The ESSA and opting out of the SBAC


Some state departments of education have threatened to withhold a high school diploma if a student doesn’t take and pass a so-called college readiness test in grade 11. However, no state legislature has passed a statute linking the award of a high school diploma to passing a state or federal mandated college readiness test in grade 11 (and it’s highly unlikely any legislature would).

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was replaced in December, 2015 with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

This new Federal mandate was written to replace the No Child Left Behind Act. The main concerns that Carolyn and I have with ESSA are:

For greater detail on the ESSA, Mercedes Schneider has done a brilliant job of combing through the law and commenting on each aspect of the Federal Act.

About opting out of the Common Core testing, the state of New York in the spring increased their opt out numbers from 20% to 22%. There have been threats and pushback since the opt out numbers came out with the Federal government pressuring New York to come up with forms of punishment for districts who do not adhere to the 95% participation rate but as Sandra Stotsky points out, no state  has been penalized by withholding Title I money and passing a mandated standardized test to graduate from high school needs to be put into law by the state legislature to be legitimate.

We also need to keep in mind that the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) has yet to be determined to be reliable and valid as an assessment of students’ understanding of subjects taught.

To follow is a repost of the article in full:

Opting out: A civic duty, not civil disobedience

The writers who crafted the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the 2015 bill co-sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) re-authorizing the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA), thought they had worded an airtight case to prevent parents from removing their children from federal mandated testing.

States are responsible for ensuring a 95 percent participation rate of all its K-12 students in exchange for ESSA funds. If the rate is less than 95 percent, the US Secretary of Education has several options. Most allow USED to help the state come up with a plan to address the matter. In effect, ESSA turns state departments of education into school bullies.

Indeed, many state departments of education have begun to rattle their sabers, trying to bluff parents into believing that parents who opt their kids out of a federally mandated test and reduce overall participation to less than 95 percent thereby place the state at risk of not getting the money coming to it for its low-income kids. It remains to be seen how effective this version of a guilt trip will be. In the meantime, some bureaucrats are busy trying to figure out how to make the punishment fit the crime.

Some state departments of education have threatened to withhold a high school diploma if a student doesn’t take and pass a so-called college readiness test in grade 11. However, no state legislature has passed a statute linking the award of a high school diploma to passing a state or federal mandated college readiness test in grade 11 (and it’s highly unlikely any legislature would).

Without such a statute in place, state departments of education cannot make local school boards withhold a high school diploma from students who have met other, legal requirements for a high school diploma. And if a grade 11 test is called a high school exit test, it raises serious questions about USED’s recent decision to let states use the SAT or ACT for an accountability purpose. These tests are known as only college admissions tests, NOT achievement tests or high school exit tests. Moreover, they cannot be constructed validly for more than one of these purposes.

In addition, USED itself sent 13 states a letter in November or December 2015 telling them that they needed to address high opt-out rates throughout the state or in specific school districts. The letter helpfully included possible examples of how states could act, such as lowering a school or district’s rating on state accountability systems, and counting non-participating students as not proficient for accountability purposes.

Opt-outs are the Achilles Heel of federal attempts via mandated Common Core-aligned testing to get very low-achieving students into college and to lower above-average student achievement in order to close demographic gaps. The more opt-outs there are, the less valid are any tests aligned to Common Core’s standards, and the less control federal and state policy makers have over the content of the school curriculum.

It has become difficult to remember that the central purpose of ESEA was to improve the education of low-income children. Civil Rights organizations immediately bought into the first authorization of ESEA in 1965, believing that targeting the education of low-income students with federal money would improve their education. But these organizations have steadfastly hewed to this position for over 50 years despite the fact that low-income kids’ scores have shown almost no improvement on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests since their inception in the early 1970s, and despite the research showing little relationship between student achievement and spending for schools or per/student.

Will making states responsible for reducing opt-outs be effective and, if so, improve the education of low-income kids? All USED could say in its warning letter to the 13 states with high opt-out rates was that full student participation in its mandated assessments would provide “better information” to parents and teachers. Better than what? Is it the case that our teachers are incapable of discerning students who can read and write from those who can’t? What kind of information did PARCC or SBAC provide in 2015 that was more useful for instruction than information teachers had already gleaned from their own observations and tests?

After 50 years and billions of dollars, it is clear that increased regulations and more testing for all students in K-12 isn’t the answer.

If Common Core’s standards and tests are, as it is claimed, so much better than whatever schools were using before, why not use them only for low-achieving, low-income kids and let them catch up? Why can’t Congress amend ESSA to exempt students already at or above grade level in reading and mathematics and target ESSA funds to curriculum materials, teachers, and tests for just the kids who need a boost? That’s just the beginning. Maybe a different use of federal money is also needed.

We have no explanation from USED of why earlier incarnations of ESEA have been so fruitless. Nor do we know why Congress has been unwilling to demand accountability from its own policy-making education agencies, or why governors haven’t demanded accountability from their own education policy-making boards and departments? That’s where accountability needs to begin, not with teachers.


Sandra Stotsky is a former Senior Associate Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education and is Professor of Education emerita at the University of Arkansas.


