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.

Originally posted here on Education Week/Teacher.


Michelle Gunderson
Michelle Gunderson

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.


  1. Debbie    

    Excellent! Please keep up the good work. So many children’s futures are depending on it.

  2. ira shor    

    Very good pledge. Can I copy it and send it around to push our local Board to adopt it?

  3. Teresa    

    My guess is that since there won’t be room in the office the children will be asked to sit quietly and read during the test. I wish more families knew they could opt out but I believe most feel it might hurt their child’s future in terms of graduation and college. We instead spent an obscene amount of money putting my boys in private school to get away from mandated testing and block scheduling (don’t get me started on that one). Wonder how many educators opt out or put their kids in private school? That would be a good study.

  4. crunchydeb    

    I challenge my district superintendent to do this, instead of a repeat of last year, when one of my kids was tested behind our backs and over our objections. >:-(

  5. Aimee    

    We are in the midst of an opt out/refusal movement here in Arkansas. Many parents are already experiencing “unkind acts,” students are being threatened with retention (AR law regarding retention over test scores has been repealed. This would be illegal.), and some principals are stooping so low as to use PEER PRESSURE to have children conform. May we adapt for use this administrators pledge?

    I applaud the efforts in Chicago. Opting out is not easy. Thanks for your lead!

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