Will 'National Opt Out Day' Spark a Testing Backlash?

Posted by Liz Dwyer

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Can a grassroots movement "end the reign of fear and terror promoted by the high-stakes testing agenda"? That’s the hope of today’s National Opt Out Day, an effort organized by United Opt Out, a group seeking to eliminate standardized tests from public education.

The day of action is strategically timed one day before the 10th anniversary of No Child Left Behind, which began an era of federally mandated testing in reading and math. The group wants students, parents, and community members to write letters or postcards to their school districts explaining that they will opt their children out of testing. They're also asking local Occupy movements to support the effort. 

John Kuhn, superintendent of the school district in Perrin, Texas, says says he supports the coordinated effort to oppose testing. Kuhn says Texas students now spend 45 out of 180 school days administering standardized tests, and he's seen "music, art, history, and science withering" as a result.

Yong Zhao, the presidential chair and associate dean for global education at the College of Education at the University of Oregon, has advocated for the movement as well. Zhao says testing "has wasted valuable, precious, and dwindling public funds that could have been put into educating rather than testing our children" and has not solved the achievement gap NCLB was designed to address.

If enough parents decide to opt out, the day of action could have long-lasting effects on some school districts—if fewer than 96 percent of a school's students take the test, the results aren't considered valid. "If everyone opts out in mass," United Opt Out website says, there will be "no test data to punish students, teachers and communities."

 Photo via (cc) Flickr user -- Slavin