For more on the SBAC and its validity, rather, the lack thereof, see:

SBAC Tests Show No Validity or Reliability

Pearson and others are exploiting our children by using them to establish the validity, or lack thereof, of the SBAC




Introducing the Decision to Support the Whole Child Refusal Form


It’s no secret that refusal forms provided by school districts are designed to shame and intimidate parents into second guessing their decision to keep their children from participating in high states testing.

One Seattle parent wasn’t impressed with Seattle Public Schools aggressive and threatening refusal form.  Instead, she decided to write her own counter called the Decision to Support the Whole Child Form – The unofficial form for opting out of high stakes testing. 

Check it out. (You can download your own copy at the end of the post).


Decision to Support the Whole Child Form

The unofficial form for opting out of high stakes testing*

Please clearly print the following information and return to your school’s principal.

Student’s Name _________________________________________________________

Parent/Guardian’s Name _________________________________________________________

School ____________________________________________________

Student’s Grade Level _____

As the parent/guardian of the above named student, I have made an educated decision to support my child by opting him/her out of participating in the following:

____ all portions of Smarter Balanced

____ end-of course exams in ___ Algebra ___ Geometry ____ Biology

____ certain subtests (please name subtest – ELA, MSP science)

____ MAP

My reason for this decision is: ______________________________________________________________

____ I have read and understand that:

This decision is a permanent record to document my decision about my child’s educational and emotional well-being without fear of harassment, intimidation, bullying and retaliation by Seattle Public Schools.

Students who do not participate will receive positive reinforcement in knowing they are more than a number and will not experience unnecessary anxiety.

Students who do not participate are free to engage in creative endeavors during the test time

Opting out may positively impact our school by relieving the pressure on staffing and physical space.

Teachers will not have to spend time reviewing test scores that are not reliable in measuring all student’s academic growth in the core academic areas of reading, writing, math and/or science. Instead, teachers will be able to rely on their training and professional judgment to evaluate each child as an individual with multiple strengths and challenges.

Families will not receive unreliable results and will be better able to chart their student’s growth over time by partnering with their teachers.

Smarter Balanced should not be used as the achievement for Highly Capable eligible as there is no proven correlation between achievement on this particular test and advanced learning abilities Smarter Balanced was not intended for this purpose and doing will likely to lead to more racial and socio-economic disparity to advanced learning opportunities.

Signature of Parent/Guardian___________________________Date_____________________

* This form is not published or approved by Seattle Public Schools.  You are not required to use the District’s “Refusal to Participate in Assessments Form,” state the reasons for your decision, or agree to any of the assertions stated therein. Opting out is as simple as emailing your principal

Alternative Opt Out Form

-Carolyn Leith

Opting out of standardized testing is a diverse movement

By Jeff Bryant with The Progressive:

 The Fight Against Standardized Testing is More Diverse Than You Think 

cps opting out

In 2013, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tried to minimize the movement against standardized testing, saying it was confined to “white suburban moms.” Numerous state education officials across the country erected roadblocks to anyone trying to boycott the tests.

Undeterred, parents responded in 2015 with large-scale “opt outs” in New York, New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. More than 620,000 public school students around the U.S. refused to take standardized exams.

The widespread resistance influenced lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act earlier this year. Although the new law still requires states to conduct annual tests, it also allows them to decouple tests from numerous high stake consequences, such as using the scores in teacher evaluations and school ratings.

Despite the obvious power of the opt out movement, attempts at marginalizing it have continued, and misinformation about the movement being confined to well-to-do white communities has dogged reform efforts.

But at this week’s 2016 United Opt Out Conference, organizers and activists gathered in Philadelphia to renew their commitment to fight the influence of standardized testing and expand their protests to include more communities of color.

Event organizers filled the program with multiple speakers who addressed the impact of testing on African American, Latino, and low-income families. Numerous keynotes and presentations unified the opt out cause with other grassroots movements for social and economic justice, including Black Lives Matter and Fight for $15. Presenters warned the audience about the need to remain vigilant in protesting new forms of assessments.

Opt Out Meets Black Lives Matter

At an opening panel Denisha Jones, an assistant professor of education at Howard University and United Opt Out administrator, spoke of the need to align opt out with Black Lives Matter and how the movement helps “address systemic racism.”

In a brief interview with The Progressive, Jones explained, “we’re showing opt out is happening in diverse communities because it is those communities that are most harmed by testing.”

Acknowledging that black and Latino parents often have greater fear of the consequences of opting out, she said her organization is developing “pathways for opt out” that also “reject the negative consequences of opting out.”

In a panel focused on community empowerment, three African-American mothers from Philadelphia described why and how they are spreading the opt out cause in their communities. They spoke of the need for white organizers to “self correct” by listening to parents in communities of color, and by viewing their own activism as something not done “to the community, but with the community.”

“A Fairy Tale’

In another panel Yohuru Williams, a history professor and administrator at Fairfield University and author of numerous books on race and civil rights in America, criticized establishment civil rights organizations—such as the NAACP, Urban League, and the National Council of La Raza—for supporting standardized testing.

Williams acknowledged that public schools have historically underserved non-white school children and contributed to “long term injuries.” But he denounced testing as a continuation of that harm.

In a brief interview with The Progressive, Williams called civil rights arguments for testing “a fairy tale.”

He questioned the claim that standardized tests are focused on identifying racial disparities, as civil rights groups often say they are. “If they’re primarily meant for diagnostic purposes, then why the high stakes?” Williams asked.

