When Tests Fail: Opt Out


On March 2nd, members of my school’s PTA sent letters home to parents encouraging them to opt their children out of the PARCC Test. Their effort was covered in an article by Lauren FitzPatrick in the Chicago Sun-Times. Many parents asked my position on the matter.  As a result, I released the following letter to our parent community.


I am writing to make it clear that the Blaine administration fully supports the PTA’s effort to maximize Blaine students’ instructional time. As a result we will respect and honor all parent requests to opt-out their students from the PARCC. Students whose parents opt them out will receive a full day of instruction.  Teachers are developing plans that will provide enriched learning experiences for non-testing students during the testing window. I want to clearly state that whether you opt-out or not, Blaine’s administration and teachers will respect and support your wishes for your child.

PARCC assessments will begin next week.

The two PARCC testing periods are from March 9th to April 2nd, and April 27th to May 22nd. The mandatory MAP testing period will overlap with the PARCC assessment. MAP testing runs from May 11th to June 12th.

This year, Blaine students will take several major tests. These include MAP and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). In addition, 8th grade students have taken the selective enrollment exam, and they will be taking the algebra exit exam. On top of these assessments, the PARCC adds several weeks of additional testing to an already packed testing regimen. It is not a stretch to say that American students are over-tested and under-taught. None of the world’s highest performing school systems spend as much time (and money) testing its students as we do.

Opting out will not affect your child’s promotion and selective enrollment status for Fall 2015. There is also a belief that opting out will affect Blaine’s funding. There is no evidence for this belief. In fact, the test itself is decreasing resources that could have otherwise been targeted for school improvement. Each year, states and school districts spend billions of dollars on testing, while at the same time cutting budgets for instruction and learning. Our PTA believes it is time for parents to say “enough.” For more on the issue of funding, please see the statement released by the parent education advocacy organization, More Than a Score, at the following link:


For more on the PTA’s opt-out initiative, please see http://blainepta.weebly.com/.

In closing, our PTA’s focus on teaching your children rather than over-testing them is commendable, and we applaud their efforts on behalf of Blaine students.

Very Respectfully,

Troy LaRaviere, Principal


Since releasing the above letter, I’ve been asked questions like, “Since the PARCC might count for something next year, do you think the kids should just take it this year so they can get used to it?”  My response is as follows: If the schools announced that next year they were going to expose your children to exhaust fumes for five minutes per day, would to be resigned to that inevitability and submit to your child starting his or her exposure this year so he or she can “get used to it”?  That analogy may seem harsh and over-the-top, but it is my lived experienced that this massive over-testing has been as toxic to education in Chicago as breathing exhaust fumes would be to a living organism.  Over-testing–and the punitive measures that have come with it–has narrowed our curriculum; it has led to massive cheating scandals across the country; it has lead to the shutting down of good schools in low-income neighborhoods; and it has led to a reduction in practices that would actually improve schools, like collaboration, increased professional development time, and a focus on developing proven high-leverage teaching skills like reverse lesson design, the use of visuals during instruction, increasing the depth of teacher content knowledge, etc.

Over-testing has also given politicians a way to blame public schools for things that are clearly a result of the actions and inactions of the failed politicians themselves.  When students in a low-income neighborhood show up on day-one of kindergarten three years behind their counterparts in a high-income community, that is not the result of the failure of public schools; it is the result of failed public policies; it is a result of a political system that has failed to deliver critical human services to the people who need them most. From Rahm Emanuel to most local alderman, our city’s politicians have failed low-income children from conception to kindergarten, and they use attainment based test scores to chastise public schools for picking up the pieces of their monumental failures.

So no.  We don’t need to get used to this.  We need to stop this.

My son is in second grade.  Next year he will be among thousands of 3rd graders who are scheduled to take the PARCC for the first time.  He will not take it. He will not take it in 3rd grade to get used to it by 4th grade; and he will not take it in 4th grade to get used to it by 5th grade.

We do not want our children–or our schools in general–to continue to have to get used to unproven backward education policy ideas like the theory that testing our children is going to somehow magically improve our education system.  It’s time to end the PARCC; not just opt-out of it.  It’s time to implement real evidence based strategies for enhancing our education system.  We’ve been blindly following the testing theory for 14 years now. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law launched this era of testing and accountability in 2001.  Remember?  The massive testing and accountability the law called for was supposed to lead to 100% of children meeting standards by 2014.  Those years have come and gone with no appreciable difference in outcomes for our children.  In fact, the achievement gap in Chicago worsened after a decade of NCLB. Testing and accountability did not work in the last 14 years and it won’t work in the next 14.  It’s time to call a failure, a failure.

Let’s all say it together:

“The theory of testing and accountability has failed our children.”

Opt Out Chicago.

Opt Out Illinois.

Opt Out America.

And shut down the PARCC now.

17 thoughts on “When Tests Fail: Opt Out

  1. I would work for you in a heartbeat. It’s thrilling to see real leadership from a CPS principal. I confess I don’t see it often enough (21 years with CPS and 18 principals in that time – of which 3 were great, no, make that amazing, and that includes my current one who is just awesome.) but that leaves 15 that just did whatever the areas/regions/networks told them to.) I am a NBCT and I just opted my twin daughters out of the PARCC madness. Enough is enough.
    Victor Harbison

  2. How I wish more educators and administrators would speak out!!!!


  3. Excellent letter! Thank you from Pennsylvania. I just emailed this to my children’s middle school and high school principals and I wish you were MY children’s principal!! You get it, you understand and your DOING SOMETHING to protect children and save education. Hugs, big, big hugs to you from PA!!

  4. As a veteran teacher at Texas junior high, I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on over testing and the financial waste it represents. It is not the teachers that are failing our students, but the politicians they had no say in electing. I want to commend you for taking a stand. Keep up the good work!

  5. Parents and teachers everywhere need to say enough and no more to the polioticos who create educational policies and yet are ignorant of the science of how children learn. I applaud you!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. While the state I teach in has not adopted this particular test (yet) we have new testing added every year while no tests are ever removed. There is extremely limited time to actually teach concepts and remediate or enrich as needed. It’s test, test, and more test and the expectations move further and further from even being anywhere near developmentally appropriate. And for those who keep adding to the load, they truly need to learn the meaning of the word “balance” and perhaps spend some time with the teachers and students in the classrooms that they are such experts about. Best wishes to you!

  7. I have a fourth grader in CPS and another to follow in a couple years. I am also a teacher of English and EFL and you have captured my sentiments exactly. It’s time to say enough. It’s time for parents and educators to be heard. WE are the ones who know the children, and how to teach them, best. Thank you for your candor.

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