Right to Refuse Assessments
Parents may refuse assessments for their children
Policies Related to Test Participation and Refusal
State and local assessment expectations impact opportunities to refuse testing. More information is available for each assessment source.
Three types of assessments are required for students under state or federal law.
- According to the Code of Virginia, the Standards of Learning (SOL) or Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP) state assessments are required for:
- All students in grades 3-8 for all tested subjects at the grade level;
- All high school students taking a course with an associated test and needing the test for federal participation or verified credit to graduate.
- The state General Assembly requires schools to provide all grade 3-8 students a Virginia Growth Assessment (VGA) to measure progress throughout the school year.
- All English learners in Virginia are expected to take the WIDA ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 or another approved English language proficiency assessment.
Virginia regulations do not include what is sometimes referred to as an "opt out policy" for state assessments. However, state law allows parents and guardians to refuse SOL, VAAP, and/or VGA testing for their children. Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) provides a process for schools to use when caregivers wish to refuse these state assessments. Schools use this process to make sure caregivers understand what refusal means for the student, including any potential impact for on-time graduation.
Federal law does not provide for parents and guardians to "opt out" or "refuse" English language proficiency assessments, including WIDA ACCESS. However, parents and guardians may choose to decline participation for their children. FCPS provides a process for schools to use when caregivers wish to decline participation for these federal assessments. Schools use this process to make sure caregivers understand what declining participation means for the student.
FCPS students are also expected to take certain standardized tests to provide schools with information for planning appropriate, high-quality learning experiences. Like with state assessments, parents and guardians may refuse division-required standardized testing for their children. Contact the child's school for additional information about refusal.
Other assessments are embedded as part of daily learning in the classroom. This includes local alternative assessments and performance assessments used in place of SOL tests in some grade levels and high school courses. Refusal is not available for assessments that are embedded in the curriculum.
Information about tests required at each grade level is available
What Caregivers Should Know Before Refusing a Test
A parent or guardian should consider the following important points before deciding to refuse any test:
- If the student is in high school, refusing certain SOL tests could impact on-time graduation. Virginia requires verified credits to earn a standard or advanced studies diploma, and SOL tests are the most common way credits are verified.
- Refusing a SOL Reading test in grade 5, grade 8, or high school automatically includes refusal of the integrated reading and writing (IRW) component.
- Certain division-mandated tests (such as iReady, IAAT, CogAT, Math Inventory, etc.) are used to help a school identify appropriate placement for the student in advanced academic, enrichment, intervention, and other programs. While no single test is used in isolation to make such decisions, in some cases when the student does not test, his or her appropriate placement could be temporarily delayed.
- If a student does not test, the school will not have academic data from the assessment to inform plans for their classroom instruction and will rely on information from other assessments and data sources.
- As more students do not participate in assessments, it can become more challenging for the school to gain a clear reflection of how it is meeting the instructional needs of its students as a whole.
A parent or guardian should consider the following additional implications before refusing SOL or VAAP tests:
- The student will be assigned a score of zero (0) for each SOL or VAAP test refused.
- The student's score reports and academic records will display the score of zero (0), but will not directly impact their course grade or access to future coursework.
- The student's zero (0) score will count toward the school's federal test participation rate under ESSA, where applicable, but will not impact the school's state accreditation status.
How to Refuse a Test
If caregivers choose to refuse testing for one or more tests administered in FCPS, they should first contact their student's school. The assessment coach, school test coordinator, or the student's teacher can address questions the caregivers may have about the test content, format, and purpose. The Office of Assessment and Reporting is another resource for caregivers to better understand FCPS assessment expectations for students.
If caregivers determine that refusing a test is in the best interest of their child after speaking with school staff, they will need to officially notify the school of this decision. For certain tests like SOL and WIDA, the school will need to document the parent or guardian decision for state reporting. A form, letter, email, or documented phone conversation may be accepted for the refusal. Parent or guardian refusal of testing must be updated annually.