Parents can refuse to have their child participate in the upcoming statewide assessments. Know your rights and exercise them.
For years the NH Department of Education recognized this right as shown on their “approved special considerations” document for the school year 2009-2010.
In the “NH Statewide Assessment State Approved Special Considerations, NH ALPs, School Year 2013-2014” document issued by the NH Department of Education, they state,
“State assessment policies place a great deal of responsibility on districts to include all students. Districts must juggle state requirements, student needs, and parents’ wishes. Despite a district’s best efforts, situations will arise that prohibit the inclusion of every student. Extended absence, family vacations, significant medical and emotional issues, and parent refusals are but a few of the issues that are not entirely within the district’s control. Students who do not participate are reported in two different ways on assessment reports: did not participate for state approved reasons and did not participate for other reasons. The distinction is particularly important in reading and mathematics accountability reporting since the second case negatively affects reported participation rates, while the first does not.”
The NH DOE now claims that RSA 193-C mandates all students to participate in the statewide assessments at the grade levels they are administered. It is clear that districts are required to administer the assessments, but state statute cannot trump federal law and rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States. Will it take a lawsuit with the ACLU to finally respect parental rights in NH?
The following is a letter written by Melissa Harrison, a mom and teacher in the Keene area, who is successfully refusing her son’s participation in various assessments.
“Parents Need to Know Their Rights” by Melissa Harrison
Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 12:00pm
I wish to address the issue of public school standardized testing in the state, specifically in School Administrative Unit 29, and more specifically with respect to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I wish to inform parents of their rights as the district has failed to do so.
While some standardized testing has already taken place, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is scheduled to be administered in March. The test is of questionable validity and reliability and is a psychometric assessment, which is measuring psychological attributed of children — something that, were a licensed psychologist giving, he or she would require prior approval and consent of parents to give. The state and the district thus far have been careful in their wording regarding the assessment and have also conveniently left out the most important point: Parents have every right to refuse their child’s participating in this testing.
To read more of this Letter to the Editor, go to http://www.sentinelsource.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/parents-need-to-know-their-rights-by-melissa-harrison/article_7a63f7a0-9c27-5dc5-a2a3-0b231bb509c8.html
Below are two sample opt-out letters. The key word is “refuse.” Send one to the school principal, one to the SAU superintendent, and one to the child’s teacher.
Sample Letter #1:
from the Say No To Common Core Facebook page, posted 12/7/14
Dear Principal _______________:
We are writing today to formally inform you and the _____________ District, of our decision to REFUSE to allow our child, __________, to participate in any standardized assessments imposed on children across the state for the 2014-2015 school year. Our refusal should in no way reflect on the teachers, administration, or school board. These test are abusing our children mentally and indoctrinating our children to be anti-American and Anti-parents. Common Core is harming our children mentally, by lowering their sense of self and by breaking our children’s spirit.
Our child will not participate in any assessments other than those solely used for the individual classroom teachers (diagnostic) and those that will be used to calculate _____________ report card grades.
We REFUSE to allow any data to be collected in any way from our child, __________, without our permission. Any assessment, besides final exams, whose data is used to determine school ranking, teacher effectiveness, state or federal longitudinal studies or any other purpose other than for the individual classroom teacher’s own use to improve his or her instruction, may not be presented to our child. Therefore, our son, __________ will not participate in the following:
-Any questionnaires given by the school or any other while in school. All questionnaires need to be approved by me, the parent.
-Any State Assessment
-Any benchmark exams / pre–assessments connected to “Student Learning Objectives”
-Any surveys, or “field tests” given by corporate or government entities or testing companies
-Any exam used to formulate an evaluation or score for ______’s teachers or school, other than the final exams for each subject area.
We believe in and trust our highly qualified and dedicated teachers and administrators. We believe in the high quality of teaching and learning that occurs at _________________. We hope our efforts will be understood within the context in which they are intended: to support the quality of instruction promoted by __________________ and to advocate for what is best for all children, approved by us, the parents.
We anticipate that our child, __________, will be treated fairly during assessment periods, as this was not his decision, but ours, as his/her parents. Since the benchmark assessments will be taking place early in the school year, please inform us as to the plan for __________ during the time when the assessments will take place. We do apologize in advance for the inconvenience to the administration, the faculty, and staff.
Sample Letter #2:
Please accept this letter as record of my decision to refuse for my child, xxxxxxxxxxx, to participate in all standardized testing, including, but not limited to, NECAP and NAEP at Symonds School during the 2014-2015 school year.
My refusal for xxxxxx to participate in all standardized testing, including, but not limited to, NECAP and NAEP, is because I believe standardized high stakes testing take away time from the instructional experiences my child might otherwise receive. I want more teaching and learning, and less testing! The state seems to believe that my child is obligated to participate in testing because the state or the policy makers demand it, when in fact the social contract of public schooling is grounded on the premise that the state and policy makers are obligated to the needs of children. I am aware that there is no “opt out” clause in the state of New Hampshire. But the state has yet to provide any legal documentation that my child may not exercise his or her right to refuse the tests.
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, 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).
I understand that it is state and local policy to require all students to be evaluated for proficiency in various subject areas at each grade level. However, I believe that testing is not synonymous with standardized testing and request that the school and my child’s teacher(s) evaluate his progress using alternative (and more meaningful) measures including: project-based assignments, teacher-made tests, portfolios and performance-based assessments, to be determined at the discretion of the teachers and us together.
My child is prepared to come to school every day during the testing window with alternative meaningful self-directed learning activities that support the essential curriculum, or is willing to participate in other meaningful activities as determined by the school or his or her teachers during testing times. It is my child’s right as a public school student to receive instruction daily and I trust it will be provided.
I have a tremendous respect for my child’s teachers and his school. They do a tremendous job and I wish to continue to send my son to a school where he looks forward to participating every day. My school’s teachers and administrators understand that this action is no way a reflection of my feelings towards them nor is it intended as an attack toward them or the great work that they do every day. My issue is with high stakes standardized testing and the harm it does to children and our public schools. I believe we can work constructively together to ensure that my child will not be negatively affected in any way, and that successful alternatives that are neither punitive nor require further legal complications are indeed possible.
Respectfully yours, xxxxx
More information about opting out of assessments, including another sample letter, is available at FairTest.org.
For more information on this issue, read A Parent’s Right to Opt-Out.
This can also be extended to non-academic surveys and questionnaires. For more information, read Controversial Non-Academic Materials Given to Students, Controversial Surveys and Questionnaires Need Opt-Out, and Do Federal Funds Incentivize Schools to Compromise Parents’ Rights?
Special thanks to Melissa Harrison for permission to share her refusal letter as one of our samples.