19 Congressmen Reassert Parents and Students’ Right to Opt-Out of High Stakes State Assessments

On 2/16/2016, the executive director of the State Board of Education Dr. Karol Schmidt, without authorization from the Board, testified before the Senate Ed. Committee quoting from a 12/22/2015 letter from the U.S. Department of Education.  She reiterated threats in the letter signed by Ann Whalen, which indicated certain financial and other punitive measures that  Arizona could use against schools in order to force at least 95% participation of students in academic assessments.  Dr. Schmidt’s "message" was loud and clear to Arizona Senators:  Do NOT allow parents the right to Opt their children out of AzMERIT!   If your child has been coerced by teachers and other school officials into taking AzMERIT, this would explain one of the many reasons for it.  

New York Congressman Tom Reed, who had voted for the new ESSA law and disagreed with Ms. Whalen’s interpretation, decided it was important to send a rebuttal, reasserting parents and students’ right to opt-out of high stakes federal testing.  That rebuttal, which follows, was signed by 19 U.S. Congressmen, including Arizona Congressman Matt Salmon

If you are a parent who has been denied your right to opt your child out of taking AzMERIT.  If you are a parent whose child has been bullied by the school into taking AzMERIT, send this post to them.  Send this post to the Arizona Senators who voted NO to your right to opt out of AzMERIT and any other standardized test based on Common Core (aka Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.)  Click HERE for a list of Senators, including contact information, who voted No to SB1455, the Parental Opt Out bill.

Click HERE for a screen shot of the letter, which follows.  Click HERE for a screen shot of the signatures to the letter.

Click HERE for the press release Reed Stands with Students, Parents from U.S. Congressman Tom Reed.  Click HERE for a news story Reed Supports Parents’ Right To Opt Out Of Testing.

See below for the letter.     

April 4, 2016

The Honorable John B. King, Jr., Secretary,
U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202

Dear Secretary King:

We have recently heard from educators, parents, and students in our congressional districts who are concerned with a letter sent by Ann Whalen to Chief State School Officers on December 22, 2015.  In the letter, Ms. Whalen discusses existing ESEA testing requirements, as well as forthcoming guidelines in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), warning of financial penalties for states and school districts failing to reach certain testing targets.  She also suggests punitive measures that State educational agencies can take if fewer than 95 percent of students participate in state assessments.

Given recent passage of the ESEA reauthorization legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act, we are troubled by the tone and content of Ms. Whalen’s letter.  The Department seems to have misinterpreted congressional intent in this case, and does so with troubling consequence.  While ESSA does provide for testing and accountability measures, the new law makes a fundamental change by giving individual states sole responsibility for determining the importance of the 95 percent requirement in school accountability.

In addition, ESSA states, "Nothing in this paragraph (assessments) shall be construed as preempting a State or local law regarding the decision of a parent to not have the parent’s child participate in the academic assessments under this paragraph."  (Section 1111(b)(2)(K)).  The Every Student Succeeds Act is intended to empower parents and ensure that teachers,  administrators, and school districts are given increased flexibility regarding student opt out.  Hundreds of thousands of parents have chosen to keep their children from taking state-mandated tests, and these parents have every right to determine what is in their children’s best interest.

No Child Left Behind created federally-mandated high stakes testing, to which parents, teachers, and students understandably recoiled.  ESSA ends this federally-mandated high stakes testing, giving states and school districts more authority to determine the proper role for assessments in determining school quality, and full authority to determine their use for teacher effectiveness.  As states and school districts begin work to implement this new law and address ongoing concerns about the role of testing in education, now is the time for the Department of Education to support states in this work.

Consequently, we write to remind the agency of our strong desire to ensure that the intent of the legislation is followed.  We look forward to having a productive dialogue on this critical subject, and ultimately, ensuring a quality education for all students.


Signed by the following Members of Congress:

Tom Reed
Chris Gibson
David P. Joyce
Cynthia Lummis
Kevin Cramer
Mark Walker
Tim Huelskamp
Patrick Meehan
Dennis A Ross
Bradley Byrne
John Katko
Glenn Grothman
Pete Olson
Mike Bost
David McKinley
David Young
Matt Salmon
Lee Zeldin
Rick Crawford

See Also:

Please Contact These Senators who Voted No to Parental Opt Out Rights

Letter of Assertion to Opt Out and Refuse the AZMerit Test

Opt Out FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions  

The National Common Core Standards System

Marriage & Family Parental Rights

Why is the U.S. Department of Education Weakening FERPA? 

Personally Identifiable Information Requests from the Arizona Department of Education.

A Day in the Life of a Data Mined Kid

Teacher Evaluation Should Not Rest on Student Test Scores (Revised 2016)

Letter of Assertion to Opt Out and Refuse the AZMerit Test

More than Scores

Arizona’s Top-Rated Schools.  

Arizona Schools’ Report Cards

850+ Colleges and Universities That Do Not Use SAT/ACT Scores to Admit Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor Degree Programs 

Why Parents are Opting Their Children out of High Stakes Testing

No Fear of Federal Financial Impact for Your School if you Boycott Standardized Tests 

Why You Can Boycott Standardized Tests Without Fear of Federal Penalties to Your School (Updated March 2016)

Arizonans Against Common Core: AzMERIT Fact Sheet

Ten Reasons To Opt Out of Common Core/SAGE Testing