years at our Oakland public elementary school. All we had to do was write a note to the principal. It turned out to be a good decision for our son. No one made him feel bad or sit quietly while other kids took the tests. During the actual testing time, he was able to be a helper in lower grade classes. We did get some pressure from one teacher who thought it was a mistake for us to excuse him from testing, but our awesome principal listened to our concerns and supported us in making the decision that made the most sense at the time for our kid. We ended up excusing him for 2 years in a row, then having him take 2 out of 3 tests last year. (It turns out that's an option.) This year he's going to participate fully in the testing as a sixth grader. Good luck with your decision

Opting out of standardized testing?

Jan 2007

My son is in second grade and I gather that they start the standardized testing this year. I am not thrilled about that system and wonder what the ramifications are for opting out. For his school? For him to be the odd kid out, not taking the test? And anything else I haven't considered....

Yes, standardized tests are controversial at best. However, you could be doing your child and his classmates a disservice by not participating. It is important to remember that standardized tests, while certainly a pain, are much more than simply about your child. They provide relevant data points and can do much to help your child and ALL the children in the class when used as a tool for improvement. Rather than being used as a judgment for your child's ability, these tests can help teachers improve their instruction. For instance, if a significant number of students are challenged by the same materials, it should tell the teacher/school/district that they may need to make some changes in the way they teach certain subject areas. This is called data-driven instruction and it is key to improving learning and achievement in our public schools. There is a lot of compelling research to support this, particularly in urban environments that have the diversity of the Bay Area.

If you are opting out because you feel that it is too much pressure on your son, you might want to explain to him that these tests are really to help the teachers with their teaching. It can help take some of the pressure off of him and hopefully will provide you with another way to look at testing. It's certainly not perfect, but when used as a tool to evaluate instruction rather than students, standardized tests are not necessarily a bad thing. Don't like tests, but understand their value

As an anonymous public school teacher, I will tell you that the easiest thing to do is just keep your child home that day. It is bad because you are depriving the school of the daily funds but it's kind of like voting with your feet. I think it would be more hassle and uncomfortable for your child to come to school when everyone else is doing it and write a note or something. If your child is absent, they may try to have him take the test another day, but you can deal with that when the time comes. anon