Each spring, public school students in 3rd through 8th grade take state tests in English and math; 4th and 8th graders take a science test as well. These tests were introduced in the mid-2000s in order to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and are intended to assess students’ mastery of the Common Core learning standards.
Certain aspects of these tests — the actual content, the time devoted to test preparation, the policy of using scores in teacher and principal evaluations (now revised), etc. — have been highly controversial in some school districts.
Parents often hear conflicting information about “opting out”— whether it is allowed, and what the consequences might be. Here are a few basic facts that might help PA/PTA leaders answer parents' questions:
- Students are not required to take the tests, and schools may not discipline or penalize children who do not take them.
- If parents decide their child will “opt out,” they must inform the principal in writing (and preferably with as much advance notice as possible, since schools must provide an alternative activity during test time).
- New York State law prohibits middle and high schools from using state test scores as the main factor in their admissions decisions; many schools nevertheless consider the scores as one of several admissions criteria.