Spring means more than just a fine dusting of pollen everywhere you look: For elementary and secondary students, it's standardized testing time. And for a growing group of frustrated parents, it's opt-out season.
About 14,000 students in New York state decided not to take their mandatory language arts exams this week in part because they were aligned with Common Core, a national set of education standards that have drawn political and parental ire since they were adopted by states in 2010, Politico's Capital New York reported Wednesday. It's at least the second year of widespread coordinated protests against the standards, which critics have argued were badly implemented and are too uniform, pointing to a general dissatisfaction with mandatory testing and classroom intervention.
“It’s a free country,” mom Terri-Anne Davis told the Wall Street Journal. “People should enjoy their civil liberties, which include determining what’s best for their child.”
New York had the most opt-outs of any state last year, with more than 240,000 third through eighth grade students skipping tests, according to FairTest. It was followed by high numbers in New Jersey, Colorado, Washington, Illinois, California and Oregon.
Hard numbers for this year's exams aren't expected until summer, though some counties were already reporting. In Mohawk Valley, N.Y., about 89 percent of students declined to take the test, while in Rochester, about one-third opted out, Politico reported.
"It’s a meaningless test,” dad Jansen Barron told the Journal News. “As a parent, I feel that the test takes my son away from more appropriate learning. It does nothing for him.”
— Cheryl Smith (@Cheryl_Smith1) April 1, 2016
Students are technically allowed to opt out, but the federal Education Department has threatened to decrease funding for states and schools that don't test 95 percent of their kids. In a December letter, the department reminded schools of this legal obligation.
"A high-quality, annual statewide assessment system that includes all students is essential to provide local leaders, educators and parents with the information they need to identify the resources and supports that are necessary to help every student succeed in school and in a career," officials wrote. "Such a system also highlights the need for continued work toward equity and closing achievement gaps among subgroups of historically underserved students by holding all students to the same high expectations."
New York's math exams were set for next week. Activists in Texas have also made headlines recently as they prepared to opt out their kids, according to Houston Public Media.