“If tests are about holding states accountable for the performance of schools serving low-income kids,” he asked, “then why are we blaming teachers for poor results?”

He also questioned why schools that are identified as low performing due to test results so often remain poorly funded nevertheless. “When are we going to see the resources to rescue these kids?” he asked.

Testing is About ‘Slotting People’

In his keynote address, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Chris Hedges announced that his youngest son, who is entering the third grade in a Princeton, New Jersey elementary public school, would not be taking standardized tests.

In his speech Hedges linked standardized testing to a “corporate coup d’état” that has placed education policy in the hands of “systems managers” who are interested mostly in “slotting people for their place in the corporate leviathan.” He linked protests against standardized testing to struggles for human rights around the globe including the Middle East and Western Europe.

“Testing has nothing to do with what is good for children,” he told The Progressive. “Tests measure analytical capacities that are mostly confined to what’s valued in technological society at the expense of other intelligences such as emotional, artistic, and creative abilities.”

Not Just About Opt Out

The event portrayed an opt out movement growing ever more diverse in its demographic. It’s also about defying an assessment culture. Numerous panels at the conference pointed to the spread of new computer based tests that rely on software algorithms, rather than teachers, and turn testing into a year-round activity rather than a seasonal occurrence.

Jones said she and her fellow organizers still see test boycotts as “the key to the domino effect” in toppling an “oppressive system in schools.” But the main purpose of the movement is to ensure schools that are based on “core values” of human rights, racial and economic justice, and a standard of education all children deserve.

“This isn’t just about opt out,” Jones told The Progressive after the meeting concluded. “It’s also about what kind of schools we want for our children.”

– See more at:

Why You Can Opt Out of Standardized Tests Without Fear of Penalties to Your School


From Fair Test:

Why You Can Boycott Standardized Tests Without Fear of Federal Penalties to Your School

States, districts and schools sometimes claim they will lose federal Title I funds if parents, students or teachers boycott standardized tests required under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). However, in summer 2015 the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) acknowledged it has no plans to penalize districts or schools by withholding funds. That was DOE’s response after few districts in New York State reached NCLB’s 95% minimum participation requirement. While DOE said it could withhold funds if states do not do enough to persuade parents to participate, the chances of that happening are effectively zero.

As far as we know, no school or district anywhere in the country has ever been penalized for failing to test enough of its students. Further, seven states (Utah, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and California) have laws allowing opt out, and none have been sanctioned. In fact, Oregon made it easier for students to opt out in 2015, but DOE has done nothing. Neither has any state taken steps to cut funds to schools. New York State had threatened to do so, but like the feds backed down.

Therefore, parents, students and teachers should not fear harmful financial consequences to their schools due to federal law if parents boycott standardized tests. There are reasons this is true beyond the fact that the federal government has retreated:

NCLB says that a school will fail to make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) and then suffer sanctions if 95% of students do not take the test. However, this provision is now irrelevant.

First, schools that do not receive federal Title I funds are exempt from sanctions under NCLB. Those schools can be labeled as not making AYP, but NCLB does not require a state to do anything to them. (About ¼ of all schools do not receive any Title I funds.)

Second, 41 states (plus DC and Puerto Rico) have waivers from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) that eliminate sanctions imposed on most schools that fail to make AYP. The basic message is that in waiver states, a school not in or close to the bottom 5% (“priority schools”) likely has nothing to fear from a boycott. However, a school that is at or close to the bottom 5% would be advised to proceed with caution. Parents may not want to increase the likelihood of severe sanctions (staff firings, turning it into a charter school) by having many opt outs as well as very low scores (or low rates of score increases). “Priority” schools will want to make the 95% threshold to get out of that status. (For more on waivers, see the notes, below.)

Third, in states without a waiver, every school must now have 100% of its students score “proficient.” As a result, almost all schools are “failing” and face possible sanctions. But if a school is already failing, there is no additional danger from a boycott.

In addition, the 95% rule does not pertain to any tests other than NCLB’s reading and math exams. Tests used to judge teachers in other subjects as well as other state or district-mandated assessments are not covered by this requirement.

There may be some risk for some schools due to the 95% rule. But for the great majority of schools, including Title I schools, the risk is minimal and should not be a reason to try to stop boycotts.


The DOE has maintained that because Title I is a contract between federal and state governments, it can intervene, up to and including withholding funds or ending the contract, if states do not fully implement the agreement. In reality, even serious state failures, such as inadequate provisions for English language learners, have been negotiated and resolved. On occasion, DOE has withheld a portion of the limited money that goes directly to the states, but does not hold back funds that go to districts.

Sanctions are a multi-step, multi-year process. Even if the DOE changes its mind, the Obama-Duncan administration is likely to be out of office before anything happens. In addition, Congress is moving to overhaul the law in 2015.Bills that already passed both houses of Congress contain provisions allowing parents to opt their children out.

In sum: There is nothing to fear regarding loss of federal funds because of opting out. Advocates for testing reform should be sure to inform parents and teachers of this fact.

Notes and links

These comments are generally applicable to all states. However, it is possible, for example, that your state is labeling more than 5% of schools as ‘priority’ (under waivers) or includes non-Title I schools under NLCB sanctions (for non-waiver states), though we do not know of such states.

