Opting Out of Standardized Tests


no more tests
photo by timlewisnm
We’ve all been there, sitting quietly in a room filling out bubble after bubble with our #2 pencils, but is that a thing of the past? My oldest will have to take her first round of standardized tests next year so it’s been on my mind lately. As homeschoolers these tests are one of the benchmarks used by the districts to let them know how homeschooled kids are progressing in relation to the schooled kids. This may be changing though as more and more parents choose to opt out their children out of standardized testing.


No Child Left Behind linked a school’s funding to the students standardized test scores creating a great deal of pressure to have ever increasing test scores. This pressure has led to  corruption in standardized test scoring by districts and even the testing companies themselves. So on both ends there is reason to change a child’s answers. For the districts it’s to increase the performance of their students and on the testing company side it’s so that they get a nice bell curve and don’t have too many over or under performers. The long and short of it is that you can’t be 100% sure anymore that the score your child is getting is the score they deserve, depending on the test this can have devastating results.

Michele Grey a Pennsylvania mother of two decided to opt her children out of the state standardized tests this year citing a little know religious exemption. She did so due to the stress and anxiety associated with standardized testing and the pressure that it placed on her children. Her traditionally schooled children were homeschooled during the two weeks that the testing was going on. This case has brought up much discussion in my homeschooling community about standardized testing and whether or not to opt our children out.

Opting out in Pa is simple. The following comes directly from the 2010-2011 PSSA Handbook and outlines the process that must be followed to opt your child out of the PSSAs.

Student had a parental request for exclusion from the assessment: Section 4.4 of Chapter 4 provides for the right of any parents or guardians to excuse their child from the state assessment if, upon inspection of the testing materials, they find the assessment to be in conflict with their religious beliefs. This is the only basis fora parent or guardian to excuse his or her child from the statewide assessments.

  • Two weeks prior to each testing window, each assessment must be made available for review by parents and guardians. The assessment must be reviewed on school district property and district personnel must be present at all times. Districts must provide a convenient time for the review. This may include an evening review time, if requested. Proper security and confidentiality of the assessment must be maintained at all times throughout the review process. District personnel may remove the prompt seals from one copy of a writing booklet to facilitate a review of the writing assessment.
  • Parents and guardians must sign a locally prepared statement concerning the requirements of assessment security and confidentiality. A copy of this should be locally maintained. (It is not necessary to send this statement to PDE or DRC.) Parents and guardians may not photocopy, write down, or in any other manner record any portion of the assessments, including directions.
  • After reviewing the test, parents and guardians must provide a written request addressed to the Superintendent or Chief Academic Officer to excuse their child based upon religious conflict. The parentsand guardians do not have to defend their religious beliefs, nor do they have to identify specific test content to which they object. Simply stating that they are requesting exclusion based on religious grounds is sufficient.

If the student is excused from the state assessment due to parental or guardian request, school personnel must provide an alternative learning environment for the student during the assessment and complete the “Non-Assessed Students” grid on the student’s answer booklet by marking “Student had a parental request for exclusion from the assessment.” Please be aware that students who do not participate in the assessment due to parental request will negatively affect the school’s participation rate and can potentially have a negative impact on the school’s AYP status.

The process is simple and can be applied to any student, homeschooled or traditionally schooled, in the state of Pennsylvania. The last line indicates that any student who opts out will negatively affect the schools participation rate and negatively affect the schools scores so I suspect the districts will not make it as simple as it appears on paper.

I personally like the idea of using the standardized tests as a benchmark for their learning but being homeschooled/unschooled their point of view and knowledge of the world is different from their schooled peers creating situations like the one described over at Family on Bikes where her kids (who had traveled extensively and had amazing real world knowledge) didn’t know what a binder was. This didn’t make them less intelligent it just meant that their point of reference was different making things like standardized tests extremely difficult.

With the corruption, differing cultural references and the ability to opt out we have a great deal to think about when it comes to standardized testing. What are your thoughts on standardized testing? Have you opted your children out? Can you?

Please note this is just informational and is not legal advice. Please check the homeschooling and educational rules and laws in your state.

9 thoughts on “Opting Out of Standardized Tests”

  1. I am happy to say that my kids don’t have to take standardized tests at their school!
    But if they did and I could opt them out of it, I totally would… For a few reasons, but especially to make a point to stand against them. If the state wants to know how well my kids are doing then they should come meet them and sit in with their class and find out. Btw, we of course have standardized tests in MA that all public school kids have to take – the kids that I know that take them have lots to say about them, but mostly they are boring, time consuming and stressful… And for 2 weeks! All of the things they could be learning and doing in that period of time… Plus starting those tests in 3rd grade is rediculous.

  2. I am so glad I just read this post!!! I will be sharing this on FB. I so wish I would’ve read this in time to research to opt out for my traditonally schooled kids in Texas. My daughter has anxiety and these tests are a total trigger for her. So much pressure is put on the kids about these tests. It never made sense to me, I would think that their report cards would tell you what you need to know. Especially becuase this same daughter who can’t deal with the pressure and take every single minute they’ll give her to do them, makes mediocre grades on these tests. Yet, her report card is filled with 100’s and high A’s. My son, who is much better at testing breezes through them too fast, making excellent grades but having to remain silent for the entire rest of the day to accomadate the testing. I once subbed at their school during TAKS (Texas test) for the Kindergarten!! We were supposed to keep them quiet the entire day without recess!!!!! Ridiculous! They just watched movies all day….my advice to parents (who stay home) is to keep your kids home who is NOT testing.
    Sorry for the novel length comment. 😉 I will definitely do my research and see what I can do about next time. My daughter is taking her TAKS test again next week. 🙁
    I’m a new follower from the Bunny HOp.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear of your daughter’s testing anxiety. I hope Texas has something similar for you. They don’t require testing or reporting of time etc… in Texas for homeschoolers but I’m not sure how it is if the kids are schooled. Good luck and I hope you can find a solution.

  3. I am so glad to have read this! I live in PA and did not know opting out was an option. I will certainly be doing so when the time comes. Thank you for this info!

  4. Opting out is an option for everyone – you are protected by the 1st and 14th Amendment of the Federal Constitution. Join our FB group – OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST: The National Movement.

  5. I am late to this game, but mainly because my oldest is just now 6. Today I ran across a pin on pinterest about opting out of TCAP. When I googled and found this blog post, I was relieved to find opting out was also possible in Pennsylvania. Testing was not good for me and I have been having her test anxiety for her almost 3 years in advance. This is ridiculous because we homeschool and she is currently doing what she should be in kindergarten – creative play, learning to care for herself and our home, and developing her social skills by interacting with our family. I was worried about the same type of situation Family on Bikes discusses. My 6 year old is bright and socially ahead of her friends in town and at church. I can see it when she speaks to an adult without hesitation and will carry on lengthy conversations with them about everything. I don’t need a 2 week standardized test to tell me that, or subject her to the test so someone else can be assured she is learning what they think is necessary. Thank you for this post.

  6. Since the quotation comes from the PSSA handbook, and homeschooled students are not required to take the PSSA, how can this be used to opt out of standardized testing?

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