Considering Opting Out Your Child from High-Stakes Testing?

Data on teacher’s perceptions of the PSSA’s effectiveness as an indicator of student achievement from the June 2019 “Standardized Tests in Public Education” report by the PA General Assembly’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee

With the recent guidance issued from the Department of Education that says that states must give standardized tests this school year (despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the many other reasons testing should be cancelled), we’ve decided to republish this post about opting out of testing.

We will continue to update the post and resources as more information becomes available about adjustments to the processes for this school year.

Over recent years, there have been a handful of parents, district wide, who contentiously objected to the high stakes attached to the state’s standardized tests: PSSA and Keystones. In some years, there have been more organized efforts, like those in 2014-15 that lead to over 17% of families from Feltonville School of Arts and Science opting out of the PSSAs.

We fully support the right for parents to opt their children out of high stakes standardized tests. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of a few states that has a legal provision for parents to opt their children out of the PSSA and Keystone exams.

Standardized testing has been at the forefront of what is going wrong in public education. Initially set to identify practices that were hampering students education, the tests now are used to assign failure and blame throughout public education to students, their teachers, administrators, and schools.

It is clear that schools have been and continue to be targeted for closure and charter turnover primarily based on their test scores. It is extremely concerning that there is insufficient attention to major factors affecting education in Philadelphia: poverty, access to resources, homelessness, English language ability, special education needs, and violence.

While limited progress has been made, we still have not achieved fair funding for our public education system. After well over a decade of these standardized tests and the increasing stakes attached to them, what we know is that they are most likely to predict a student’s household income not their intellect or ability to learn.

And, these tests come at a significant financial cost. According to the June 2019 “Standardized Tests in Public Education” report by the PA General Assembly’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, the cost to PDE for standardized testing was $42.17 million in fiscal year 2017-2018.

As parents, we have the ability to create the public educational system that we want our children to experience.

We can ensure that our children have arts, music, social studies classes.

We can make inclusive insightful learning opportunities are present for our children and push back on the amounts of test prep prevalent in the months before April.

We can ensure that any testing focuses on the academic success of the student.

We can finally actively address the educational gaps that is are present but rarely closed.

We can press our elected officials and appointed school board to acknowledge that more testing does not lead to more learning.

Speaking with more parents, teachers, and educators we realized that there was a general lack of information regarding opt-out. All schools are required by law to provide their families with information on how to opt out.

Opt-Out Resources

Click here for the Education Law Center’s Opt-Out Fact Sheet, which provides a wealth of information about opting out.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education FAQ Sheet on PSSAs is usually sent home from the schools before testing begins and gives general information about the PSSA.

For more information on why and how to opt out, including our form letter templates and generator, visit our Opt Out page.

If you have questions or would like more information about standardized testing or the Opt-Out movement, please contact us at