Thinking about refusing tests in North Carolina?

We field a lot of questions from families who don’t want their children to take standardized tests such as the End of Grade tests. Here is an outline of the process that many families have used to successfully refuse tests here in North Carolina. Click on the headers for more details on each subject.

Refusal vs. opting out

Because North Carolina does not have an official opt-out procedure, families must refuse tests instead. Opting out involves following an official procedure. Refusing involves invoking a parent or guardian’s Constitutional right to make important educational decisions for children.

How to refuse

If you want to refuse, we recommend that you inform your school’s principal in writing that your child/children will be refusing the tests. Do not ask for permission; simply state that you will be refusing. Here is a sample letter.

You also need to discuss with the principal how the refusal will be handled, ideally well before testing begins. State law requires school personnel to “administer” the tests to every child. There are, however, no state regulations for how to handle a test refusal. How to proceed is usually up to an individual principal. Because test refusal has been rare here in N.C., many principals are not familiar with the concept. It is a difficult spot for a school and a principal to be in, and it make take some time for your principal to familiarize him/herself with the facts about test refusal. Calmness, firmness and patience are all helpful in making the process go as smoothly as possible.

Consequences of refusing

If your family refuses a test, your child’s unmarked test paper will be sent through the grading pipeline. Because there are no correct answers marked, the test will be given the lowest possible score, which is a 1.

Consequences for students

Other than for third grade reading, which is part of the Read to Achieve legislation, there are no state consequences for elementary and middle school EOG tests. Except for third grade reading, it is also against state law to retain a child based on a single test score. High school EOC tests are another matter – since they count for a portion of your child’s course grade, they are difficult to refuse.

There may be various local consequences for low test scores. For example, in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools a passing score is required to apply to certain magnet programs. We recommend that you research how the scores are used in your school and district before deciding to refuse.

Consequences for teachers

The State Board of Education recently removed test score ratings from state teacher evaluations, so refusing tests should not affect teachers.

Even when test score ratings were used, it appeared that the 1 would not figure into a teacher’s rating, because the computer program that calculated those ratings would discard it as an “outlier” (basically, the computer would recognize that there was something wrong with the score in part because it is statistically impossible to have no correct answers unless something has gone awry). No human being could give us a definitive answer on this because it was apparently up to the mysterious workings of the computer. We could say more on this subject, but will refrain.

Consequences for schools

The 1s given to refused tests will be figured into the school’s overall proficiency rate, so there will be a small negative consequence there.

However, because the test will be counted as taken, it will not harm the school’s “percentage of tests taken” rating.

Why is there no opt-out in North Carolina?

There is no way to opt out of tests in North Carolina because the state legislature has not established a procedure that would allow parents to officially opt out.

In addition, refused tests are graded (illogical as that seems) because the state legislature has not established a “refusal code” that would mark the tests as not taken.

There has yet to be a significant effort on the part of North Carolina parents to get this kind of legislation passed.

More Information

More information can be found in the following links.

However, since ramifications of test refusal can differ depending on grade, district and school, you should see these links as simply a starting point for your own investigation into your child’s individual circumstances.

“Opting out” or “refusing”?

Potential consequences of opting out of/refusing state-mandated exams

Recommended opt-out/refusal process

Sample opt out/refusal letter

Opt-out/refusal code of ethics

NCDPI statement on test procedures

North Carolina required statewide tests (as of 2015-16 school year)

Testing in North Carolina: historical timeline

The New York opt-out/refusal movement

Information on and alternatives to high-stakes standardized testing