DELAWARE TOWNSHIP, N.J.
While his eighth-grade classmates took state standardized tests this spring, Tucker Richardson woke up late and played basketball in his driveway.
Tucker’s parents, Wendy and Will, are part of a small but growing number of parents who are ensuring their children don’t participate in standardized testing. They are opposed to the practice for myriad reasons, including the stress they believe it brings on young students, discomfort with tests being used to gauge teacher performance, fear that corporate influence is overriding education and concern that test prep is narrowing curricula down to the minimum needed to pass an exam.
“I’m just opposed to the way high-stakes testing is being used to evaluate teachers, the way it’s being used to define what’s happening in classrooms,” said Will Richardson, an educational consultant. “These tests are not meant to evaluate teachers. They’re meant to find out what kids know.”
The opt-out movement, as it is called, is small but growing. It’s been brewing for years via word of mouth and social media, especially through Facebook. The “Long Island opt-out info” Facebook page has more than 9,200 members, many rallying at a Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., school last month after principals called this year’s state tests — and their low scores — a “debacle.”
In Washington, D.C., parents and students protested outside the Department of Education. Students and teachers at a Seattle high school boycotted a standardized test, leading the superintendent to declare that city high schools have the choice to deem it optional. In Oregon, students organized a campaign persuading their peers to opt out of tests, and students in Providence, R.I., dressed like zombies and marched in front of the State House to protest a requirement that students must achieve a minimum score on a state test to graduate.
For many parents and students, there have been few to no consequences to opting out of testing. Most parents are choosing to take their younger children out of testing, not older students for whom it is a graduation requirement. It’s unclear if things will change when the Common Core Curriculum and the standardized tests that will accompany it are implemented in the 2014-15 school year.