In addition, if your state or district has a high school graduation test or requires children to pass a test to be promoted to the next grade or get into a special school, your child likely will be at risk if you boycott. And your state may grade schools in ways that could be affected by boycotts (e.g., get a lower grade, which may or may not carry consequences).

▪ The NCLB law is at; specific points include:

  • 95% requirement is at Sec. 1111(a)(2)(I)(2)(ii);
  • exempt from the sanctions under NCLB is at Sec. 1116(b)(2)(A)(ii).
  • escalating sanctions are specified at Sec. 1116 for schools (b) and districts (c).

▪ On the DOE’s backing down, see and    The article includes this: “The Department has not had to withhold money – yet – over this requirement because states have either complied or have appropriately addressed the issue with schools or districts that assessed less than 95 percent of students,” a spokeswoman for the department said. “The U.S. Education Department has not yet had to take that kind of enforcement action because states have either met the law’s requirements or have appropriately addressed this with schools or districts that assessed less than 95 percent of students.”

▪ States with waivers agreed they would intervene strongly in the lowest-scoring 5% of their schools (“priority” schools).  (Another 10% are “focus” schools, but consequences are minimal.) States have identified their 5% schools. Schools that make sufficient test score gains will come off the list, while those that do not will remain on. States can choose to intervene in more schools, but to our knowledge have not. Over the next few years, states may replace exiting priority schools with new ones. If a state loses its waiver, NCLB requirements will again come into force – but almost all the schools will already have failed, making the 95% requirement irrelevant, as noted above. A brief US Ed. Dept. description of waivers is at

For a print formatted copy of this fact sheet click here.

A Sample Opt Out Letter

opting out3

Standardized testing has started in Seattle Public Schools.

Wondering when your child will be tested? Curious what tests will be given at your school?  Here are the links to the SPS assessment calendar. Click here for the testing schedule for grades K-8. For grades 9-12, click here.

Opting out is the most powerful tool parents have to push back against testing AND gain leverage for the things kids need more of like: art, PE, and instructional time. Now is the time to write your opt out letter.

Here’s a simple template to get you started:

Dear____________________ (Principal),

I respectfully refuse to have my child, ____________________, take the Smarter Balanced Assessments, Amplify, MAP, WaKIDS, MSP (or other tests, listed here:___________________).  This includes practice tests and make up tests.

Please provide a comfortable and supervised space for my child to engage in a meaningful learning activity, do homework, or read.  My child will need full access to their backpack and lunch.  Please let me know if you have any questions.


Signature:________________________      Date:_____________________

Printed name:_____________________     Phone or email:______________________

-Carolyn Leith

95% of the Juniors at Ballard High School opted out of the Common Core SBAC

BallardHSSealThe numbers keep rolling in and tell the story.

A related story: Ingraham High School staff objects to the SBAC.

Dora Taylor

testorAs a former teacher, I know that ‘No Child Left Behind’ isn’t working for Montana’s students or teachers. Today I am introducing a bill that will end federal annual testing requirements under ‘No Child Left Behind’ and replace it with a locally developed testing schedule. This will return flexibility to teachers, students and parents.

95% of Garfield High School’s 11th graders have opted out of the Common Core SBAC

Garfield_HS_2This just in.

95% of the Garfield High School 11th graders in Seattle have opted out of the Common Core SBAC tests.

This is the same class that made history when they opted out of the MAP test en masse. Remember that? See The MAP has been scrapped in Seattle high schools. Those students were in 9th grade at the time and learned to critically consider what was asked of them. They decided taking the MAP test was not a good use of resources or their time.

Now they are back and saying “No!” to the SBAC.

What is of note about Garfield High School is that the school has a minority enrollment of about 60% and approximately 40% would be considered economically “disadvantaged”. Many of these students have resettled recently in this country. This shows that there are schools across the socio-economic stratum opting out of the SBAC test in Seattle.

It has been reported that across town at Ingraham High School there is a large percentage of students opting out but no numbers have been confirmed.

When I found out, you will too readers.

I am sure there is more to come.

A related post: The letter from the teachers at Garfield High School regarding the MAP test

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Washington State Superintendent Randy Dorn’s scare tactics re: Opting Out of the Common Core SBAC


Dorn Speaks Out on Consequences of Test RefusalsNotated

The following is a press release that State Superintendent Randy Dorn sent on Friday, April 24th in response to the number of opt out that are occurring around the state of Washington and the resistance to the related Common Core Standards.

One thing to keep in mind while reading his press release is that Randy Dorn has close ties to Gates money, see Have you received a robo-call from Ready Washington about the wonders of Common Core Standards and the SBAC? If so, this is why.

Dorn’s press release is in italics. My thoughts are not. I think you’ll be able to tell the difference:

OLYMPIA — April 24, 2015 — I’ve said many times that statewide testing is important because it helps ensure all public school students, no matter where they go to school, receive a quality education. If too many families refuse to have their children participate in the state tests, there are consequences.

No one seemed to have a problem with the HSPE or the WASL which was the test required to graduate in the state of Washington in previous years. Hmmm, what could be different about this test?

• Academic consequences: State tests are not the only measure of student learning, but by testing all students in grades 3-8 and high school with standardized tests, we are able to see where learning gaps exit and know where to target funds for additional help.

