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Michelle Gunderson: Administrator's Pledge on Ethical Treatment of Students Who Opt Out

On Saturday I shared a report from Chicago teacher Michelle Gunderson about the decision by the faculty at two Chicago elementary schools to risk their jobs by boycotting the ISAT test. Today she provides us with an important new statement, regarding the ethical stance administrators should take when responding to students who opt out. 

Guest post by Michelle Gunderson.

Imagine you are 8 years old. Your parents respectfully requested that you not participate in standardized testing. Yet, your school system insists on putting the test in front of you, reading the directions, and making you sit quietly for the duration of the test.

Now that over a thousand students have opted out of testing in Chicago this is the scenario facing many children whose schools follow the protocol required by the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT).

It is time for administrators to take an ethical stance and make a firm commitment to the fair and kind treatment of children whose parents have opted them out of testing.

Deciding to opt a child out of testing is never taken lightly. Parents looked at the harm being done through standardized tests and made a moral and philosophical decision to no longer let their children be used as pawns. Because this decision is grounded in a belief system, school administrators should honor opting out with the same level of respect as a family's religious observances.

I have developed a pledge for administrators to publicly announce exactly how children who are not taking standardized tests will be treated within a school community. The pledge ensures that children are respected and that there will not be repercussions for their parents' decision.


The testing-centered culture in our public schools has put many of the adults under undue pressure and stress. Let's make sure that children whose parents opt them out don't bear a burden of this stress. And that they are treated with thoughtful consideration in their school house - the very place where they should be protected.

What do you think of this pledge? How should educators respond when students or their parents attempt to opt out of standardized tests?

Michelle Gunderson is a 27 year teaching veteran who teaches first grade in the Chicago Public Schools. She is a doctoral student at Loyola University in Curriculum and Instruction.

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