Wash. Parents Opt-Out of Testing, Citing Costs

By Liana Loewus — April 04, 2012 1 min read
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In what Washington state officials are saying is the largest-scale test rebellion they’ve faced, the parents of 70 students at an elementary school in Everett, Wash., have opted out of federally mandated standardized testing, according to columnist Danny Westneat of The Seattle Times. That means that about 25 percent of students at Seattle Hill Elementary will be doing art and science projects while their classmates down the hall fill in the bubbles.

The Seattle Hill parents’ reasoning, as Westneat explains it, is that testing is a waste of money. The school has suffered recent budget cuts that upped class sizes to 29 and necessitated several teacher furlough days. Art classes at the school are now taught by parent volunteers. Testing costs the state $37.5 million a year, according to Westneat.
“We are a state that does testing on steroids,” said Angela Cohen, the president of the parent-teacher organization, who is pulling her 4th grader. “I came to the conclusion we could find much better ways to spend that money.”

Many parents also see the tests as worthless, since the results don’t come back until the fall when students have already advanced to the next grade. “We’re not against testing,” parent of three Michelle Purcell told the paper. “But in the context of all the budget-cutting, we’re saying: Can we at least spend the money on a more useful test?”

Parents have a right to opt out of testing but their students will receive zeros. Nathan Olson, spokesman for the state superintendent of public instruction, said officials are “kind of shocked at the size of it [i.e., the protest]. No Child Left Behind is still the law of the land.”

A note: Though Westneat did not mention it, NCLB requires that 95 percent of students take the test in order for the school to make adequate yearly progress. With so many opt-outs, the school could be at risk for school-improvement sanctions (one of which is that the school must notify parents that it failed to meet requirements. Done and done.)

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.