This one is a no-brainer. You provide additional funding to schools in low income areas.

If some families refuse to have students tested, the results become less reliable. It’s difficult to know who is actually struggling and needs that additional help because accurate comparisons can’t be made.

Another no-brainer, ask the teacher.

• Monetary consequences: If our state does not reach a 95% participation rate on the state tests, the U.S. Department of Education could place Washington on “high-risk status” and withhold administrative funds — or even program funds — that support:

The US Department of Education (USDOE) has already placed our state at risk of losing funding based on the No Child Left Behind edict that 100% of our students should meet “proficiency” by 2014. That didn’t happen so we are already at risk of losing Title 1 funds. Thing is, this has occurred in other states also and so far, there has been no action taken by the USDOE.

Also the USDOE is walking a very fine line here. According to the US Constitution, the government is not to determine a national curriculum or assessment (test) so for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to make such threats borders on an act that is unconstitutional.

And lastly, it was Dorn who determined that Washington State should use the Common Core Standards with the concomitant SBAC tests, not parents, students or teachers in our state. We the people of Washington State had no idea what the Common Core Standards were when the state legislators approved them, and neither did our legislators because the (national) standards had not been completed when the legislators approved them for our state. It was all based on promises by Randy Dorn and his Gates backed group Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) so the responsibility of any financial consequences falls directly in his lap, not ours. It was the OSPI that lied to the legislature about how the Common Core (National) Standards were aligned with the then current standards under the Hanover study. It was State Superintendent Randy Dorn who is responsible for making the commitments with consequences, not the parents, teachers or students of Washington State. For more on Randy Dorn and his affiliation with Bill Gates, see State Superintendent Randy Dorn’s “interpretation” of the Common Core SBAC testing and opting out: Truthiness in Education and Have you received a robo-call from Ready Washington about the wonders of Common Core Standards and the SBAC? If so, this is why.

Since parents were not included in the decision making process regarding statewide assessments, opting out is one way the people have of expressing their will. Pay attention Mr. Dorn

○ Title I, parts A and C (affecting highest-poverty schools, limited English proficient children, migratory children, children with disabilities, Indian children, neglected or delinquent children, young children in need of reading assistance, and K–12 students in need of additional assistance in reading, mathematics, science and in meeting graduation requirements);
○ Title II (affecting teacher and principal training and recruiting);
○ Title III (affecting language instruction for limited English proficient and immigrant students);
○ Title VI, Part B (affecting programs for students in rural schools);
○ School Improvement Grants (SIG) program (affecting schools with the greatest need and strongest commitment to use the funds to provide adequate resources in order to raise substantially the achievement of students in their lowest-performing schools);
○ Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (affecting services to children with disabilities for early intervention, special education, and related services).

This was the same threat given to parents in New York last year but nothing happened, no Federal money was withheld. This year, the opt outs have doubled.

It’s also important to note that 11th graders who refuse to test will miss out on the opportunity to avoid more testing in the future: Nearly 200 colleges and universities in six states have agreed to use Smarter Balanced scores to place students into credit-bearing courses, once they’ve been accepted.

This is already happening in our state without a standardized test required. A student can take college courses while still enrolled in high school based on a teacher’s reference.

No test is perfect. But the Smarter Balanced tests, with their emphasis on real-world skills, are better than any standardized test our state has administered before. If students don’t test, it’s more difficult to identify what skills they lack and how best to help them.

Real world skills like a third grader using a mouse?

Again, teachers are the best barometer on how a student is doing in class.

Also, where is the proof that backs Dorn’s statement that the SBAC is the best thing since sliced bread? There’s not even proof the Smarter Balanced Assessments are valid and reliable.

The decision to refuse testing doesn’t just affect the individual student. It affects students across the state. If you don’t like the federal law, don’t refuse to have your child take the tests; call your U.S. representative and senators and tell them to change the law.

Actually, it was our state legislators who approved the implementation of the Common Core Standards and the related SBAC test. For the US Congress to mandate a country wide curriculum or assessment would be illegal.

But rest easy Mr. Dorn, there is a proposal now in Olympia that will eliminate the Common Core Standards in our state.

And as is stated in the response to Dorn’s nastygram over at Stop Common Core in Washington State:

“SPI Dorn should comply with federal law and the Constitution of the United States.  More than comply, he should be held accountable for not complying.  Why is he allowing the federal government to make decisions about education in our state when the Constitution and the 10th Amendment clearly makes it the responsibility of the state and the people, not the federal government?  The Race to the Top Assessment Grant awarded to Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium required the development of a valid and reliable assessment.  No proof or evidence of SBAC’s validity and reliability exists.  NCLB requires the state to administer valid and reliable assessments.  By using the SBAC, WA is not in compliance with federal law.  Why is Superintendent Randy Dorn having the state administer an assessment that does not meet the requirement of federal law?  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is an illegal interstate compact under the Compact Clause of the U. S. Constitution.  Why did SPI Dorn commit and allow the state to participate in an illegal interstate compact using taxpayer dollars?”

Honestly, Mr. Dorn, don’t you think when so many parents and students around the country demand to opt out of a test that something is very wrong?

We look forward to your reply.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Post Script:

Dorn’s office has made an official request of the USDOE to waive the use of SBAC for AYP for the 2014-15 school year.

