Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sample Opt-Out Letters: You Can Opt Out of Standardized Testing

I visualize opting out of standardized testing as a wave.
By Ruth Kraut. Creative Commons license.
Well, I asked for some sample Opt Out Letters. And I got them! Some of them are long, some are short. Some of the longer ones, I have edited for brevity (especially if the point is made in a different letter.) I have also--of course--edited for privacy.

Please take a sample letter, and make it your own!
To my mind, the best letters are:
--specific in delineating what you are not allowing your child to do--does that include practice tests? does that only mean the M-STEP, or other tests as well
--mention that the parent does not allow the use of student data for this work

And then, it's up to you want to be short and to the point or really explain your reasons? 

Also--click on this link for a resource of several sample letters--you might recognize some of them (but not all of them) down below. Most of these I got from parents. Thank you parents!! [And feel free to paste more sample letters in the comments.

I took a screen shot from Facebook (March 2015). This parent wrote,
"This is the April calendar for Pontiac MI. It shows how much
time will be spent on testing and this is directly after they
give the kids a week off."

Letter #1:

Dear Principal,

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.


My son 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 Kool-Aid 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.


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


Contrary to the idea that these tests measure my son’s brain, this is what I know. [Letter goes into a long list of problems with the testing, which are largely repeated in other letters.]

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 my son's intellectual, creative, and problem-solving abilities. Both the NWEA and the M-STEP present a fictitious picture of the gifts imparted by my son's individual and cherished teachers: perhaps the greatest injustice of all delivered by the swallowed-whole idiocy of standardized testing.

If the school district does not see these truths, I do, and I opt out for my son.

Principal, we love you, we love our elementary school and all it has given my son. My 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 my son opts out of standardized testing. I love him too much to allow this regular assault on his psyche.


A Michigan Parent

Letter #2

To Whom it May Concern:

Last school year our family “opted out” or withdrew our children ***** from all mandated assessments imposed on children by state and federal regulations. We truly appreciate the cooperation and  professionalism of the ***** staff in helping our family boycott harmful education policies.

Our decision to opt out in no way reflected on the teachers, administration, or school board. This was not an easy decision for us, but we feel that we had no other choice. We simply see these tests as harmful, expensive, and a waste of time and valuable resources. The explosion of high-stakes tests, student data collection and teacher evaluation systems are draining scarce financial resources from our schools.

This year we will continue our effort to eliminate unnecessary and harmful assessments in our public schools. Our children will not participate in any assessments other than those solely for the use of the individual classroom teacher. We refuse to allow any data to be used for purposes other than the individual teacher’s own formative or cumulative assessment. Any assessment whose data is used to determine school ranking, teacher effectiveness, state or federal longitudinal studies or any other purpose other than for the individual classroom teacher’s own use to improve his or her instruction will not be presented to our children.

To be clear, our children will not participate in the following:

Any state assessment

Pre-assessments connected to “Student-Learning Objectives” in all subjects, including art,  music, and Physical Education

Any surveys, or “field tests” given by corporate or government entities or testing companies

Any progress-monitoring or RTI assessments such as AIMSweb, STAR, or DIBELS

Any exam used to formulate an evaluation or score for our children’s teachers or their school.

We will be encouraging other parents to stand up against the testing fad and, more importantly, the corporate and government takeover of our schools. We believe in and trust our highly qualified and dedicated teachers and administrators. We believe that our children’s education should be trusted in the hands of those who are most experienced and who personally know the needs and individual requirements of each child. Teachers already know how to determine those needs and requirements without mandated standardized testing. Ironically we hear the phrase “college and career ready”  bantered about quite often, but the current testing madness will not prepare our children for their lives after graduation.

***** should have a unified policy in place to address children who will be opting out of assessments.

Our schools should also send a letter to all homes informing parents of the dates of all mandated testing. Very few parents are aware of the amount of required testing that our children face on a regular basis. Our schools have the obligation to inform the families of our community about all aspects of our children’s education.

Thank you for your time.



Letter #3:


Every morning when we drive OUR CHILD to school, we grateful that she is able to be part of the learning community that is THIS SCHOOL. You all put your heart and soul into each child and help them develop cognitively, emotionally, and socially. This year in particular, we have seen OUR CHILD grow by leaps and bounds. 

After much deliberation and research, we would like to respectfully refuse that our daughter OUR CHILD take the M-Step tests. We are firm believers that assessment is a fundamental component of education and we highly value that formative assessments conducted by the teachers at OUR SCHOOL. 

However, we are not comfortable with:

(1) the time and resources that are involved in purchasing, training teachers, administering, scoring, and reporting on tests especially in a time of limited resources and budget cuts. 

