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To test or not to test: Do parents have a right to opt out of Smarter Balanced exams? (430 responses; 3/30/15)

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By Jacquelyn Benson

The Common Core curriculum has encountered no small amount of controversy, and the Smarter Balanced exams – standardized tests based on Common Core – have caught a fair share of the flack. The Department of Education switched from the NECAP exams to Smarter Balanced assessments this school year, and some parents, educators and administrators are unhappy with the change. The move lead several school boards to send letters home to parents, informing them that they had a right to opt their children out of the standardized tests. According to the Department of Education, all public school children are required to be tested, though federal sanctions only come into play if less than 95% of students are assessed. Currently, opt-out rates in these districts are less than 1%, but the issue begs the question: “Do you believe parents have a right to pull their children out of Common Core standardized tests, for any reason?”


When the Live Free or Die Alliance (LFDA) put that question to Facebook members on March 30, 88% of those directly answering expressed support, with only 12% responding in the negative. An additional 30% of total respondents opted not to give a yes or no response, instead addressing their comments to broader issues. In sum, the LFDA received 116 specific comments and 314 concurrences for a total of 430 citizen responses.


Supporters of the right to opt-out argued that parents, not schools, should have ultimate say over their children’s activities. “Schools should ask parents for permission, not the other way around,” one commenter said. “Parents should have the right to determine what their children are taught and what tests they take,” argued another. “There is zero proof these are a good measure of what our kids know,” a third respondent pointed out.


Opponents argued that the tests served an important purpose. “Those tests show whether the kids are learning or not… Wouldn’t it be good to know why a district might not be performing as well as other districts?” one person wrote. “If the parents want to run the schools – have at it. Otherwise your kids have to take the test just like all the other kids,” said another.


Those addressing their comments to broader issues discussed the merits of public vs. private education, or home schooling, as well as how much control government should exercise over education. “The federal government shouldn’t be involved in public schools,” one commenter said. “We need parents to become as involved with the school curriculum as the teachers are,” another argued.


The nonprofit, nonpartisan LFDA takes no position on this or any issue, as this report is presented as a summary of citizen testimony. As New Hampshire’s Virtual Town Hall, the LFDA community, numbering more than 59,000, provides objective information on state issues, promotes the civil exchange of opinions, and communicates views to elected officials. To learn more about this issue or the LFDA, visit


Jacquelyn Benson is an Editor with the Live Free or Die Alliance.



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