How to opt out

Parents who opt out: Marty Pack and Maria Pollock at the April 2010 Northeastern Illinois University showing of Pack’s film ‘The Take-Over of Testing.’ Marty regularly opts out her fourth-grade daughter from ScanTron Performance Series tests. Last year when Pollock’s daughter was a third-grader at Portage Park elementary school she opted out of the Learning First reading and math benchmark tests. The child does not attend a Chicago public school this year. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.It’s simple — say ‘no’ and send a good book to school with your child.

However, parents will face resistance from principals. We spent much time listening to our son’s principal promote the tests.

One south side elementary school principal who initially agreed at an LSC meeting to accommodate parents’ wishes to opt out their children, later pressured them to have their children take the tests, according to a teacher at the school. One north side principal told my neighbor that her child “had to take the test.” But when she sent him a copy of the Eason Watkins letter, he respected her decision.

Parents need to be strong in their option to protect their children. They need to say no to the tests and insist on the chil- dren’s right to “engage in a silent, self- guided activity” during testing.

George and I informed our son’s teacher and principal that we would opt him out from tests verbally and in writing. In May 2010, prior to a test date, we wrote:

As we have discussed with you and Sam will not be taking the Reading and Math Benchmark Assessments this week or on any make-up test days in the future. We will be opting out Sam from the Scantron Performance Series. When his class is tested, he is not to be tested.

As per the letter we received from Barbara Eason-Watkins in March, we will provide Sam with books and writing ma- terials so he will be engaged in a ‘silent, self-guided activity’ at test times.

After Substance editor and parent Sharon Schmidt requested information at the February 2010 Board of Education meeting about opting out Sam from excessive testing and Substance reporter and parent George N. Schmidt wrote a letter asking for information about the tests, (then) Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins addressed some of the issues in writing. Her letter helped the Schmidts and other parents opt out of testing for their children. If you would like a copy sent to you, email, subject line: Opt-out letter.The reasons we are keeping Sam out of these tests is we believe they are damaging to him and hindering his educa- tion. We are also refusing to allow him to be excessively tested because the premise of the Board of Education’s testing program is wrong. We trust the professionals who teach our children to assess our children and evaluate their learning based on their professional methods. We refuse to be a part of a program that insist our children’s teachers need data from multiple choice tests created by private companies like ETS to best teach our children. In ad- dition, we refuse to be a part of a program that judges our children’s teachers on our children’s test scores.

Other parents at a south side elementary school wrote the following:

To the Appropriate CPS Administrators

Because KLT, Scantron, and ISAT testing reduce instructional time,

Because my child is being de- nied instruction in Computer and Library, which are supplanted by these tests,

Because the Learning First tests were eliminated by the Board of Education because four tests per year were deemed too many,

Because my child is over-tested with 10 scheduled weeks of testing,

Because logic dictates that a per- son should not be tested on material they are not taught,

Because these tests are invalid as demonstrated repeatedly by examples of incorrect answers,

Because standardized tests which impose stress, are being administered ex- ponentially so as to be both emotionally and physically detrimental to my child,

Because over-testing is creating a negative attitude in students, resulting in apathy and “eeny-miney-mo” test-taking strategy,


Please stop testing my child and start teaching!

Sample Opt Out Letter

Please be advised that my child, ___________________ , will not be participating in the Scantron Performance Series testing during the current school year.

I understand that the Chicago Board of Education provides the parent or guardian the right of choice regarding this standardized testing. In my opinion, such testing is not in the best interests of our children since it promotes competition instead of cooperation, and blunts, not stimulates, our children’s curiosity.

Instead of testing, my child will engage in a silent, self- guided activity. This is according to information provided by the CPS Chief Education Officer, who wrote in March 2010 that “[i]f parents choose to exclude their children, the school has no obligation to provide an alternate activity. Your child will be asked to engage in a silent, self-guided activity.”

See other stories on this topic:

Students opt out of CPS tests

"It's the right thing to do": Q and A with Sam Schmidt

100+ unecessary tests (CPS testing schedule)

How to opt out

[Editor's Note: The article above (and three others linked in this article) originally appeared in the February 2011 print edition of Substance]. 


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