Refusing High Stakes Standardized Testing
While New Jersey has changed its state test from PARCC to NJSLA, this video, in English and Spanish, is still an excellent explainer by parents about the issues related to standardized testing.
How to refuse NJSLA
There is no official way to refuse NJSLA. Simply send an email to you child's school principal and the district superintendent and inform them that you are refusing the test for your child. Ask that they be placed outside of the testing room to read or do classwork until the testing period is over. Or, you may use our template letter for NJSLA Spring 2022 below. Just click on the icon to open in Word.
Please let us know if you encounter any issues by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
How to refuse Start Strong
As with NJSLA, there is no official way to refuse the Start Strong assessment. We have added a form similar to the NJSLA refusal to make it easier for you. Be sure to send this to your child's building principal and the district superintendent as soon as possible.
Frequently asked questions about refusing NJSLA
1. Do parents have the right to opt their children out of the NJSLA tests?
New Jersey does not have an “opt out” provision, but, as the former New Jersey State Board of Education President Mark Biedron pointed out at the January 7, 2015 State Board of Education meeting, “nobody can force a child” to take a test.(1)
On September 9, 2015, NJ Commissioner of Education David Hespe sent a memo to school districts on how to accommodate students whose families or guardians refuse PARCC (now NJSLA). He said “school districts should be prepared in the event that students choose not to participate in the assessment program and adopt policies and procedures for the appropriate supervision and engagement of these students during administration of the assessment. The specific policies adopted by school districts regarding students not participating in the assessment program are entirely within the school district’s discretion, in consideration of each district’s school environment and available staffing and resources and recognizing that a statewide rule could not take into account these local circumstances. However, in developing these policies, districts should be mindful of ensuring appropriate student supervision and creating alternative options for student activity during the test period, so long as the testing environment is not disrupted and, in this regard, a sit and stare policy should be avoided.”(2)
Districts and charter schools may not require that students who refuse the NJSLA tests miss school on the days that their classmates are taking NJSLA.
Please email email@example.com to let us know how your district or charter schools is handling test refusals this spring.
2. Could my child be required to “sit & stare” while her/his peers are taking the NJSLA tests?
Districts and charter schools have some discretion as to how to treat students whose families refuse. Very few districts or charter schools are choosing to force children to “sit & stare” – to sit in the room with their test-taking classmates and do nothing.
On September 9, 2015, NJ Commissioner of Education David Hespe sent a memo to school districts on how to accommodate students who refuse PARCC (now NJSLA). He said “school districts should be prepared in the event that students choose not to participate in the assessment program and adopt policies and procedures for the appropriate supervision and engagement of those students during administration of the assessment … a sit and stare policy should be avoided.”(3)
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if your district or charter school is planning to force students whose families refused NJSLA to “sit & stare.”
3. If I refuse the NJSLA tests for my child, will her/his school lose funding?
No, your child’s school will not lose state or federal funding because you refuse NJSLA.
New Jersey state aid cannot be withheld from school districts because parents refused NJSLA, as a result of legislation (S2881/A4485) that Governor Christie signed into law on November 9, 2015.(4)
There also is no federal law that requires penalties on schools if parents refuse to allow their children to take the NJSLA tests. The US Department of Education has threatened to withhold a small amount of state administrative funding if states did not take action to reduce high stakes test refusal rates. However, as the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest) points out, that funding would not impact individual schools.(5)
FairTest further notes that the Every Student Suceeds Act (ESSA) that replaced No Child Left Behind “specifically authorizes states to allow parents to opt their children out of exams.”
Even under the old, more punitive No Child Left Behind law, the US Department of Education has not withheld funding in response to high numbers of parental test refusals. “When last spring’s successful opt out campaign left few New York State school districts with 95% participation, the US DOE acknowledged it had no plans to penalize districts or schools by withholding funds.”
FairTest “is not aware of a single state, school, or district that was penalized by the federal government for failing to test enough of its students. To the contrary, seven states (California, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Oregon) have laws specifically allowing parents to opt their children out of high stakes standardized tests. Therefore, parents and educators should not fear that the federal government will financially penalize their schools if many students boycott standardized tests.”
4. Are high-stakes standardized tests such as NJSLA helpful in identifying whether students are “college ready?”
Standardized tests are not a good measure of college readiness. A recent large scale study confirmed the findings of prior research that found high school transcripts predict college success much more accurately than do standardized tests.(6)
Standardized tests primarily measure the income and educational background of students’ families, with students from wealthier families and students whose parents have completed college and beyond, on average, receiving significantly higher scores on such tests than students from lower-income families. Average SAT scores, for example, show an almost 400 point difference between a student whose family earns under $20,000 and one whose family earns more than $200,000 a year.(7)
“Colleges also are realizing that standardized test scores are not the best indicator of who needs remedial support. Jerry Kornbluth, the Dean of Professional Studies at Nassau Community College, recently told The Nassau County Curriculum directors that his college suspects it has over-remediated in the past. This excellent community college is now exploring a multiple measures approach which will include high school GPA, some test scores, a student interview and extracurricular activities. They found that many students with SAT scores as low as 470 did just fine, and who needs remediation is far more complex than a score could show.”(8)
A group of elite universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Brown, recently came together to try and revise their admission process to eliminate the gaming and bias towards wealthy students that standardized tests promote and to take some of the unnecessary stress off of students. One of their top recommendations was for universities to make standardized tests optional for admissions, as more than 1800 Colleges and Universities have already done.(9)
5. What accommodations for NJSLA may be made for students with Individual Education Plans?
A student’s Child Study Team should make recommendations and set forth goals, objectives, and accommodations, including what might be needed for taking classroom and standardized tests. The Child Study Team may indicate that it is not educationally appropriate for a student to take a grade level standardized test such as NJSLA because the test will result in abusive levels of anxiety for the child. As a result, an alternative form of assessment will be used.
Students with IEPs also may be offered alternative forms of assessment to meet their graduation requirements, including portfolios, Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM), and exemption from testing. Students do not have to take NJSLA or another standardized test before being “eligible” for an alternative. They are already eligible because of their disability.
It is the duty of the Child Study Team to make the appropriate determination and to include that in the student’s Individual Educational Plans.
The US Department of Education has set a 1% cap for exemptions to NJSLA. However, that cap applies at the state level, not at the level of individual schools districts or charter schools.
(6) http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/study-finds-high-sat-act-scores-might-not-spell-success/ and http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED502858.pdf
(9) http://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/files/gse-mcc/files/20160120_mcc_ttt_execsummary_interactive.pdf?m=1453303460 and http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional