An Opt Out Letter That Speaks to All Parents

My thanks to a parent who agreed to share her heart- wrenching and powerful opt out letter on this blog. It is our hope that this letter will resonate with other parents and give others the strength and the courage to fight to take back our public education system for our children. The child abuse, being launched on children by the new Common Core and high stakes testing regime will only end when we say it does.

The names of the parents. child, administrator, and school have been removed to protect the privacy rights of the family.

Here’s her letter:

September 24, 2013

Dear Administrator XYZ:

I write to you with a heavy heart.  I know the funding for our schools is based on standardized testing, a political injustice I find nauseating.  I know that my son’s wonderful teachers are evaluated based on his performance on these tests: a ludicrous measure, not based on any reliable scholarship or research regarding the abilities of educators.  I know you didn’t make the rules, and I do not want to make your professional life difficult.  But tonight, I declare, enough.  Enough.

My child was sobbing this evening, refusing to read a short sheet his teacher sent home, because, as he haltingly told me,  he had taken the NWEA “practice test” today and could not understand the “40 questions” after reading. I did not know how to comfort him. He asked me if there was any way he could stay home and not take any more tests.  My son has drunk the koolaid that these tests “measure his brain,” and he knows he doesn’t understand them, so he thinks his brain is not big enough.  My heart is broken.

Enough.  My son will not be taking any more of the so-called “Common Core” focused tests designed to quantify his educational progress.  These tests do not, and never will, measure his brain, his talent, the quality of his education, or his potential.  I will no longer allow these instruments to impose on my son the feeling that he is “below grade,” “stupid,” and not learning.  I will no longer tolerate the anxiety these ridiculous legislatively-imposed measures have caused my son.  He has never, to my knowledge, been told the results of his testing, but he feels it in the environment of his school—his cherished school—the place he has come to love and a place he felt safe and loved.  Enough.

We are opting out.  My child will not be participating in state standardized testing during the current school year. I ask that no record of this testing be part of my child’s permanent file, as I do not wish my child to participate in standardized achievement testing for promotion, graduation, or school/state report cards.  Enough.

Contrary to the idea that these tests measure my son’s brain, this is what I know.  Forced, high stakes testing:

  • Is not scientifically-based and fails to follow the U.S. Government’s own data on learning
  • Fosters test driven education that is not meeting the individual/intellectual needs of students
  • Presents a racial and economic bias detrimental to second language students, impoverished students, and students of color (and school XYZ has a busloads of all of these groups!)
  • Violates fiscal fairness in funding schools
  • Elevates corporate interests above democracy-based public concerns
  • Fosters coercion over cooperation with regards to federal funding for public education
  • Promotes a culture of lying, cheating, shaming and exploitation within the school community
  • Has used the achievement gap to foster a “de facto” segregation that has resulted in separate and unequal education for minorities
  • Fails to recognize that students with identified learning differences and developmental disabilities are acutely aware of these differences, and testing simply highlights them, singling out students of differing abilities and talents for less than “average” performance

Federal law provides each parent the right to refuse standardized testing when such testing violates beliefs.  My beliefs are firmly rooted in a moral code that embraces equity and fairness; I believe such testing is not in the best interests of my child. I believe that not everything that can be measured matters, and that everything that matters can’t always be measured.  I believe this testing fosters competition instead of cooperation, contributes to separate and unequal education for minorities (both racial and developmental), and ignores our child’s intellectual, creative, and problem-solving abilities.  Both the NWEA and the MEAP present a fictitious picture of the gifts imparted by our child’s individual and cherished teachers: perhaps the greatest injustice of all delivered by the swallowed-whole idiocy of standardized testing.  If the AAPS does not see these truths, I do, and I opt out for my son.

Our state is required to provide my child with an education in a least restrictive environment that does not force us to go against our core beliefs. Our son should proceed to learn and develop at an individual pace following education standards that are imparted under the guidance of education professionals, not market-based political ideologues.  Students – who mature at vastly different paces – should not ever be measured by a mass-produced blunt instrument.  I will no longer allow our son to be a part of this mythological construct of modern education.

Administrator XYZ, we love you, we love our school and all it has given our child. Our son will be able to complete his elementary education at this wonderful school.  I call on you to speak against this hurtful and unscientific measurement of education.  If you had been here tonight, in my home, and seen my son sobbing and refusing to read because he thought he would fail, I believe you, too, would join me in opposing this politically-imposed (and profit-centered) oppression of my sweet son.

Please consider this my formal request for alternative, appropriate learning activities during the testing window, as our child opts out of standardized testing.  I love him too much to allow this regular assault on his psyche.



