Roughly half the parents at a Tulsa, Oklahoma, middle school opted out of a 90-minute “pilot” reading test that was added to the normal battery of reading and math tests this past spring.
Over the summer, an estimated 1,600 people filled a Long Island high school football stadium in protest against the state’s move toward newer, tougher tests.
More than 80 percent of the parents at a New York City primary school recently decided against participating in testing that would have been used to evaluate their children’s teachers.
Protests like these have already led to testing rollbacks in Texas, Seattle, and Chicago.
A handful of states have pulled back their participation in the new assessments required under the Common Core State Assessment. And the Obama administration is now offering some states a two-year delay before they begin controversial new evaluations of teachers using test scores.
Garfield High School’s Hagopian predicts “the biggest revolt against standardized testing in U.S. history” during the coming testing season from March through May.
Test proponents aren’t so sure. “I just don’t see the groundswell of opposition against testing that FairTest and others claim to exist,” says Democrats for Education Reform’s policy director, Charles Barone.
Indeed, protests in New York State this past spring totaled less than 1 percent of students. Barone cites results from a recent Associated Press poll showing that only about one in four parents think their child takes too many standardized tests, and the support for most of the major civil rights groups for rigorous testing programs.
Standardized testing has long been a part of public education. Since 2002, the U.S. Department of Education has required that states receiving federal education funding test third- through eighth-grade students in reading and math, which is usually done in the spring and used to generate school and district report cards. Some states and districts have added annual tests in other grades and subjects, or even added fall testing. The most controversial new tests are those that have been added to the schedule in order to evaluate teachers.
Parent protests against tests “pop up like wildfires” about every decade, says the Brookings Institution’s Tom Loveless, who has written about the phenomenon. The last group of protests was a nearly decade ago, when parents in places like Scarsdale, New York, protested No Child Left Behind’s annual testing requirements—as did several states (and the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union). But the protests never caught on.
Pulling a child from standardized test can be quite simple for individual parents. Some places, it involves little more than a signed permission form downloaded from a state or district website. In other places, parents have cobbled together their own letters or simply handwritten a note. “That's all you need,” says Tulsa parent Deedra Barnes, who drafted a opt-out letter for parents to use at her son’s Tulsa middle school. “It doesn’t have to be an official form.”