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Some N.Y.C. Council Members Want Testing Opt-Out Information for Parents

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New York City parents would receive additional guidance regarding their rights to refuse to allow their children to take state assessments under a proposed city council resolution. 

The resolution introduced by two New York City council members Feb. 12, calls on the city's Department of Education to include information about opting out of high-stakes tests in its Parents' Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. The resolution also would require that the document be distributed at the start of every school year to the families of all students regardless of their grade level.

City Council Education Chairman Daniel Dromm and Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal are the resolution's sponsors. Rosenthal told Chalkbeat New York that the resolution is not an endorsement of the opt-out movement but rather a tool to provide parents with information about their options and the consequences of their decision.

The absence of such direction regarding test refusal in some communities across the nation has put school administrators at odds with parents. With many states set to administer assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards this spring, parents are seeking guidance about their rights to refuse the test. Often much of that information is coming from anti-testing advocates. 

However, last year, the New York City district released a guide that advised the city's principals to fully explain to parents the consequences of opting out. There is no state law or regulation allowing parents to refuse state assessments being administered to their children in New York.

The district's current guide reads: "If, after consulting with the principal, the parents still want to opt their child out of the exams, the principal should respect the parents' decision and let them know that the school will work to the best of their ability to provide the child with an alternate educational activity (for example, reading) during testing times."

Chalkbeat New York reports that Education Department spokeswoman Devora Kaye did not indicate whether the city would support adding the opt-out language to the parents' bill of rights. But she added that the city's new student promotion policy, which no longer relies predominantly on test scores, would reduce the significance of assessments.

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