A school district encourages parents to opt their children out

Swift River Elementary School

The New Salem/Wendell School Committee unanimously passed a strongly-worded resolution, supporting and encouraging parents to opt their children out of PARCC tests this spring.

The resolution, passed on March 10, not only encourages parents to opt their children out of the state standardized test, it also encourages teachers and staff members to let parents know they have the choice of opting out. With this goal in mind, the district held a community meeting on March 28 to give parents a forum at which they could learn more and ask questions.

“This is an option that we want families to think about and consider,” said Chris Wings, a special education teacher at the Swift River School and a member of the Swift River Education Association who helped get the resolution passed. “There are very few benefits for students taking these tests – and for many, there are no benefits at all, just harm.”

Swift River School teachers will also have opt-out letters available for parents to take with them or sign on the spot at parent-teacher conferences. Wings estimates that she spends four weeks every year — or one-tenth of the school year — proctoring state standardized tests. Not only does this take her away from her students, but the district must hire substitute teachers to cover for her. “It’s a colossal waste,” Wings said.

She also said that while a substantial number of students are likely to opt out of the state tests this year, all students and their families will be supported regardless of their decision. A Facebook posting about the March 28 meeting noted, “Swift River School will stand in solidarity with all of our students — whether they opt in or out, we stand together.”

The Swift River School serves an estimated 165 preschool and K-6 students from New Salem and Wendell.

On March 22, the Amherst School Committee and the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee jointly passed a resolution regarding students’ right to opt out of MCAS testing. The Southern Berkshire Regional School Committee also passed an opt-out resolution.

Visit massteacher.org/optout for more resources.