Opting Out Puts Students at Risk, and Does Nothing to Improve Student Assessments

Although opt-out efforts have been concentrated among white, suburban populations, the “debate is becoming murkier,” the New York Times reports. “While there is little evidence thus far of a major groundswell of nonwhite, urban students opting out of testing, the battle lines are clearly shifting.”

“There are places where students just feel like it’s a jail,” says José Luis Vilson, a New York middle-school teacher. “Testing often exacerbates that, to the point that it doesn’t feel like you’re going to school to learn—you’re just going to take a test.”

While many families have legitimate concerns about the volume of tests their children face, opting out of state assessments does not address those. In fact, it puts students at risk by degrading the information parents and teachers have about how well their kids are being prepared for high levels of learning.

Across New York, a growing number of advocates are urging parents to “opt in” to high-quality assessments. Civil rights leaders, including Reverend Al Sharpton, call good tests a necessary tool to ensure minority and low-income students have access to a quality education. “When we are finally going in the right direction, why would we even consider going back?” Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, wrote last year.

“The new standards and aligned assessments are a necessary step toward eliminating the honesty gap and giving parents a more accurate picture of student performance,” former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson wrote on CNN last year. “That means our Latino youths will be more prepared for college and ready to reap the benefits of an advanced degree.”

In states across the country, rigorous education standards coupled with high-quality assessments are empowering schools to raise the bar for students. “In short, the Common Core consortium has achieved one of its key policy objectives: the raising of state proficiency standards throughout much of the United States,” a Harvard study notes.

As state begin to provide accurate information to parents and teachers, policymakers and families alike should resist calls to turn back on this important work.