To the Editor:
There is no reasonable basis in federal law for recent U.S. Department of Education threats to punish states, districts, or schools if significant numbers of parents opt their children out of standardized tests (“‘Opt-Out’ Push Sparks Queries for Guidance,” April 1, 2015).
The original No Child Left Behind Act did state that 95 percent of students must take the test for a school to make adequate yearly progress. If they did not, the school faced sanctions. However, NCLB sanctions no longer apply to schools in the vast majority of states that have waivers from the federal law. In the few nonwaiver states, virtually all schools have failed to make adequate yearly progress, so they face no additional risk from not meeting the rule on 95 percent participation.
Dubious claims about potential sanctions made by Education Department staff members, particularly Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle, as quoted in your article, do not change the legal reality. Federal officials are fabricating threats to discourage parents from opting out. Even Ms. Delisle admitted that the department does not want to take money away from local schools.
The rapidly growing national movement resisting test misuse and overuse will not be deterred by this disinformation campaign.
Jamaica Plain, Mass.
A version of this article appeared in the May 06, 2015 edition of Education Week as Education Dept. ‘Disinformation’ Aims to Quell Opt-Out Movement