No Fear Of Federal Financial Impact For Your School If You Boycott Standardized Tests

A controversial December 2015 memo from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) is the latest in a series of hollow threats suggesting that states, districts and schools could lose federal financial aid if parents, students or teachers boycott standardized tests. The memo cites several possible penalties for states with high opt-out rates, including withholding some federal funds that help pay for testing. But none of the funding sanctions would affect local schools.

In fact, the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) specifically authorizes states to allow parents to opt their children out of exams. ESSA does require 95% of students to be tested — but individual states have the power to decide what actions to take if too few students take an exam.

Even under the old, more punitive No Child Left Behind law, the feds took no action in response to high numbers of test refusals. When last spring’s successful opt out campaign left few New York State school districts with 95% participation, DOE acknowledged it had no plans to penalize districts or schools by withholding funds.

FairTest is not aware of a single state, school or district anywhere in the U.S. that the federal government penalized for failing to test enough of its students. To the contrary, six states (California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Oregon) have laws specifically allowing parents to opt their children out. None has ever been sanctioned. Last year, DOE continued to do nothing when Oregon made it even easier for students to opt out.

Therefore, parents and educators should not fear that the federal government will financially penalize their schools if many students boycott standardized tests.

At the same time, the testing reform movement must be prepared to counter state proposals to punish districts or schools for low test participation. Already Delaware has threatened to drop a school’s rating if too many students opt out. On the other hand, Louisiana put a one-year moratorium on any consequences for schools with high test refusal rates. Local activists should push more states to make it clear that parents may opt their children out without penalties

As always, the best response to government threats to the test resistance movement is to build even bigger, stronger opt-out campaigns and focus their clout on policy makers.

Memo from Fair Test, National Center for Fair & Open Testing for more information.

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1 Comment

  1. Common Core claims to prepare kids for college and career yet was never piloted anywhere so these are just promises to parents and tax payers. Common Core Testing also hasn’t been piloted anywhere either prior to rolling both out together.

    Common Core claims to increase a student’s critical thinking. Where was the critical thinking in deciding to roll out standards and its testing simultaneously?

    There were several states with higher quality standards prior to the financial inducement to accept Common Core in 46 states during our Great Recession.

    There are simpler solutions to assessing what kids know that don’t involve Billions of taxpayer dollars. Odd that critical thinking isn’t applied here either.

    800 colleges and universities no longer use SAT/ACT in selecting students for admission as even those long standing tests don’t adequately predict success in college.

    Testing is for testing companies to make money. Testing is also for curriculum peddlers to sell “better” books.

    I’ve never met a teacher who needed a standardized test to know how to serve a student. Teachers know what kids need. A one size fits all checklist of standards and test prep are taking the value of education out of the equation.

    California is spending $3.5 Billion on the Common Core system. CA allows Parental Choice to opt out of testing with no negative consequences.

    Independent analysis of CA’s pre Common Core standards show they were of higher quality than Common Core.

    Critical thinking says Common Core isn’t about the Student–it’s about Profit/Control.

    Let Teachers Teach and meet the kids where they are. Prior to the Dept of Ed, this is how school functioned and we were the envy of the world.

    More layers and masters create profit and control. Taxpayers are just told to accept this all without question.

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