If this waiver is granted, then all the threats of withholding Title 1 funding become null and void, and the opt-outs risk nothing.

The fact that Dorn is asking for this waiver demonstrates that he knows the SBAC will be an invalid or an inequitable measure of schools and students and yet he is sending out this press release.

There appears to be a bit of doublespeak coming from OSPI.

And, even the Gates Foundation– the biggest underwriter and promoter of the Common Core (National) Standards– recognized the problems with Common Core tests for accountability measures and in June, 2014, in a letter from Vicki Phillips, Gates called for a 2 year moratorium on their use for these purposes see

What if they gave the SBAC and no one took it? Ask the folks at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle


It has been confirmed that 100% of the 11th grade students at Nathan Hale High School opted out of the SBAC test this week.

Here is the history in a nutshell. There were informational meetings about the Common Core Standards and the SBAC early in the school year and Wayne Au, PhD was invited to speak on high stakes testing.

There was much discussion and then a resolution was passed by the teachers at Nathan Hale High School:

As I wrote in a previous post:

Nathan Hale High School in Seattle says “No!” to the Common Core Standards SBAC test

The Common Core Standards associated Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exam, the SBAC, will be implemented in March in the Seattle school district but this afternoon the Nathan Hale High School Senate, which functions as the Building Leadership Team typically made up of teachers, parents, staff and students, voted nearly unanimously not to administer the SBAC tests to 11th graders this year.

The Senate also recently voted not to administer the PSAT test to 10th graders at all in the future.

The reasons for refusing the SBAC for 11th graders included:

1. The SBAC is not required for graduation

2. Colleges will not use the SBAC this year

3. Since NCLB requires all students to pass the tests by 2014, and since few if any schools will be able to do that, all schools will therefore be considered failing by that standard. There is thus no reason to participate in erroneous and misapplied self-labeling.

4. It is neither a valid nor reliable nor equitable assessment. We will use classroom based assessments to guide our next instructional steps.

5. Cut scores of the SBAC reflect poor assessment strategy and will produce invalid and unreliable outcomes.

6. Students made the point: “Why waste time taking a test that is meaningless and that most of us will fail?”

7. The SBAC will tie up computer lab time for weeks.

8. The SBAC will take up time students need to work on classroom curriculum.

As a representative of Nathan Hale stated:

This is an important step. Nathan Hale High School is asserting its commitment to valid, reliable, equitable assessment. This decision is the result of community and parent meetings, careful study of research literature, knowledge of our students’ needs, commitment to excellence in their education, and adherence to the values and ideas of best-practice instruction.


Then a nastygram was sent out by Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Nyland threatening teachers with a loss of their teaching licenses if they refused to give the test. See Superintendent Nyland, threatening teachers isn’t a growth mindset.

Well, that backfired. The students and parents then decided to opt out of the SBAC completely.

Kudos to the Nathan Hale community.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Opt Out Meetings and Book Readings in Seattle

people talking2

The Seattle Opt Out Group will meet on February 10th at the Beacon Hill Library at 6pm to hear from educator Rachel Eells.

Ms. Eells is a teacher at Garfield High School who is involved with a group of educators who traveled to New York to learn about how the New York Performance Standards Consortium implements and manages performance-based assessments for students.  This is a viable alternative to high stakes standardized testing.

As Monty Neill, Executive Director for FairTest, wrote in More Than a Score:“If the movement only rolls back the tests without winning better alternatives, proponents of testing will use the vacuum to reassert the primacy of standardized exams.  NCLB destroyed many promising assessment initiatives, but there are US and international examples, such as the New York Performance Standards Consortium.  Activists can use them to counter the false claim that standardized tests are the only way to let the public know about or improve school quality.  As the movement gains in strength, opportunities to overhaul assessment will open up.  The movement must be ready with well-developed options.”

Join us on Feb. 10 to begin to develop our options in Seattle, with Rachel informing our discussion.

Here is the Facebook page:

Other dates and events to note:

Jan. 26 (Mon.) Nathan Hale High School forum on testing at 7:00 pm.

A moving letter from Jill Hudson, Principal, here:

Jan. 28 (Wed.)  More Than a Score bookgroups, various locations:

Feb. 5 (Th.)  Parents and Friends of Tacoma Public Schools Opt-Out information night, 6pm, University of Puget Sound:

Feb. 10 (Tues.)  Seattle Opt Out Group meeting, Beacon Hill Library, 6pm, discussion about the NY Performance Standards Consortium

Feb. 16 (Mon.)  Washington BATS (BadAssTeachers) Rally in Olympia.

Feb. 25 (Wed.) Common Core State Standards presentation with educator J. Wilson, Northgate Library, 6pm:

For further information, you can send an email to


Don’t like Common Core, the over-testing of your children, the big money takeover of our schools? You are not alone: Facebook connections



AZ Parents & Teachers Against CCS and TESTS


Badass Teachers Association


Children are more than test scores




Florida Stop Common Core Groups


Long Island Opt-out Info


Los Angeles Questions Common Core


Network for Public Education


NYS Refuse the Tests


Opt Out of State Standardized Tests – Florida


Opt Out of State Standardized Tests – New York


Opt-Out Orlando


Parents Across America


Parents and Educators Against the Common Core Standards


Parents and Kids Against Standardized Testing


Parents and Teachers Against the Common Core


Principals with Principles


Schools Against the Neoliberal Rule…A Reader


Special Ed Advocates to Stop Common Core


Stop the TN Testing Madness


Teachers for Social Justice


Teachers Letters to Obama


Truth in American Education


Teachers Letters to Obama


UnCOMMONly Good Education


United Opt Out


Washington State Against Common Core Standards


Wear Red For Public Ed



The Opt Out Update with a Parent “Get Tough Guide”

Drawing by Fred Klonsky, author of the Fred Klonsky blog.
Drawing by Fred Klonsky, author of the Fred Klonsky blog.

