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Activists Will Discuss Future of Opt-Out Movement at Sold-Out Conference

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Last year was a "game changer" for opt-out activists.

Thousands of parents pulled their children out of standardized tests, often based on the Common Core State Standards, pressuring state and federal policymakers to pay attention and, sometimes, to change their approaches.

This year, the United Opt Out National conference, which runs Friday through Sunday in Philadelphia, is looking beyond its namesake cause to issues such as changes to teacher credentials and opposition to charter schools. 

"Opt out is child's play compared to where we are headed," said Peggy Robertson, president of United Opt Out National and one of the group's founders.

The conference, now in its fifth year, is sold out. The venue holds 160 people, but at least 50 more people have asked Robertson if they can come, she said.

Discussions, of course, will continue on how activists can get more parents to opt their students out of end-of-the-year standardized tests. But the group is pushing for more—such as opting out of "online daily testing" as part of the regular curriculum.

The group also will discuss "fighting the destruction of the teaching profession," as well as "corporate greed" in education and the "charter takeover."

United Opt Out started about five years ago through social media and now has leaders in just about every state, Robertson said. Across the country, opt-out activists in states are trying to figure out how they can build on their momentum to push for education change on a national level, according to a recent Education Week article.

While the opt-out movement has grown, not everyone supports policies that allow parents to exempt their children from testing. For example, the National Association of Secondary School Principals announced this week that it opposes opt-out policies.

At the time of the January 2015 United Opt Out conference, the discussions about updates to the federal education law were just beginning in Congress. Education Week extensively covered last year's conference where opt-out proponents discussed their strategies to get more parents to exempt their children from testing. Here is what some parents said about why they support opting out of testing.

 

Now that federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, has passed, the law will be a major focus of conference talks, Robertson said.

"When opt out became mainstream, we accomplished our goal. Our goal was to get the word out in the mainstream media," Robertson said. "With that, came the passage of the ESSA. We are posed with an even greater challenge than before."

The full agenda for the conference can be found at United Opt Out National's website. If you want to see the discussions, you can watch a livestream of the conference. 

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