I wrote this a year ago, but it still applies. If you really want to drive the point home to a school, use this letter. If they still give you grief, stand your ground. Do not give in to what they try to tell you. This is your right!
I have had a few parents ask how this could affect a school choice application. Since the scores of the Smarter Balanced Assessment won’t come out until the summer, and you would have received an answer to your school choice application well before that time, it should not play a factor. Any school denying your child a spot in their school over a parent exercising their Constitutional rights is on very shaky legal ground and you could certainly have just cause if your child was denied admission based on a parent opt out. To be clear though, I am not an attorney, so this is your choice!
Here is the suggested letter to use. I would include the school’s name and address, the date, your child’s name, and your name and address. Make copies!!! You can bring it to a school board meeting (for dates at times for your district, charter or vocational see my article from yesterday), or bring it to the school. I would bring a separate form indicating the school recognizes they have received an opt out letter from you and have them sign it. If a school gives you a letter to sign indicating you are understanding you are not following the law, DO NOT SIGN IT. If they ask for a medical note and there is no medical condition present in your child, DO NOT GET ONE!!!
Please accept this letter as record of my decision to refuse for my child (name) to participate in the Smarter Balanced Assessment at (school) during the 2015-2016 school year. My refusal to participate in the Smarter Balanced Assessment is because I believe standardized high stakes testing take away time from the instructional experiences my child might otherwise receive. I want more teaching and learning, and less testing! The state seems to believe that my child is obligated to participate in testing because the state or the policy makers demand it, when in fact the social contract of public schooling is grounded on the premise that the state and policy makers are obligated to the needs of children. I am aware that there is no “opt out” clause in the state of Delaware. But the state has yet to provide any legal documentation that my child may not exercise his or her right to refuse the tests.
According to the U.S Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment, parental rights are broadly protected by Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” Furthermore, the Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own.” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (262 U.S. 399). In recognition of both the right and responsibility of parents to control their children’s education, the Court has stated, “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for the obligations the State can neither supply nor hinder.” (Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158).
I understand that it is state and local policy to require all students to be evaluated for proficiency in various subject areas at each grade level. However, I believe that testing is not synonymous with standardized testing and request that the school and my child’s teacher(s) evaluate his or her progress using alternative (and more meaningful) measures including: project-based assignments, teacher-made tests, portfolios, and performance-based assessments, to be determined at the discretion of the teachers and myself together.
My child is prepared to come to school every day during the testing window with alternative meaningful self-directed learning activities that support the essential curriculum, or is willing to participate in other meaningful activities as determined by the school or his or her teachers during testing times. It is my child’s right as a public school student to receive instruction daily, and if you do not do so, I will file a discrimination report with the district and consult an attorney. I am a taxpayer, and you do not have the authority to bar my child from accessing this public good of which I contribute in the form of tax payment. I will call the police if you attempt to bar my child from entering the building. However, should you prove to me in writing that this last alternative is legally REQUIRED, then I respectfully request to both see that policy as stated IN WRITING so that I may show it to my attorney, and I require WRITTEN documentation that my child and his parents WILL NOT be punished for ‘delinquency’ –and that we are EXEMPT from the usual attendance policies.
If my child is forced to sit in the testing room and stare at the wall for upwards of 70 minutes in total silence without being allowed to leave the test room, nor move nor speak, while refusing to test, or is intimidated in any way, will be seen as tantamount to solitary confinement. If you attempt to force my child to do so, I will report you to the child abuse authorities. If anyone places their hands on my child after he/she has respectfully declined to report to a test site, he/she has been instructed to call the police and file charges.
I do not recognize the authority of the letter the Delaware Department of Education or any school district crafted to have schools give parents when they opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment as it has no legal bearing.
I have a tremendous respect for my child’s teachers and his school. They do a tremendous job and I wish to continue to send my son to a school where he looks forward to participating every day. My school’s teachers and administrators understand that this action is no way a reflection of my feelings towards them nor is it intended as an attack toward them or the great work that they do every day. My issue is with high stakes standardized testing and the harm it does to children and our public schools. I believe we can work constructively together to ensure that my child will not be negatively affected in any way, and that successful alternatives that are neither punitive nor require further legal complications are indeed possible.
2 thoughts on “2016 Opt Out Letter For Delaware Parents To Use”
Sigh.. such a long letter when a short one will do…. 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
While parents are opting out of Smarter Balanced Assessment, why not include opting out of homework for elementary school students. See below:
TODAY Parenting Team
Published on March 17, 2016 By: Heather Shumaker
Schooling may be mandatory, but homework isn’t. Home time is family time. Kids need time to play and reboot for the next school day, not go into overtime.
When children hit school-age, sometimes it feels as if the school is suddenly in charge of your family life. Night after night parents lock themselves in battles with overtired kids. “You have to do your homework,” we say, even when deep inside we know that the crying, wiggling child stuck in the homework chair desperately needs something else. Time to just be home, relax and play. Help with family chores. Or go to bed. But we think we must uphold homework, so we do. We nag. Cajole. Fight. Beg. And as a last resort, we do our kid’s homework.
There is another way. Say no, respectfully.
You may be surprised to learn that research supports this. Dr. Harris Cooper, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Duke University, conducted a comprehensive review of nearly 180 research studies and found that homework has no evidence of academic benefit for elementary school students. You read that right. Startling, isn’t it? Cooper’s research on the research prompted him to say this: “There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students.”
Homework does have an impact, though. The same slew of studies show it increases emotional problems: negative attitudes towards school and high conflict in families.
What research suggests is that homework benefits are age-specific. Homework belongs in high school. In middle school, there’s slight academic benefit, and none in the elementary years. “The research is very clear,” writes University of Arizona education professor Etta Kralovec in her book on the subject. “There’s no benefit at the elementary school level.” Given these facts, it makes sense to give kids some practice assignments in middle school, but not too much. Even in high school, more than two hours of homework doesn’t help.
The first step is to realize you don’t have to be a Homework Enforcer, you can be a parent. Parents are in charge of their children’s upbringing. Your child’s teacher is your partner in this, and good partners tell each other when something is not working.
So – get your courage up – the next step is to approach your child’s teacher or principal and explain what’s going on in your house each night, and what you’d rather see. If you don’t know what to say, but you’re curious about reducing homework load or opting out, check out sample scripts, ideas and more research in my book “It’s OK to Go Up the Slide.” It’s meant for you whether you’re a teacher or a parent.
It can be scary to question school routines. Remember that teachers care about kids. What teachers typically want most is a supportive, involved family who cares about education and doing what’s best for the child. Good teachers are willing to listen – both to you and the research.
It’s time to stop a practice that doesn’t work. It’s time to think, question, examine the research and, for kids’ sake, ban elementary school homework.
Heather Shumaker’s new book “It’s OK to Go Up the Slide” (Tarcher/ Penguin Random House, March 2016) dives into homework and more hot-button topics like recess, screens, safety and strangers. Heather is a national speaker on early childhood issues and an advocate for play-based learning and no homework in elementary schools. Visit http://www.heathershumaker.com for info, blog, podcast and more.
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we’re all in this together.