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Test Opt-Out Update

You may have heard about parents wanting to opt-out of standardized tests in Nevada and other states. There has been much confusion about whether or not parents can opt their children out of tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test.  Adding to the confusion are news reports citing students from around the state opting out versus districts stating, “…parents are not allowed to opt their child out…”

So which is it? Can a parent opt out or not and as an educator who is opposed to excessive standardized testing what can you do about it?

First, let us take a look at the decision issued March 27, 2015, by Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt to state Superintendent Dale Erquiaga. It reads that that there is nothing in state law making tests mandatory. “As Nevada law currently has no explicit provision making CRTs mandatory or optional, and federal law only encourages substantial but not universal participation in these CRTS, the decision to make the CRTs mandatory, optional, or to give that discretion to the individual school districts is within the agency tasked with administering the statute,” wrote Laxalt. Following this decision, the state superintendent left the final decision on opt-out and testing to individual districts. The response from school districts was split, but also muted due to technical issues with SBAC testing. Churchill County Superintendent Dr. Sandra Sheldon said, “The decision is up to the district to decide on opting out and at this time testing is still mandatory.” The Humboldt County superintendent announced at their April 14, 2015, meeting that the district was allowing parents “to do so at certain grade levels with a written statement.”

The most important thing you should know as an educator is if you solicit, encourage, or facilitate an opt-out while on the job and as part of your duties you risk discipline from the employer up to and including termination. Teachers are also vulnerable to discipline if they refuse to administer or grade standardized tests. First Amendment protections do not extend to on-duty speech. Teachers and Education Support Professionals have a degree of First Amendment protection against discipline for speaking as citizens about issues of public concern, but it is far from absolute, therefore NEA offers three avenues for advocacy on this matter:

• Union resolution - support a local affiliate resolution in favor of parental opt-out rights
• State legislation – support your state association in the legislative session to advocate for opt-out legislation
• School board resolutions – work with your local affiliate to advocate for a school board resolution to embrace opt-out rights.

Remember, while these are avenues to take, advocacy should be done on non-working time and away from the classroom and other working spaces. If a disciplinary charge arises from activity following this guideline it is likely the discipline can be challenged successfully.


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