(2) the potential that tests might be used for evaluating teachers or schools (i.e., value-added measurement). The American Statistical Association has an excellent policy statement that points why this approach is flawed Note in particular the conclusion "Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality."

(3) the specific nature of the M-Step test. We have carefully reviewed the items presented on the M-Step and do not think even the sample items are of high quality. Performance on many items is dependent on very specific types language or representations used rather than the concepts being tested. We are extremely worried about the potential that in the long run such poorly constructed items will require teachers to help students learn how to take this particular test rather than learning specific concepts. At first, we thought maybe at least the test would be a learning opportunity for our CHILD in that OUR CHILD would learn how to take standardized tests but after reviewing the sample items we do not have any confidence whatsoever that practice taking the M-Step will help our daughter take tests such as the ACT and SAT in the future.

(4) the possibility that teachers (throughout Michigan) may feel pressure of any kind to "teach to the test." We truly value cognitive and dispositional (and even physical) skills that are not tested and would hate to see educational systems devoid of focus on critical thinking skills, creativity, mindfulness, emotional regulation, love of learning, sports, music, arts, and so on. 

We realize that our refusal to allow OUR CHILD to take the M-STEP test is an added burden on OUR SCHOOL resources. As such, we would very much like to volunteer our own time to help with supervising our daughter and other children who are not taking the test and we would be delighted to help provide alternate educational activities for them. 

Again, thanks for all that you do.

With best wishes,


Letter #4:


Please accept this letter as record of respectably refusing for my child, NAME, participation in the upcoming M-STEP test.

I did not take this decision lightly.  While I feel strongly that standardized testing is hurting education and my child’s learning opportunities, the M-STEP is particularly concerning to me.  I feel that the testing time is too extensive, the disruption to multi-grade classrooms is too significant, and the value of the test is too questionable (not validated, obscure questions, no progress measures, etc.)    While I cannot solve for the disruption and lost teaching time by simply refusing this test for my son, I do believe that I have a responsibility to take a stand on what I feel is right for him personally, as well as the needs of our broader school community.

THIS SCHOOL is an amazing school and I appreciate the opportunity to refuse this test.   I would like CHILD'S NAME to be offered other learning activities during the testing timeframe.  Should additional support be needed to accomplish this, I would love to discuss possibilities to help.

I, in no way, want my personal decision as a parent to reflect poorly on you, THIS SCHOOL, or our teachers.  My hope is that it will demonstrate the opposite – that with amazing educators, thought leaders, and creative thinkers – our school community can take the lead on finding and implementing more effective measures of school success and individual student progress.

Warm Regards,


Letter #5:


We are refusing the M-STEP for OUR CHILDREN this year. We believe the current climate of high-stakes testing is harmful to children, disrespectful toward the teaching profession, and ultimately damaging to public schools across the state. We also find this current testing incarnation particularly disruptive of our children’s classrooms and the wonderful learning environment they enjoy at OUR SCHOOL.

Our understanding is that they will not be legally required to leave the school building during the testing window, but we will accommodate the school however necessary. We are also happy to help OUR SCHOOL provide on-site alternatives for our children and others who refuse the M-STEP this year if that would be helpful.



Letter #6: United Opt Out's Sample Letter

To Whom It May Concern:

Please be advised that our child will not be participating in state standardized testing during the current school year. Furthermore, we ask that no record of this testing be part of our child's permanent file, as we do not wish our child to participate in standardized achievement testing for promotion, graduation, or school/state report cards. We believe the following of 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
• Violates fiscal fairness in funding schools
• Supports complicity of corporate interests rather than democracy based on public concerns
• Fosters coercion over cooperation with regards to federal funding for public education
• Promotes a culture of lying, cheating, 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

We understand that federal law provides the parent or guardian the right of choice regarding standardized testing when such testing violates beliefs. In contrast to our beliefs, which are firmly rooted in a moral code that embraces equity and fairness, we believe such testing is not in the best interests of our child since it fosters competition instead of cooperation, contributes to separate and unequal education for minorities, and belies our child's intellectual, creative, and problem-solving abilities, while presenting a fictitious picture as to the impact of the pedagogy provided by our child's individual educators.

Ultimately, our state is required to provide our child with an education in a least restrictive environment that does not force us to go against our core beliefs. My child 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 reformers, who are able to provide quality pedagogy without fear of reprisal if students - who mature at vastly different levels and come from diverse backgrounds that may or may not be supportive of intellectual pursuit - do not hit the bulls' eye of a constantly moving achievement target.

Therefore, we request that the school provide appropriate learning activities during the testing window and utilize an alternative assessment portfolio or concordant college testing score to fulfill promotion and or graduation requirements, as our child opts out of standardized testing. Sincerely, Child's Name ____________________________________________ ID#_________________________

Letter #7


We are choosing to opt out of the M-STEP for OUR CHILD this year. We believe that this particular test is unnecessary, since its results will not be used in any kind of assessment, and we’re annoyed by the extent of its uselessness.  

We also think it will be highly disruptive; unfortunately our opting out can’t change that disruption since it will still be administered.  

However our refusal is our way of showing our disapproval. We’re grateful for the freedom to make this decision, and for the knowledge that our teachers and school will not suffer any negative consequences from our decision.


Letter #8

Dear Administrator(s):

Please be informed that I am writing on behalf of my children, ******. This letter is my formal notice to you and the ******** School District that I officially and respectfully refuse to allow ******** to participate in any standardized assessments or activities tied to the Common Core, SBAC, PARCC, and/or M-STEP assessments during the 2014-2015 school year. In addition, I refuse to allow ANY data pertaining to my  children to be used outside of the school or for any purpose other than for the individual teachers’ classroom instruction. This includes but is not limited to personal data of any kind or statistical data used to determine school ranking, to evaluate teacher effectiveness, or to be included in state or federal longitudinal studies. 

To be clear, my children will not participate in the following (included but not limited to):

• Any “test-prep” activities associated/ aligned with SBAC, PARCC, M-STEP, or Common Core.

• Any “benchmark” exams associated/ aligned with SBAC, PARCC, M-STEP, or Common Core.

• Any progress-monitoring tests or assessments associated/ aligned with SBAC, PARRC, M-STEP, or Common Core.

• Any computer-based activity associated/ aligned with SBAC, PARRC, M-STEP, or Common Core.

• Any surveys or field tests given by government or corporate entities or testing companies.

• Any test used to formulate an evaluation or score for our children’s teachers or school.

I respectfully request that alternate plans be made and/ or alternate assignments be given during times when standardized tests are being administered or standardized prep exercises are taking place. Please allow ********* to pursue other educational activities such as independent reading, creative writing, research projects, etc.... Similarly, I request that an alternative portfolio-style system be used to evaluate *******’s academic performance, especially in regards to determining placement in academic classes.

I also request  written confirmation that my children will not face any punitive consequences in areas such as grades, attendance, behavioral evaluations, or placement in current/ future classes.

Please know that my decision to refuse Common Core and standardized testing has no bearing on the education I feel the district offers my children. I am proud of this district and all it does to ensure academic success for its students. I hold the schools and teachers in the highest esteem. I implicitly trust the highly-qualified teachers in the classroom to do the job that they were trained to do— create a learning environment that supports the individual needs of all children and develop their talents to become critical thinkers and productive, contributing members of our democratic society. 

I am taking this step because I refuse to support the ill-contrived public education reform propagated through Common Core and high-stakes testing.

I oppose the manipulative policies and mandates devised by policymakers and corporations that forced the illegitimate implementation of Common Core and imposed high-stakes standardized testing.

I oppose the harvesting and selling of student data and the use of high-stakes test scores for purposes for which they were never intended. 

I oppose the agendas of profit-seeking corporations like Pearson who have created a multi-billion dollar system of profiting off student failure and who have bullied their way into the classrooms, forcing their ideas of curriculum into instruction, thus taking away the teacher’s authority to make decisions about what is instructionally appropriate or relevant.

I oppose the damage that high-stakes tests are inflicting on our students, cultivating anxiety and a fear of failure rather than igniting a passion for life-long learning. 

I oppose the damage that high-stakes tests are inflicting on our teachers, stripping teachers of their instructional authority and minimizing teacher competency and efficiency to single set of data points that in actuality reveal nothing about a teacher’s ability to transform students’ lives.

I oppose the damage that high-stakes tests are inflicting on our curriculum, over-emphasizing test prep to the point where students cannot think outside of the bubble.

I oppose the damage that high-stakes tests are inflicting on our schools, diverting the appropriation of millions of tax-payer dollars to testing infrastructure at the expense of educational staff, support services, extra-curricular activities, and programs in foreign languages, the arts, and sciences.

I oppose the damage high-stakes tests are inflicting on the quality of public education as a whole, transforming the idea of education as something that expands your horizons into something that is standardized, finite, and measured by the content of a standardized test.

I stand in solidarity with countless parents across the nation who feel enough is enough. I stand in solidarity with countless parents across the nation who refuse to tolerate the manipulation of the public education system. I stand in solidarity with countless parents across the nation who refuse to have their children sold out to the highest corporate bidder. I stand in solidarity with countless parents across the nation who support, trust, and value our school teachers. I stand in solidarity with countless parents across the nation who refuse to compromise the quality of their children’s education. Thank you.



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1 comment:

  1. I just opted my daughter out of the M-STEP. Thank you very much for sharing the letters - they were helpful when crafting mine.

    Thank you!