Schools Are Panicking over Testing Opt-Outs

When it comes to the welfare of their kids, parents can be pretty formidable. As it becomes increasingly clear in school districts across America that the standardized tests aligned with Common Core standards are making education worse, more parents are choosing to just say no.

Most states have provisions to allow parents to opt out of standardized tests if they have a reasonable objection, but as increasing numbers of people are taking advantage of this option, the schools are starting to get a bit jumpy. In Wayne County, West Virginia, for example, some students are feeling pressure to conform or be cast out.

West Virginia has two basic standardized tests, the older assessment known as the Westest, and the newer Smarter Balanced assessments that are being phased in as part of Common Core. After a wave of opt-out requests in Wayne County, a special assembly was called to single out the students who requested to opt out, with conduct that has been described as “bullying.”

The affected students told their story on the Tom Roten radio show, and said that the school tried to intimidate them into taking the tests, even though they are not legally required to. The obvious question is, why do schools care so much?

The answer can be found in audio of a school board meeting held on December 19, 2013 (relevant audio begins at 1:26:32 in the video.) The State Superintendent of Education was asked point blank about opting out of standardized test, and said quite clearly that there was no penalty for students who wished to opt out. In fact, he said it multiple times. This should settle any questions about whether parents are allowed to opt out, but what comes next reveals why schools are so eager to conceal this fact. Schools have participation quotas for their tests, meaning that a certain percentage of students have to take them, or else the school itself faces a penalty, typically in the form of funding.

So schools are panicking that they may lose money and therefore are trying to bully students into taking endless tests that don’t actually educate people. It’s easy to blame school administrators for this, but the root of the problem is the tests themselves, along with the incentives and quotas handed down from the federal government. This further underscores the urgent need to sever the link between the federal incentives and education funding. and restore autonomy to state and local school systems.