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Common Core Assessments: Pros & Cons of Opting Out

April 7th, 2014

By Marion Walsh, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP

Last week, New York State students participated in the English Language Arts assessments.  Math assessments will occur Wednesday, April 30 – Friday, May 2.   This is the second year that students in New York will take assessments based on Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).  Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has stated publically that he planned to have his children opt-out of these assessments.

Before making the same decision for your child, you should understand the purpose of the tests and any consequences of opting out for your child.

CCLS is Required in New York as Part of Assessment Scheme

The CCLS assessments represent only one part of required No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) testing.  NCLB requires states to administer tests in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics in grades 3-8 and at least once in grades 10-12. It also requires states to administer testing in Science at least once during grades 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12.  In New York, the State Education Department Office of State Assessment coordinates, develops, and implements the assessment program.  New York implemented CCLS as part of NCLB assessments last year. The tests primarily at issue in the opt-out movement include testing in ELA and Mathematics for grades 3-8, as it is only these assessments that incorporate CCLS at this time.

There are consequences for your school district if the district does not meet testing participation rates. NCLB requires a 95% rate for all students and subgroups or the district could lost Title I funding.

Understand Your Rights

Most school districts will respect your right to have your child decline to take the assessments.   As a matter of terminology, legally, New York State does not have a statutory opt-out provision and there exists no right to opt-out.  New York State law does not require parental consent before school districts administer building level assessments to the general population.

Consider the impact of Opting Out

Before you decide to have your child opt-out, consider the impact of that decision on your child. On the one hand, the decision may empower your child and send an important statement.

Keep in mind that the Common Core now constitutes the general curriculum in New York and, in order to advance from grade to grade and achieve a high school diploma, your child will have to progress in this curriculum.   If your child is struggling on Common Core assessments, you will need data to present to his/her teacher to get needed support or services.  School districts also need to know how students are doing in order to improve these tests, improve the curriculum and improve student performance. The school and the parents need all the evidence they can get on what is working and not working, particularly for children who are struggling in school.   If your child has a disability or you believe that your child may have a disability, it can be even more important to get this data.   The Common Core assessments have lofty aspirations and many problems but educators cannot improve the assessments without data.

Make certain that the decision to opt-out will not negatively impact your child. Understand that your child has been working toward these assessments for the year.  Telling your child not to take them may devalue their work in school.

Your child will be taking many different types of assessments for many years, such as the SAT and ACT and, possibly, tests for admission to professional schools (MCAT, LSAT).  You may prefer to have your child to learn coping skills on difficult tasks rather than opting out.   In addition, opting out of the assessments could also impact your child’s placement and services for the following year.

Before having your child opt-out, consider the following steps:

  1. Talk to your child’s teacher and the school principal about the reasons you do not want your child to take the assessments and ask about more support.
  2. Understand the consequences for your child and the school district.
  3. Make certain that opting out will not make your child more anxious by feeling singled out.

As an Alternative, Consider Advocacy:

New York State has indicated that it wishes to receive guidance and input on improving common core assessments and wants to hear from parents. The State Board of Regents has already adjusted the implementation of the CCLS in New York and will continue to do so.

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