Please help me reconcile these three things:

I generally believe the national Parent Teacher Association can be charitably described as an appendage of national teachers’ unions.

Teachers’ unions are leading the charge in organized efforts to get parents to “opt out” of annual student testing in public schools.

And, the national PTA is now telling parents to support state assessments.

It’s that third item I find boggling. In a good way.

In a new Huffington Post article (“I’m Opting Out of Opt-Out“) the National PTA’s Shannon Sevier makes the case for parents to consider the consequences of sitting out of testing.

During testing season last year, reports emerged that a large number of students were opted out of state assessments. While polls have indicated a majority of parents do not support the concept of opt-out, the movement has vocal supporters and it is expected that even more attention will be paid to student participation in assessments.


The consequences of non-participation in state assessments can have detrimental impacts on students and schools. Non-participation can result in a loss of funding, diminished resources and decreased interventions for students. Such ramifications would impact minorities and students with special needs disparately, thereby widening the achievement gap.

For example, states like New York that did not meet the participation requirement last school year received a letter stating that funding–including for English language learners, students with disabilities and other students in need–could be at risk if they have less than 95% participation on exams this spring. Opting out also stalls innovation by inhibiting effective monitoring and improvement of programs, exams and instructional strategies, and could thwart transparency by providing incomplete data for states, districts and schools.

Recognizing the concerns parents and educators have about testing, and the importance of improving assessment systems, National PTA’s Board of Directors recently adopted a position statement on assessment. The statement acknowledges the importance of eliminating unnecessary and low-quality assessments while protecting the vital role that good assessments play in measuring student progress so parents and educators have the best information to support teaching and learning, improve outcomes and ensure equity for all children.

While some will solely focus on the statement’s opposition to opt-out policies, when read in its entirety, the statement provides a holistic approach to improving assessment systems. National PTA advocates for improved assessment systems by recommending that states and districts: (1) ensure appropriate development; (2) guarantee reliability and implementation of high quality assessments; (3) clearly articulate to parents the assessment and accountability system in place at their child’s school and (4) bring schools and families together to use the data to support student growth and learning.

Read the entire article at Huffington Post.

Chris Stewart is the Chief Executive Officer of Education Post, a media project of the Results in Education Foundation. He is a lifelong activist and 20-year supporter of nonprofit and education-related causes. Stewart has served as the director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, the executive director of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF), and an elected member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education.


  1. Let me correct you on at least two of your three points.
    1. The PTA received significant funding from the Gates Foundation to support acceptance of implementation of the Common Core standards. In this way, their support of testing is simply an extension of that mission. It is not the teachers’ unions telling them to take this position; it is the Gates Foundation.
    2. The Opt Out movement is a parent-led movement, with participation and support from teachers (e.g., BATS), some of whom risk their jobs to let parents know they have a right to opt their children out of testing.

  2. Thank you for the additional points.

    On the first point is seems their partnership with all sides is responsible for them finding a balanced position (calling for better assessment without opting out).

    On the second point, I think it’s debatable. Opt out organizing is driven by many groups that get funding from teachers’ unions.


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