Tips for Organizing at Your School
Feel alone at your school? See if you can find one or two other families who share your opposition to the tests and support each other. Test refusal begins at most schools with only one or two students refusing the tests but that number can grow with a little patience and persistence.
Organize among the friendly first. Hold a small meeting for friends or acquaintances to learn more. (If you can’t arrange something at school it can be in someone’s apartment, a library, a bar, or coffee shop — no need for a big production!) Contact us if you need someone to speak.
If you are an elementary school parent, start talking about the issue on playgrounds or at pickup/dropoff. All school communities are different, so try to identify the main concerns with opt out at your school. At first, you might want to just listen and note their concerns. If you are later able to hold a testing forum at your school, these concerns will be import to identify and address.
Figure out: What’s the best way to communicate with others at your school? Playground conversations? Do you have class liaisons you can go through? Parent email lists? Are your PTA officers or SLT (School Leadership Team) members supportive or is it better to work around them? Do you know any teachers or administrators who would be supportive?
Start as early as possible. Many parents we’ve heard from say they would have opted out but didn’t learn about it in time.
Be mindful and open: there are many reasons parents choose to opt out. For some, it will be about their own child’s experience with high-stakes testing. For others, it will be connected to concerns about school closures, privatization, charter schools, racial and economic equity, how and what our children are taught, or standardized testing in general.
Focus on your goal: educating parents about the power of opt out to improve public education. We have tried letter writing, petitions, face-to-face meetings but opt out has been the most effective tool for applying pressure to education policy makers and getting media attention to these issues.
Emphasize the main problems with high-stakes testing: These tests are a “bad scale,” promoted by politicians and business leaders, with little input from teachers and principals. (Most educators who support testing are doing so because their supervisors pressure them to.) They disproportionately harm schools serving English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and high-need populations.
Among the biggest factors preventing parents from opting out in New York City is the mistaken perception that lack of test scores will negatively affect middle and high school admissions. Share our middle and high school admissions surveys with fellow parents. If schools in your district are not on the survey, call them to find out their admissions policies for students without test scores (and then contact us so we can add them to the survey). By law, every school should have a workaround for students who refuse the tests.
Tread carefully when talking about test anxiety. Focusing too much on the anxiety tests can create feeds a stereotype of opt out as a movement driven by overprotective parents who coddle their children and prevent them from facing unpleasant challenges. When the issue comes up, by all means give voice to parents’ concerns for their children. But the bottom line is we boycott the tests not because they are too hard or make some children cry, but because they are wrong.