As we start to emerge from this pandemic our focus should be on healing, not testing. Unfortunately, the federal government has said they would not cancel standardized testing for the 2020-21 school year. Our students and families are still trying to survive a global pandemic. Their trauma is real. As we return to school buildings, we should prioritize relationship building and healing, not testing. This is not the time to add more anxiety and stress to our already fraught student body.
The State of Minnesota may be able to loosen the guidelines around testing, but the best way to keep your child from having to participate is to exercise your right to opt your child out of testing. Read more for information on how to opt out and for answers to some frequently asked questions.
How to opt your child out of MCAs and other standardized tests
Opting your child out of MCA exams is a simple procedure. A parent/guardian may either write a letter or send an email to your school’s principal and teacher. You might be asked to also contact the school’s testing coordinator. It must be the parent or guardian that opts the student out of the test.You can notify them in any of the following ways:
- Send an email or hand written note to your student’s Teacher or Principal or Student Assessment Coordinator or
- Call your School Assessment Coordinator or Principal and provide them with the following information:
- Child’s name and CIF (if you have it)
- Specify what test you are choosing not to take (MCAs or ACCESS)
- Make sure the School Assessment Coordinator documents the conversation or
- Complete an opt out form and send it to your student’s Teacher or Principal or Student Assessment Coordinator. Below are links to opt forms drafted by the Minnesota Department of Education and translated into multiple languages.
Opt Out Forms:
Standardized Testing Student Testimonials
Frequently asked questions
What does it mean to “opt out” of standardized testing?
It means refusing to take a standardized test like the MCA Reading, Math and Science.
Why should I opt my child out?
Reducing the amount of time students are taking tests and increasing instructional time. Here are some of the testing numbers for a SPPS Elementary student:
- MCA Math Grades 3 – 5 Spring test – 75 minutes
- MCA Reading Grades 3 – 5 Spring test – 210 minutes
- OLPA Math Grades 3- 5 Winter Test – 75 minutes
- OLPA Reading Grades 3 – 5 Winter Test – 210 minutes
- MCA Science Grade 5 – 105 minutes
This means a fifth grade student will be testing for approximately 675 minutes each school year. This does not include ELL testing, Gifted and Talented testing, Reading benchmarks, Math unit tests and other assessing that goes on in the student’s classrooms. That is 11 hours of testing directly related to MCAs and again, does not include the prep time, practice tests and other components that go with MCA testing.
Is opting out illegal?
No, schools are asked to report a percentage of student test scores but ESSA recognizes parent’s right to refuse testing. Minnesota has language protecting parent rights to opt out of standardized testing and MDE has an Opt Out form available on their website.
During Minnesota’s 2016 legislative session the following language was adopted.
HF 2749, Lines 459.17-459.27 Sec. 22. Minnesota Statutes 2014, section 120B.31, is amended by adding a subdivision to read: Subd. 4a. Student participation.
The commissioner shall create and publish a form for parents and guardians to complete if they refuse to have their student participate in state or locally required standardized testing. The form must state why there are state academic standards, indicate which tests are aligned with state standards, and what consequences, if any, the school or student may face if a student does not participate in state or locally required standardized testing. This form must ask parents to indicate a reason for their refusal.
How will opting out benefit my child?
Your child will not experience the stresses and possible stigmas associated with standardized testing. Instead of toiling away on exams that are not really designed to give students direct feedback on their learning and achievement, they will be given time to read or work independently or will volunteer within the school.
How will opting out affect my child’s grades or academic standing (or progress)?
With the exception of post-secondary entrance exams (ACT, SAT, IB/AP, ASVAB, Accuplacer, etc.), which generally are taken voluntarily, opting out of exams does not impact a student’s grades or academic standing.
Students seeking to participate in PSEO opportunities may need to take some form of college placement test such as Accuplacer, SAT, or ACT provided by the high school that meets the college’s requirements for admission. Check with the college that students are interested in for their specific requirements.
Will opting out hurt my child’s school or St. Paul Public Schools?
No. Parents have been told this, but it has never happened and there is no reason to think it will. The federal government has never required financial penalties. New York State has had at least 20% of its students opting out for several years, and despite some federal bluster, no New York school lost any money.
What will my child/student do when the tests are being given?
In most cases, students are allowed to either work or read independently, participate in the activities in another class or volunteer within the school.
How can I opt out? What do I need to do?
Opting your child out of MCA exams is a simple procedure. A parent/guardian may either write a letter or send an email to your school’s principal and teacher. You might be asked to also contact the school’s testing coordinator. It must be the parent or guardian that opts the student out of the test.
Are other families choosing to opt out of standardized testing?
In the 2015-16 school year, 94 out of every 10,000 students statewide refused to take the math tests, up from 3 per 10,000 just 4 years earlier. A lower rate of students refused to take the reading tests, but that has also risen sharply from four per 10,000 students to 74 per 10,000.
Don’t we need standardized tests to hold teachers and schools accountable?
No. The state does use other factors when looking at school accountability including; graduation rates, ACCESS test (English Language Learner), and attendance. TD&E allows for evaluation of teachers that does not rely on standardized test performance.
Are students in-eligible for PSEO in 10th grade if they don’t take the MCA in 8th grade?
No. Minnesota Statutes, Section 124D.09, Subdivision 5a states: A 10th grade pupil applying for enrollment in a career or technical education course under this subdivision must have received a passing score on the 8th grade Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment in reading as a condition of enrollment. A current 10th grade pupil who did not take the 8th grade Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment in reading may substitute another reading assessment accepted by the enrolling postsecondary institution. A secondary pupil may enroll in the pupil’s first postsecondary options enrollment course under this subdivision