Statement from More than a Score (RYH is a member)
Recently, the Superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) distributed inaccurate information about a student’s ability to opt-out of state tests. In the “Weekly Message” dated 10/28/2014 from Chris Koch on the ISBE website it is stated that “students may not opt out of the PARCC assessment,” and that “a district that allows students to opt out of the state’s required test would directly violate both federal and state law.”
The law regarding students’ refusing state mandated accountability testing has not changed since last year. State and federal law say that schools must administer these tests, but not that children must take them.
Federal law (NCLB) requires states receiving Title I funds to create a statewide assessment that "provides for the participation in such assessments of all students". State law, created to comply with NCLB, is that "the State Board of Education shall annually assess all students enrolled in grades 3 through 8 in English language arts and mathematics." So, these are duties for the government to perform.
They are not obligations for action by the students. Additionally, ISBE acknowledges in many places that children may refuse testing. ISBE general counsel conceded that students cannot be compelled to take these exams.
The state insists that schools must present all students with a test, which the student is free to take or not take. More Than a Score has argued that if parents/guardians, as the legal representatives of their minor child, have stated that they do not want their child to take the test, the student should not be offered the test.
In addition, ISBE claims that all students must take the same test, but this year, the US Department of Education accepted Massachusetts’ unilateral decision to let its district choose between two different tests rather than administer a single statewide test, as NCLB explicitly requires. And last year, California did not administer reading and math exams to all their students, again without consequences from the US Department of EducationWe are dismayed that ISBE is providing incorrect information about the consequences of opt out. No state has ever been sanctioned for permitting opt outs. Students in Illinois who refuse the test do NOT count against the state in No Child Left Behind requirements for falling below the threshold for number of students tested.
ISBE should listen to the voices of school districts, parents, and educators around the state, including the largest school district in Illinois, Chicago Public Schools. They should not administer the PARCC unless it has been shown valid and reliable for the purposes it is being used for and justifiable in terms of cost, as required by the Illinois School Code, Sec. 2-3.64a-5.i. At this point, the test has not been validated, field test results have not been shared with the public, and there are massive technology gaps in our schools for a smooth transition to a state-wide computer based exam.
Refusing to take the test is neither a crime nor a civil violation. ISBE should retract their statement immediately.
In the meantime, we will be working with legislators to create an opt-out bill at the state level. At least six other states have laws or regulations in place allowing opt out, and clearly they are not violating federal law.