Refuse NYS Tests—It Will NOT Hurt Your School!

The biggest concern I hear is without a doubt the fear that opting out will hurt a school financially. This fear is what keeps parents on the fence about refusing the upcoming NYS tests in grades 3-8, which start on April 1. This fear is what the misinformed–other parents, teachers, administrators, BOEs– consistently hold over the heads of potential test refusers to confirm the fear and create doubt.

NYSAPE explains the information surrounding the 95% rule, and about what might occur if schools do not meet Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP. I constantly attempt to summarize this information to parents and teachers, in private conversations or at educational forums. It was recently suggested to me that certain people will never believe the facts that we present because we are a “special interest group” and that we “are just going to say this because we want to believe it.”

I want to assure you that the research that was done to provide this information is backed by NYSED’s own documentation (see the citations listed). Many phone calls were made to various NYSED departments to acquire and confirm the information we provide.

Another thing that must be understood is the origin of the 95% rule. It wasn’t just thrown together to scare opt out parents. This rule was created way back during the era of No Child Left Behind and it was created to ensure that schools would not keep their lowest performing students from testing in order to beef up the school’s own report card. Think about it, if you don’t allow your low performers or your special needs students to take the test, you create higher grades, and create the illusion that your school or district is doing much better than would appear with low test scores.

This situation today is much different.  Back then, the rule was created to hold schools accountable to NYSED’s rules. That makes sense. Schools are indeed required to follow NYSED’s mandates. But today’s opt out movement has nothing to do with schools cheating their own report cards. This is about parental rights. Parents opt out of testing today, thus causing a rupture in the 95% criteria, are simply exercising their constitutional rights to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Furthermore, NYSED may govern schools but they do not govern parents. Schools might be required to administer these tests, but there is no mandate that we have to allow our children to take them. To punish a school for a phenomenon that is completely outside of their control would be beyond ludicrous!

It is a misinterpretation of the facts used as a fear tactic to put forth the notion that schools will be punished financially because few than 95% of our kids today refuse to take a series of high-stakes tests wherein the reasoning behind the benefits of these tests has been so perverted and misused that it has sparked a NATIONAL controversy and public outcry! Never before have we seen such a debate in education. Never has anything been so big and made such headlines. The support for the testing boycott continually grows, and the court of public and media attention falls more and more on our side. Even if we ignore the facts regarding the 95% rule, do you think it will be likely that NYSED will punish a school and face the consequences of the fallout of such a decision? I doubt it.

Please go to the NYSAPE link I provided. If you are one of the nay-sayers, I invite you to call NYSED and inquire. And I only ask that your questioning and persistence be as committed as ours. Do not stop asking until your questions have been answered and you have been given actual proof to support this threat of punishment. (We received none.) I think you’ll find that it just isn’t there.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume the worst. Let’s assume that all threats are true… that something bad will happen… even though nobody seems to be able to tell us exactly what that is. Let’s just assume. NYSAPE put together a ‘worst case scenario’. When you take all factors into account, you realize how highly unlikely this ‘worst case scenario’ actually is. But we’re assuming, so stay with me. In the worst case scenario, the lost of funding would be so minimal, it becomes laughable.

Finally, I would remind you that if we do nothing, things are only going to get worse. So I’m going to give you my take on the ‘worst case scenario’. Will it really matter if our schools lose a little bit of money? And should we even care? I know that at first, the idea seems preposterous! But think about it… Our schools, our teachers, and our children have lost so much already. We’re already bleeding out money trying to pay for mandates and loss of state aid. Faculty and staff are being eliminated or cut back. Extracurricular programs are being cut. Time spent on in-school specials is being cut. Toys removed from kindergartners, no recess, Pearson worksheets, scripted modules, computer-adaptive tests, and I could go on and on. A record number of children hate school and teacher morale is at an all time low.

My worst case scenario is this. Let’s assume we lose money…. things will appear to get worse, but then they will only get better if we continue to demand the elimination of developmentally inappropriate curricula, excessive testing, the invasion of privacy, and the many other details associated with the Common Core and the accountability system that is the true drain on our educational system.

Before I end, there is one more thing that cannot be overlooked.  Last year record numbers of parents refused or “opted out” of the NYS tests causing many districts across the state to fail to meet AYP. Some districts had opt out rates as high as 26%. Across the entire state, not a single school or district reported any type of financial penalty! I also question the realities of these fears when I look to the many districts who are accepting refusal letters from parents and making test refusal for the students go smoothly. These schools respect a parent’s decision to “opt out”.  They don’t bring fear and intimidation into the equation.  They don’t do anything to coerce a parent from refusing. And in some cases, I would even go as far to say that these districts support the right to opt out of these useless tests. So, if you’re wondering if you should be scared, ask yourself one question. Why is my district so scared while others don’t seem to be bothered? One would think that if the threat of financial consequences was indeed so dire, then all districts would be shaking in their boots and warning parents.

Won’t you join me in taking a stand and saying, “No, not with my child!”?

You can download a refusal letter at and find all the tools and resources you will need to make an informed decision about test refusal.

About Betsy Bloom

Betsy is an Associate Professor of Education at Hartwick College in Oneonta NY. She is also a parent of two, a nine year veteran middle school social studies teacher and the current president of the NYS Foundations of Education Association, an organization dedicated to achieving social justice through public education.
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