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Eric.ed.gov – Towards an Understanding of the Testing Opt-Out Movement: Why Parents Choose to Opt-Out or Opt-In

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The opt-out movement, a grassroots coalition of opposition to high-stakes tests that are used to sort students, evaluate teachers, and rank schools, has the largest participation on Long Island, New York, where approximately 50% of the eligible students in grades three to eight opted out of the English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics tests in 2019 (“Projects: ELA and Math Opt-Outs 2016-2019,” 2019). Quantitative research has shown a racial disparity between parents who opted out and opted in with White, middle class parents participating in the opt-out movement at greater rates than Latinx, Black, and Asian parents (Au, 2017; Bennett, 2016; Hildebrand, 2017; Klein, 2016; Murphy, 2017; Phi Delta Kappa & Gallup Poll, 2017; Pizmony-Levy & Green Saraisky, 2016; Ryan, 2016; Tompson, Benz, & Agiesta, 2013). Parents are powerful policy actors that influence policy at the district and school level (Bakeman, 2018). This study has important implications for state legislation that supports a more equitable assessment and accountability system-one that does not undermine the student and teacher relationship. In addition, one that reports reliable individual growth of the students. Providing an equitable system that does not put undue pressure on low-income districts of color to raise scores or get sanctioned. Crafting an accountability system that fosters teaching and learning grounded in comprehensive educational pedagogy instead of test prep materials for corporate profit. This study yielded three major findings. First, the districts’ messaging about the state testing and parent’s right to opt out was reflected in the opt-out rates. The high opt-out district disseminated the most information about the testing and parents’ rights to opt out. Meanwhile, the low opt-out district held pep rallies and pizza challenges to incentivize opting in. Second, although the opt-out movement’s original aim was to improve public school education for the greater good, the parents interviewed in this study made individualistic choices for their child about opting out or opting in based on the information they had access to from the district and social networks of information, as well as their philosophies of parenting and education. Finally, regardless of parent involvement levels, race/ethnicity, and socio-economic status, parents’ reasons for opting out or opting in were based on superficial reasoning and were more similar than different across the three districts.

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Troels Gannerup Christensen

Jeg er ansat som adjunkt hos Læreruddannelsen i Jelling, hvor jeg underviser i matematik, specialiseringsmodulet teknologiforståelse, praktik m.m. Jeg har tidligere været ansat som pædagogisk konsulent i matematik og tysk hos UCL ved Center for Undervisningsmidler (CFU) i Vejle og lærer i udskolingen (7.-9. klasse) på Lyshøjskolen i Kolding. Jeg er ejer af og driver bl.a. hjemmesiderne www.lærklokken.dk og www.iundervisning.dk, ggbkursus.dk og er tidligere fagredaktør på matematik på emu.dk. Jeg går ind for, at læring skal være let tilgængelig og i størst mulig omfang gratis at benytte.

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