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Governor vetoes bill that would have made opting out of state tests easier


The governor today vetoed a bill that would have made it easier to opt out of standardized state tests.

House Bill 425 said parents can opt their children out of school testing without penalty. It also said kids can choose to take tests with paper and pencil rather than on a computer.

In a statement, Deal said:

House Bill 425 encourages the State Board of Education to implement assessment opt-out procedures and encourages the allowance of paper-and-pencil formats for such assessments. First, as I stated in my veto of SB 133 last year, local school districts currently have the flexibility to determine opt-out procedures for students who cannot, or choose not to, take these statewide assessments and I see no need to impose an additional layer of state-level procedures for these students. Additionally, encouraging the administration of assessments in paper-and-pencil format impedes the state’s priorities of returning test data to districts as quickly as possible, and reducing the opportunity for cheating. For the foregoing reasons, I hereby VETO HB 425.

Meg Norris, founder of Opt Out Georgia, said while parents have always had the right to opt out, that right is not made clear to them.

"Districts are unaware of all this 'policy' the Governor's Office continues to claim. If they understood it, we wouldn't have to keep writing bills. Instead they bully and threaten and punish and hurt children for their parents choice to not participate in an invalid test that is designed not to give teachers information, but to justify the governor's new retirement plan, private charter schools," she said in a statement.

"This veto also removes the right of parents to request a paper and pencil test for their child. The state ignores study after study that show paper and pencil directly linked to higher test scores. Even 10 percent higher in many cases. That's good enough for me to risk the silly 'cheating' worries. This is more evidence that Deal is beholden to the testing juggernaut and doesn't give a crap about kids or real measurement," said Norris.

The veto won applause from the Florida-based Foundation for Excellence in Education, the advocacy group founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush, which issued this statement:

Preserving accountability for educators and families and demonstrating his commitment to improving education for all students, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal today vetoed HB 425. The proposal would have harmed students and teachers by denying access to measurements that track progress on standardized assessments.

Maintaining a transparent and accountable measurement system is critical to ensuring students are on track to succeed in college and beyond – and indicates how successful schools are in preparing students for the future. History shows that without giving teachers and schools this feedback on how students are doing, far too many students will fall through the cracks. HB 425 would have formalized the process for students to be excluded from this important tool.

Here is a link to a teacher essay maintaining that opting out creates a culture of disrespect in the classroom.

And here is a piece by psychologist Stephanie O’Leary, author of the book, “Parenting in the Real World, in defense of opting out.


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.