Mixed Messages About Refusing Assessments

This is a major week for the NH Department of Education (NH DOE) and school districts as the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) is rolled out across the state.

In anticipation of the testing period, a few districts issued policies regarding parents’ rights to opt out of, or refuse, the testing for their child. Manchester sent a letter home informing parents they could opt-out. The Nashua School Board implemented a policy that recognizes a parent’s refusal, but originally indicated that students would have to stay home in order to meet the SBA’s requirement to keep non-participating students out of the testing environment. Apparently they are now willing to work with parents to find an alternative arrangement for the child. Keene families report that they have a cooperative arrangement with their district.

However, that is not true for all districts. Some parents are being told that their children must participate if they are present at school on testing dates. This is problematic for many parents as they would have to either stay home from work or find alternative supervision for their child. Some districts have said that if a child is not at school on testing days, the child would be marked with an unexcused absence for each day. Given that the testing is over several days, they risk truancy charges. Superintendents have told parents that Manchester’s policy is “illegal.” Other districts have pressured students to participate in the assessment with full knowledge it is against the parent’s wishes.

Districts are trying to bully parents and students into compliance.

Some Ohio schools are punishing students who are not participating in the assessments.

As students around the country are walking out on the tests, at least one NH district is resorting to bribery to entice greater participation.

Manchester bribing students to take SBA March 17 2015

Parents can refuse the various assessments and the NH DOE knows it. They acknowledged that parents may refuse their child’s participation in the statewide assessments

NH Statewide Assessment State Approved Special Considerationa NH Alternate Assessment NECAP Science School Year 2014 2015

Also the addendum to a recent NH DOE technical advisory about statewide assessment participation and course material exemptions acknowledges a parent’s right to refuse tests for their child. Some NH parents are simply providing a copy of this document when superintendents and principals try to reject their refusal.

ADDENDUM – Added January 13, 2015
Although RSA 193-C-6 requires all public school students to participate in the statewide assessment (one assessment in English language arts, mathematics and science), there are no laws in the State of New Hampshire or rules at the New Hampshire Department of Education that would penalize a student for not participating in the statewide assessment. Additionally, the same is true if a parent determined that they would not allow their child to participate. However, the district will incur a lower participation rate, which is reported to the public.

New Hampshire parents have successfully used this template to assert their rights in hostile districts.

Additionally, this sample refusal letter for New York families can be amended.

Remember, parents are the final authority, not the state. Parents do not need to ask permission to direct their child’s education. And our children are more than a test score.

For more information about opting out of statewide assessments, refer to Parents Can Refuse.