Opting Out Sends the Wrong Message

Diane Ravitch has a new blog post asking readers to help send a message to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos about decreasing funding for public education.  One of the tactics she thinks will resonate is having parents opt out their children from taking assessments that are part of the “federal efforts to micromanage your school.”

Opting out – especially as a means of protest – is incredibly misguided. High-quality tests provide parents and teachers with valuable data about student growth, which allows them to provide support when and where they need it most. Encouraging parents to opt their students out of statewide annual assessments is detrimental to their education.

Opt-out efforts undermine the integrity and value of good exams, and they do little to improve testing policies. They put students at a disadvantage – and not just children of families that opt out, but all children.

Families strongly support high-quality assessments. Nearly four out of five parents favor annual assessments, and 73 percent support assessments that are comparable among states and school districts, according to a national Education Next survey.

Ravitch also sends the wrong message on assessments by trying to frame opting out as a move to buoy local control.  By working together, education advocates and state school officials can find ways to improve testing policies and ensure parents and students have the support and resources when it comes to assessments.

For example, the Center for American Progress, with the support of groups like High Achievement New York, has created tools to help empower parents to work alongside their schools to improve the quality of tests. The “Testing Bill of Rights,” for example, offers solutions towards better, fairer and fewer assessments. Learning Heroes’ “Readiness Roadmap” identifies resources to help families understand what their kids are learning and how they can support them.

Having parents opt their children out of these critical assessments sends the wrong message.   It devalues the importance of the assessments and robs parents and students of vital information about their academic process. Advocating for any step that takes away from important work being done all year long by the schools and teachers preparing each student to be college and career ready is the wrong move.