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 such as the content, and the time devoted to test preparation, have led to controversy 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 have considered the scores as one of several admissions criteria. However, the usage of state tests scores in admissions has fluctuated due to the pandemic. In December 2021, former Mayor de Blasio announced that high schools could not use state test scores as part of their admissions criteria for 2022-2023 admissions.
During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (2019-2020 school year), the state tests were suspended and in the second year (2020 - 2021 school year), families had to opt in to testing rather than opt out as had previously been the case. Since the 2021-2022 school year, state tests have been administered again on the spring schedule as they were pre-pandemic.