Suggested opt-out/refusal procedure

1. Study your individual situation and determine whether refusing is the best decision for your child. Pay particular attention to any existing policies that may use your child’s test scores in decisions regarding placement, promotion, grades, etc. As these policies differ from district to district, and sometimes from school to school, make sure you have the facts about your child’s particular situation. Principals are often the best source of information on this point.

We do not recommend that families refuse in cases where test scores form an essential part of important decisions about grades, placement or promotion, such as in the case of high school End of Course tests or the third-grade End of Grade reading test under the state “Read to Achieve” program.

2. Write a formal letter to your principal that states your decision. You can find a sample letter in the Opting out/Refusal section of our website.

3. Meet with your child’s principal to explain your decision. It will probably help to explain that you understand that these tests are mandated by the state and federal governments, and that your decision does not reflect dissatisfaction with the school, teachers or district. You might also take a copy of a suggested opt-out code of ethics, which explains best practices for dealing with children whose families choose to refuse tests.

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 her/himself with the facts about test refusal. Calmness, firmness and patience are all helpful in making the process go as smoothly as possible.

In most situations, the refusal process involves some form of presenting your child with the test and having your child “refuse” to take it. Again, it helps to keep in mind that this is a difficult situation for school personnel because of the state requirement that the school “administer” the tests. If your children are absent on the official testing days, for example, school personnel are required to make every possible effort to test them if they come to school on any days after that. Unless you keep your children out of school from the time that testing starts until the end of school, there needs to be a formal refusal.

The simplest way to handle the situation is to have your child sit at the back of the room during testing or test makeup and read a book rather than opening the test booklet. State regulations permit children to read once they have “completed” a test, although they do not require districts or schools to allow reading.

Another way to handle this, if your principal is in agreement, is to have your child be absent or late on the official testing days (late is as good as absent, because no child can enter a testing session once the other students have started). Then schedule a makeup session that includes only your child. State regulations allow a session to end when every child in a room has finished testing, so if your child is the only child in the room, the testing session can end as soon as she or he refuses.

4. Inform your child’s teachers that your child will not be taking the tests, and explain why.

Families who have refused have found that school administrators react in a variety of ways. Many are deeply frustrated with the tests themselves, and are quite supportive of refusal decisions. Others may be concerned with the effects on their school, and may advise you not to refuse. Still others may attempt to intimidate you into changing your mind, by threatening various consequences.

Generally, families who have stood firm and calmly asserted their right to make this decision for their children have successfully refused without significant consequences. If you do run into problems, please contact us at

For the difference between opting out of tests and refusing them, visit “Opting out” or “refusing”?