The New York opt-out/refusal movement

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During the past three years, families in New York State have built one of the strongest opt-out/refusal movements in the country, community by community.

The movement started small, with a few families in a few schools. It has now grown to include thousands of families. One of the main New York opt-out Facebook groups, Long Island Opt-Out Info, has more than 17,000 members.

Last spring, nearly 30,000 New York families refused the tests. In some schools, as many as 30 percent of families refused. The movement has set a goal of 250,000 student refusals for this spring. More information can be found at the website of NYS Allies for Public Education.

Like North Carolina, New York does not give families an explicit right to opt out of state tests. Parents and guardians who have chosen to refuse have invoked their fundamental right to direct their children’s education, and to protect them from harm. Some schools and districts have been more open to this argument than others. So far, however, the persistence and courage of families has made it quite successful.

Depending on the district, students who are refusing either engage in alternate activities at the school (the preferred alternative), or remain in the room where other students are taking the test (sometimes allowed to read or draw, sometimes not).

The New York efforts have been chronicled in several recent articles:

Turn On, Tune In, Opt Out, The Nation, November 5, 2013

The Opt-Outers: What happens if enough New York parents say they don’t want their kids to take tests? New York Magazine, November 24, 2013

The Defiant Parents: Testing’s Discontents, The New Yorker, January 23, 2014

Standing Up to Testing, New York Times, March 28, 2014.

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