Concerned parent


11 thoughts on “An Opt Out Letter That Speaks to All Parents

  1. Pingback: Education Roundtable: An Opt Out Letter That Speaks to All Parents | Kings Park Advocates for Education

  2. Pingback: An Opt Out Letter That Speaks to All Parents | Jerz's Literacy Weblog

  3. Pingback: On Standardized Testing | thelittledabbler

  4. I do understand your dilemma. I believe it is the teacher that should be tested for these tests. they are supposed to go over the material that will be presented on these tests, making sure the children “know” how to interpret the questions. Also, if your son has a problem understanding the questions on these tests he probably qualifies for what is called and IEP.
    This will give him extra time to complete the tests, and also he would be given individual attention before these tests to make sure he understands everything before he took them. I don’t know if he would be allowed to retake that part of the test in a different form if it is clearly a matter of not understanding how to answer the questions
    Although these tests do not measure the “brain” they are measuring the teacher’s ability to transfer knowledge to his/her students more than it is measuring the student’s performances. If reading is something he is having trouble comprehending, you could just use this tool as a way to explain to your son that this is not a punishment. It is an aid to help him to understand his strong AND weak points so he can be helped to achieve the most he can achieve in the future.
    I do agree that these tests have bad affects on everyone though. My sons have very good test scores, but the teachers then make the assumption that they are able to do work that exceeds their limitations developmentally and with extra work and advanced placement classes that they really have trouble with. They their grades suffer because too much is being EXPECTED by them. I did good on those standardized tests, but it took me several hours to do my homework where others were done in one. Being good at one thing means we are weaker in other areas. Mine was that I procrastinate. Kind of hard to procrastinate on a test, I would think. 😦

    I do, however, believe in the “Opt out”. I do not think it would be a good idea for him wanting to get into a good school. Also, even the colleges will have placement tests so they can decide which classes to put him in to get the fullest benefit of his education.

    • I must protest. These tests measure nothing but the corporate crazies ability to create something that will line their pockets. They don’t measure teachers or their abilities just as they do not measure the children. Have you read the questions. I have a Master’s Degree and often have to re-read them several times to correctly address the question. How in the world is that okay for an elementary student?????????

    • I could not disagree with you more. Show me the research that says these tests in any way reflect a teachers ability to teach. At all stages in life, learning is based on readiness to learn and a host of other factors. What about the child who had no breakfast that morning? How about the one whose mother is dying of cancer? Or the child whose parents had a big fight last night. You are going to judge a teacher (and base their wage) on these variables? I was a Dean’s List student and graduated Summa Cum Laude from college. I had the same feelings as that boy did when I was tested (albeit MUCH less often). I certainly did not need to be labeled as IEP. And is certainly possible in this country to obtain a good education at a “good” school without having to spend a million dollars on tuition. I often wonder what would happen if colleges had to use standardized testing on THEIR students?
      Nobody knows what a student knows better than his/her teacher. And what constitutes a “successful” member of society? Would it be any of the Ivy League bankers on Wall Street who crashed our economy, stole from the poor so the filthy rich could be even richer?
      If we as a nation are going to be successful in the future, the next generation is going to need ethics, a love of learning, innovation, and excellent communication skills. What you know will not be half as important as how you find an answer.
      The Common Core is a farce and I think we will be looked upon as an incredibly stupid parental generation if we allow the incompetent polititians in Washington to allow corporate interests to dictate this garbage to the masses and damage our childen and their futures.

  5. The letter was superb and stated every point with accuracy and direct understanding of why these tests are detrimental. I would love to see this letter read or reprinted in magazines, on TV, in the Press-letters to the editors, in newsletters of organizations both school related or community based. The hype is to make people believe the tests are for the benefit of the child and their future. How? Open discussion with balance and respectable rebuttal on both sides should be going on in every PTA, Home School Organization, every support group for learning disabled students, etc. Change requires action and as the letter implies the parents should be pushing this out into the light for the sake of their children and Truth.

  6. To those who say use the IEP. IEP is a label that follows a child for their whole life. It is required on their High school and college transcripts which can then be seen by employers. It is absolutely ridiculous that for a student to receive any help they must be labeled for life. These are children. Currently, being forced to do more and more earlier and earlier. Doctors say it is not healthy and psychologically damaging. Parents say it is harmful, Teachers are begging for something better.. And those who have been drinking the Koolaid and not sitting in schools working with children have bought into the Idea that it is better to spend millions of dollars on testing, rather than spend those same dollars on extra teachers and support staff. A child should not require a label to get educational help in school. THe LABEL STUDENT should be enough. There very well may be or may not be a medical reason a student is struggling. But far too often this is an excuse that is used to get more dollars into underfunded schools and so that that child’s poorer score will be adjusted. How shameful!! That teachers should be forced to label and quantify a child’s slowness rather than just be given the time and tools to help the child succeed. Often children who have above average intelligence score poorly on these types of test. So we as a testing nation are telling children they are not good enough because we continue to raise the standards to just above their reach. If you read the definition of emotional abuse you will find that this is it. It is cruel, and heart wrenching to spend hours working at grammar aged schools and see that for all the efforts of both teachers and parents these children do not enjoy the same quality environment that we had 30 years ago.

  7. Pingback: On Standardized Testing |

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