An Opt Out Letter That Speaks to All Parents

My thanks to a parent who agreed to share her heart- wrenching and powerful opt out letter on this blog. It is our hope that this letter will resonate with other parents and give others the strength and the courage to fight to take back our public education system for our children. The child abuse, being launched on children by the new Common Core and high stakes testing regime will only end when we say it does.

The names of the parents. child, administrator, and school have been removed to protect the privacy rights of the family.

Here’s her letter:

September 24, 2013

Dear Administrator XYZ:

I write to you with a heavy heart.  I know the funding for our schools is based on standardized testing, a political injustice I find nauseating.  I know that my son’s wonderful teachers are evaluated based on his performance on these tests: a ludicrous measure, not based on any reliable scholarship or research regarding the abilities of educators.  I know you didn’t make the rules, and I do not want to make your professional life difficult.  But tonight, I declare, enough.  Enough.

My child was sobbing this evening, refusing to read a short sheet his teacher sent home, because, as he haltingly told me,  he had taken the NWEA “practice test” today and could not understand the “40 questions” after reading. I did not know how to comfort him. He asked me if there was any way he could stay home and not take any more tests.  My son has drunk the koolaid that these tests “measure his brain,” and he knows he doesn’t understand them, so he thinks his brain is not big enough.  My heart is broken.

Enough.  My son will not be taking any more of the so-called “Common Core” focused tests designed to quantify his educational progress.  These tests do not, and never will, measure his brain, his talent, the quality of his education, or his potential.  I will no longer allow these instruments to impose on my son the feeling that he is “below grade,” “stupid,” and not learning.  I will no longer tolerate the anxiety these ridiculous legislatively-imposed measures have caused my son.  He has never, to my knowledge, been told the results of his testing, but he feels it in the environment of his school—his cherished school—the place he has come to love and a place he felt safe and loved.  Enough.

We are opting out.  My child will not be participating in state standardized testing during the current school year. I ask that no record of this testing be part of my child’s permanent file, as I do not wish my child to participate in standardized achievement testing for promotion, graduation, or school/state report cards.  Enough.

Contrary to the idea that these tests measure my son’s brain, this is what I know.  Forced, high stakes testing:

  • Is not scientifically-based and fails to follow the U.S. Government’s own data on learning
  • Fosters test driven education that is not meeting the individual/intellectual needs of students
  • Presents a racial and economic bias detrimental to second language students, impoverished students, and students of color (and school XYZ has a busloads of all of these groups!)
  • Violates fiscal fairness in funding schools
  • Elevates corporate interests above democracy-based public concerns
  • Fosters coercion over cooperation with regards to federal funding for public education
  • Promotes a culture of lying, cheating, shaming and exploitation within the school community
  • Has used the achievement gap to foster a “de facto” segregation that has resulted in separate and unequal education for minorities
  • Fails to recognize that students with identified learning differences and developmental disabilities are acutely aware of these differences, and testing simply highlights them, singling out students of differing abilities and talents for less than “average” performance

Federal law provides each parent the right to refuse standardized testing when such testing violates beliefs.  My beliefs are firmly rooted in a moral code that embraces equity and fairness; I believe such testing is not in the best interests of my child. I believe that not everything that can be measured matters, and that everything that matters can’t always be measured.  I believe this testing fosters competition instead of cooperation, contributes to separate and unequal education for minorities (both racial and developmental), and ignores our child’s intellectual, creative, and problem-solving abilities.  Both the NWEA and the MEAP present a fictitious picture of the gifts imparted by our child’s individual and cherished teachers: perhaps the greatest injustice of all delivered by the swallowed-whole idiocy of standardized testing.  If the AAPS does not see these truths, I do, and I opt out for my son.

Our state is required to provide my child with an education in a least restrictive environment that does not force us to go against our core beliefs. Our son should proceed to learn and develop at an individual pace following education standards that are imparted under the guidance of education professionals, not market-based political ideologues.  Students – who mature at vastly different paces – should not ever be measured by a mass-produced blunt instrument.  I will no longer allow our son to be a part of this mythological construct of modern education.

Administrator XYZ, we love you, we love our school and all it has given our child. Our son will be able to complete his elementary education at this wonderful school.  I call on you to speak against this hurtful and unscientific measurement of education.  If you had been here tonight, in my home, and seen my son sobbing and refusing to read because he thought he would fail, I believe you, too, would join me in opposing this politically-imposed (and profit-centered) oppression of my sweet son.

Please consider this my formal request for alternative, appropriate learning activities during the testing window, as our child opts out of standardized testing.  I love him too much to allow this regular assault on his psyche.



Concerned parent