East Orange Introduces Draft Policy on Opting Out
Tuesday night, I stopped by our regularly scheduled board meeting on my way to the girls basketball game. They beat Paterson Eastside, securing the North 1 Group 4 Sectional title, but that wasn’t the only cause for celebration. On the board agenda, I noticed that there was a draft policy update being given its first reading – E.O. Draft Policy #2622.
This policy – on Student Assessments – was a real shock. We had been told previously that the district did not have an opt-out policy, and it had been intimated to us in not-so-many words that we would more or less follow the approach of “sit and stare.” I had planned on attending the April board meeting to address this problem and urge the Board of Education to adopt a humane opt out policy (especially in light of the bill pending before the legislature, A-4165).
The draft includes what one would expect in a tailored policy regarding parent refusals and opting out:
- The policy begins by asserting the district’s responsibility to test every student as per state laws and regulations
- Parents may refuse to have their students tested by submitting a letter identifying the specific tests and dates from which the student will be opted out
- The district will provide reasonable educational alternatives for the student
- No disciplinary consequences will be issued as a result of a refusal, and students must attend school to be marked present
In addition, this is a formal policy as opposed to a simple resolution. Many of the early opt-out “policies” were in reality simple resolutions approved by Boards of Education. As I recall, the Bloomfield Board of Ed approved a brief one or two sentence resolution regarding a parent’s right to refuse a standardized test. While these resolutions can be passed more quickly (they don’t require multiple readings in subsequent meetings), they are also less detailed and don’t necessarily compel district staff to follow the guidelines.
Hopefully, more Boards of Education will follow suit in the coming months and adopt similar policies. This seems to me like a perfect model that can be introduced and adopted around the state – one that simultaneously recognizing the state’s authority to require testing while providing specific guidelines for parents who choose to refuse tests for their children.