Many families have sought ways for their student(s) to avoid state-mandated standardized tests for any number of reasons. The state’s position is that North Carolina public schools are bound to fulfill federal testing requirements and thus cannot provide a waiver to any student for any reason for federally-mandated tests (the same limitation extends to teachers, principals, and district officials). As a result, there is no mechanism for students to “opt out” of testing- the only choice is to REFUSE testing.
If you want to watch the “Refusing To Be Standardized” replay and the links from the discussion, check out: https://nctestingreform.org/event-information/.
North Carolina Families for School Testing Reform (NCFaSTR) offers the following letter containing a series of suggested statements, without specific knowledge of their legal validity.
This sample letter provides the most common assurances requested by principals and district officials, based on the experience of NCFaSTR families who have refused testing.
The statements are intended to convey acknowledgement by the parent/guardian on the following points:
1) that the testing in question is mandated by the state, and is normally carried out by the district
2) that a teacher, school, or district does not have the authority to grant a testing waiver
3) that the child refusing the test will be assigned the lowest possible score for the test, which will appear on the child’s permanent record.
The specific language may vary depending on what your district administration requires.
Reason(s) for refusal
To our knowledge, there is no need to explain why the parent/guardian/student has decided to refuse standardized testing. Nonetheless, many people feel compelled to justify their actions and have chosen to provide additional information to convey their position or reasoning.
- student suffers undue stress and anxiety over testing
- the tests do not match student ability
- test scores have no bearing on the academic plan for the student taking the test
Clearly, for 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic is prompting families to consider test refusal for other reasons including:
- unacceptable risk for students who have chosen online learning for health reasons now being asked to test in-person
- student performance affected by schedule upheavals/poor attendance/low morale or emotional well-being
- exposure to the required course materials incomplete/insufficient prior to testing
- inability to standardize testing conditions means that valid interpretations cannot be made from the data.
The state of North Carolina has yet to provide any legal documentation that public school students and their families may NOT exercise their right to refuse standardized testing.
Although we are not aware of legal action regarding standardized testing in our state or elsewhere, there is some guidance regarding parents’ rights in education more generally as provided by case law. According to the U.S Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment, parental rights are broadly protected by Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” Furthermore, the Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own.” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (262 U.S. 399). In recognition of both the right and responsibility of parents to control their children’s education, the Court has stated, “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for the obligations the State can neither supply nor hinder.” (Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158).
To Whom It May Concern:
I am providing the following information to confirm my awareness of my child(ren)’s refusal to take the standardized assessment indicated below.
I understand that there is no formal process for opting out of state-mandated testing and the school system (state, local education agency (LEA), principal, or teacher) has no authority to grant a waiver of state-mandated testing.
I understand that the school district is required to administer state standardized tests to students within the district and to include the result as part of his/her permanent record.
- In the event of test refusal for elementary and middle school students, a beginning-of-grade (BOG) or end-of-grade (EOG) score will be recorded as the lowest possible score for the test. In grade 3, the EOG assessment score is typically used when making decisions about the Read to Achieve (RTA) summer reading camp. Thus, test refusal may preclude eligibility for RTA remediation program(s).
- In the event of test refusal for middle school and high school students, an end-of-course (EOC) exam for NC Math I, NC Math II, English II, biology, (or other course) will be recorded as the lowest possible score for the test. Because the EOC score counts toward the student’s overall class grade, test refusal will mean that the maximum possible class grade is less than 100%. The weighting of EOC scores toward class grades is determined by the individual LEA and typically varies between 15-25%. As an example, if the EOC weighting was set as 20% in a particular district, the maximum class grade a student could achieve would be 80% upon EOC exam refusal.
My signature indicates that I understand the information contained above and accept any possible consequence that may result from choosing to have my child(ren) refuse standardized testing.
Name of Student:
Parent/Guardian Signature and Date: