State Testing and Parent/Student Opt Out

With the grade 3-8 ELA and math tests scheduled for administration next week, we are receiving inquiries as to school requirements and options in connection with students “opting out.” This week, SAANYS met with Commissioner John King and Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz – and we included this issue in our agenda.

Encouragement to Take the Test

In introducing the discussion item, we reiterated our position that SAANYS does not endorse students opting out of the state tests. SAANYS continues to consistently and loudly assert that such testing results should NOT be used for high stakes purposes for students, teachers, and principals for a period of at least two years. However, SED officials referred to a January 2013 field memorandum issued by Steven Katz stating that there is neither a statutory nor regulatory provision/procedure that recognizes or allows for opting out. The Katz memorandum may be accessed at by clicking here.  Subsequent to our meeting, SED issued a Fact Sheet – Common Core and Assessments, available by clicking here.

School Responsibilities When Students Opt Out

It is clear that some students will opt out of the upcoming state tests. SAANYS has heard of a “sit and stare” requirement that some have attributed to the State Education Department, but we were informed that this is not the case. In the end, SED leadership agreed that what school districts should do when students opt out of state testing is a matter of local policy. There is no “requirement” that students who opt out remain in the testing room with the other students who are taking the test. It is SAANYS’ position that such a procedure may be distracting to test-takers, and some may regard such a requirement to be uncomfortable for the students opting out. Based on local policy, students who opt out “may” be sent to an alternative location, or “may” remain in the test location with permission to read, or “may” be otherwise assigned. The one caveat the SED leaders provided is that the school district policy regarding students who opt out should not serve as an enticement to do so. For example, students should not be sent to the gymnasium to play.

After Finishing the Test

We are also taking this opportunity to draw to your attention that, as stated on page two of the SED fact sheet document, students who complete their test early, before the allotted time expires, should check their work. A student who finishes a test early “may” be permitted to read silently. If all students complete the test earlier than the allotted time, the proctor may end the test session.

We hope that you will find this information helpful. We will continue to keep you updated and – we wish you and your students all the best for a successful test administration…Jim Viola

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