Excerpt from the Chicago Teachers Union position paper:

 Debunking the Myths of Standardized Testing.

Corporate reform groups such as Advance Illinois and Stand for Children claim teachers are the main factor in  student  academic achievement. Recent research shows otherwise: as much  as  90%  of variation in  student  growth  is explained  by factors outside the control of teachers. Children who do not  have  access  to  health  care,  who  are  hungry, who  are exhausted  from  nighttime  symptoms  of asthma,  who  are  fearful  of  violence  in  their communities,  who  do  not  have  books  or  access  to other  informal  learning  at  home,  whose  parents have  limited  education,  whose  families  are  constantly  stressed  by economic  problems,  and who  do  not  go  to  libraries  and  museums  in  their free time are at an academic disadvantage.  

These factors are highly related not only to testing outcomes, academic achievement, future education and  socioeconomic  success,  but  also  to  the  racial, ethnic  and  class  origins  of individuals. The inequitable  history  of  American  society,  politics, institutions  and economic  relations  are  at  the  root of  these  relations.  As  a  result,  when  academic outcomes  are averaged  across  subgroups  such  as race and class, glaring gaps appear.  

Corporate reformers use the academic achievement gap to justify increasing the frequency and consequences of high‐stakes testing. These policies have nothing to do with addressing the root causes of how such gaps arise and persist in society, nor do they improve student learning. In fact, these policies typically worsen  academic  outcomes  for  students impacted by them. 

A Seattle Public School parent  told me that her student missed four recesses out of five in one week because the child, a 2nd grader, had to continue doing her Common Core Standards lesson in preparation for a corresponding standardized test. That amount of homework is not suited for such a young child. The reason that the 2nd grader had to stay in class while others played was because her fingers would get tired from all of the writing she was required to do so it took her a long time to complete her lessons.

This is what Bill Gates and his $300M investment in Common Core Standards with the related standardized tests have wrought upon the rest of us; mind numbing homework, 10 pages for a second grader to do in one night, as well as daily lesson plans that take all of the creativity out of teaching and do not provide room for responsiveness to the needs of the students, lost class time while students take days and weeks of standardized testing and a bill in the millions of dollars to buy the required tests, lesson plans, books, computers and technical upgrades needed for students to take the tests. The estimate for Seattle is $15M for the costs of all printed materials and training required but doesn’t include tech upgrades required or the costs of computers to implement the testing. For more on the cost for Washington State, see Cost Estimates for Implementing the Common Core State Standards in Washington State.

We won’t even go into the lack of student privacy involved in tracking students from Pre-K through high school and beyond demanded by this program.

It’s no wonder there is now a teacher, parent and student revolt happening around the country. The resistance to the Common Core Standards and the testing related to it is so great that Mr. Gates, in front of a paid audience, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, tried to explain why teachers should back the Common Core. Amazing.

I’ve been receiving information on opting out activities around the country and there are more than I can post here.

If you want to stay up to date, there are several websites that I have noted at the bottom of this page that will provide you with additional information. Another way to stay informed is to create a Google Alert on the subject. I receive three to four opt-out actions described daily in the alert report.

To follow are a few articles I gathered in the last week.

In Maryland:

MD parent files suit over MSA opt out and sets precedent for future assessments

Cindy Rose of Frederick County has taken the matter of MSA opting out to court by filing an emergency motion for injunctive relief. She is asking the court to force Frederick County Public Schools to allow her child to remain in her classes and not be administered the test.

Her daughter is in sixth grade and has a recognized anxiety disorder, and having to take six hours of high-pressure assessments in a week’s time on material that is not even being taught in the schools this year would cause her unnecessary and avoidable stress. When Ms. Rose tried to work with her school to opt her child out of taking the test, the school refused, saying she would have to keep her out of school for the entire testing period of 12 days.

Even though, like many parents are doing, Ms. Rose could simply have her child refuse to take the test when it is administered, she said, “I’m not putting her in the middle of that, nor should I have to, especially this year when the MSA means nothing. It isn’t a valid measure of student achievement or teacher effectiveness.”

To read this article in full, go to

Also in Maryland, teachers dressed as clowns protested the Maryland State Assessment, calling it a joke.

In standoff with California over testing, U.S. Education Department blinks

The U.S. Department of Education is allowing California to bypass federal requirements by giving standardized tests in math and reading to millions of public school students this spring without publicly reporting results or using them to hold schools or teachers accountable.

The reprieve, good for only the testing season that begins in the state on March 18, ends a months-long standoff between California and the department over the state’s testing plans.

At one point, Education Secretary Arne Duncan had threatened to withhold at least $3.5 billion in annual federal funding — money that California uses to educate poor and disabled children.

But in a letter sent to California officials Friday, Assistant Education Secretary Deborah Delisle wrote that her department has approved the state’s plan. “I hope you find this flexibility helpful,” she wrote.

She has issued similar approvals in recent months to Montana, Idaho and South Dakota.

To read this article in full, go to the Washington Post

opt out guinea pig

In Massachusetts:

Worcester Public Schools students can opt out of the PARCC pilot test

WORCESTER — Parents who do not want their children to be part of the field testing for the new PARCC standardized test now have the option to opt out of the process.

Thursday night, the Worcester School Committee decided to allow parents of Worcester Public Schools students selected to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) pilot test to say that they want their children to participate in regular classroom instruction or other education-based activities during that time.

The decision came after two parents asked members to send a letter to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education similar to one sent by the Norfolk Public School system on Feb. 11, saying that parents should decide whether their children take part in a “test of a test.”

“I didn’t sign her up to be a lab rat. I’m sending her to the public schools to be taught, and testing is not teaching,” parent Ed Moynihan said earlier Thursday. “I want the school committee to affirm my rights as a parent to opt out on testing.”

To read this in full, go to MASS LIVE

opt out2

In Pennsylvania:

Parents join forces to opt kids out of standardized tests

Last year, Manheim Township mom Renee Heller was one of 15 parents in Lancaster County to opt her children out of PSSAs, the state-mandated tests for elementary and middle schools. This year, if her efforts with a new group are successful, she’ll be one of dozens.

Lancaster County Opt Out held its first public event last month and administrators at four local school districts have already reported increased numbers of parents opting their kids out of the upcoming PSSAs. Some say that trend could wind up hurting schools.

It all started with a movie screening. “Standardized,” a documentary about standardized tests and public schools, played at Zoetropolis theater in Lancaster in January. The discussion afterward turned to the little-known provision of state education law that excuses students from state assessments if parents object to them for religious reasons.

A small but growing number of local parents, like Heller, have used that exemption as a vehicle to express frustration with standardized tests in recent years.

“(At the screening) someone said, is there a Lancaster County group? So we chatted and decided that it needed to be done,” said Heller.

Heller and Leslie Gates, a Millersville University art education professor, joined forces to form Lancaster County Opt Out. Similar groups are cropping up throughout the country, according to published reports.

To read more, go to Lancaster Online.

Opting out of standardized testing in NC


This spring, across the nation, tens of thousands of families will say “enough” to the high-stakes, standardized testing that has done such great damage to American public schools in recent years.

Ours will be among them.

We have informed the principals at our sons’ schools that our boys will not participate in this year’s End of Grade tests and North Carolina Final Exams.

Study after study has detailed the multifaceted damage caused by high-stakes testing, from the narrowing of school curricula to the elimination of time for art and music to the spread of the mind-numbing strategy of teaching to the test.

These studies include strong evidence that the greatest harm has come to special education students and low-income children of color. They make it clear that out-of-control testing has done nothing to improve national achievement levels. Still, the tests keep multiplying, and the stakes keep rising.

No one wins here but the testing companies. Parents need to take a stronger stand.

To read this Op-Ed in full, go to the News Observer.


And now:

The Get Tough Guide

by Ceresta Smith, Co-Founder of United Opt Out

During the process of opting your child out of testing, you will probably meet with the following comments by administrators and district officials.

It is important that you ask that any of the following statements be put in writing on stationery with the school or the district’s letterhead.

I have listed the comments with the responses you may need to use to complete the process of opting your child out of standardized testing:

Your child has to stay home during the testing window.

I am a taxpayer, and you do not have the authority to bar my child from accessing this public good of which I contribute in the form of tax payment. I will call the police if you attempt to bar my child from entering the building.

Your child has to report to the test site.

Having my child report to the test site only to sit and stare into space for hours at a time is tantamount to solitary confinement. If you attempt to force my child to do so, I will report you to the child abuse authorities. If anyone places their hands on my child after he/she has respectfully declined to report to a test site, he/she has been instructed to call the police and file charges.

Your child will not graduate w/o the test.

As the parent, I have legal rights to the final say when it comes to my child’s education. My preference is the use of the PLAN or ACT test to prove my child’s proficiency in math and reading, as they are voluntary and allow me to receive a copy of my child’s actual test for review.

Your child will be retained.

The goal here is to demonstrate proficiency, and as a parent I have the legal right to request the use of a portfolio or alternative assessment to demonstrate my child’s ability. Upon review, together we will decide if that is necessary.

Your child will be placed in remedial classes.

The goal here is to demonstrate proficiency, and as a parent I have the legal right to request the use of a portfolio or alternative assessment to demonstrate, my child’s ability. I will be the one to decide along with your expertise if remediation is necessary.

We cannot supply alternative activities for your child during testing.

It is my child’s right as a public school student to receive instruction daily, and if you do not do so, I will file a discrimination report with the district and consult an attorney.

You will cause the school to be deemed failing, and it will be under sanction or closed down.

To date no school has been closed for parents opting their children out of testing; they have been closed for parents opting their children in.

For a parent flyer on opting out, go to United Opt Out.

I will leave you with this radio program about parents opting out in New York:

As State Assessments Approach, Testing Resistance Grows

For more information on opting out and the movement, go to:

United Opt Out


Resist the Test

Opt out postcard