New York State leads the country when it comes to test refusal, thanks to the grassroots organizing efforts of parents like Jeanette Deutermann and Johanna Garcia, featured in these videos. Their reasons for boycotting the tests, captured here, range from the personal to the systemic and echo the sentiments of hundreds of thousands of parents in cities, suburbs, and rural areas.
How to Refuse ("Opt Out" of) the State Tests
States are required by federal law to administer math and ELA (English Language Arts) tests to every public school student in 3rd-8th grade. However, it is your right as a parent to refuse these tests on behalf of your child.
Q: I have decided to opt my child out. What do I need to do?
Write a letter or email to your principal letting them know that you intend to “refuse” the tests on behalf of your child. You can write your own letter or use our sample letter. (If you choose to write your own letter, we recommend using the word “refuse” because technically there is no provision for “opting out.”) If you email, request that the principal acknowledge receipt of your email. We have heard that some NYC parents are being told they cannot print out a form letter like our sample letter. If this happens to you, ask to see where this rule appears in writing from from the NYC DOE or New York State Education Department. If you are shown something, please ask for a copy or take a picture and send it to us.)
Make arrangements with your child’s teacher and/or principal for what your child will do during the testing days. Most schools will have non-testing children read, write, or draw quietly either in their classroom or in a separate location like the library. Some will send children to help out in lower grades. If the school has large numbers of children opting out, the school day may proceed more or less normally, with the few children who are testing sent to a separate location. Bottom line: You do not have to keep your child home in order to refuse the tests.
Q: I was told that I am required to meet with the principal if I want to opt out. Is that true?
You are not required to meet with the principal or anyone else in order to opt out. As a parent, it is your right to refuse the tests on behalf of your child; you don’t need to justify your decision to anyone. The NYC Department of Education (NYCDOE) instructs principals to offer such meetings (possibly hoping that the principal can talk the parent out of refusal), but there is no law or regulation that requires parents to attend, and in fact this would be discriminatory. Send a polite excuse if you wish, but don’t go.
Q: If we refuse the tests, will my child have to take the make up?
No, make-up exams are for children who were absent during the testing period (and who were not intending to refuse the tests). If you have any concerns about whether the school will respect your right to opt out, make it clear that you are refusing the makeup tests as well.
Q: What if my principal tells me that I am not allowed to refuse the tests, pressures my child to take the test, or treats my child unfairly for refusing?
Many teachers and principals are supportive of students and parents who boycott the tests, but some are not. If you have difficulty, refer your principal to this NY State Education Department document, which, while mostly pro-test propaganda, makes clear that the state no longer questions a parent's right to opt out of state tests. It also clarifies that there are no consequences for children who refuse. If you still need help, call NY State Senator Robert Jackson at 212-544-0173, and contact us; we will try to assist you.
Q: What if I refuse permission for my child to take the test but the school makes my child take it anyway?
Parents should inform the principal of the situation as soon as possible. The school should enter into the computer that there was a “misadministration” of the test. The student should not be given a score, whether or not the answer sheet has already been scanned into the computer.
If you have made the decision to refuse and are being told your child must take the test (or that your refusal will hurt your child's school), or if your child is forced to take the test or treated inappropriately on a testing day, please contact us and call State Senator Robert Jackson’s office at 212-544-0173. You may also wish to notify your NY State Regent: