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The FLVS Full Time K-12 State Non-Tester Acknowledgement Form was just shared with The Opt Out Florida Network by a FLVS parent who received it from FLVS.

This form is to be completed only by parent/guardian(s) of students not participating in state testing for the 2021-2022 school year. Link to online form: https://bit.ly/FLVSOptOutForm


  • As far as we know – this does not pertain to brick and mortar schools, nor district virtual programs.

DISCLAIMER*: It is each parents’ responsibility to ensure alternative assessments, NOT the schools’ responsibility. This post by The Opt Out Florida Network recommends and assumes that parents:

This is what you should see when you open the document to fill it out and submit:

Are Districts Testing PARENTS Now? … Fight back.


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by Sandy Stenoff

The executive order signed by Florida’s Commissioner of Education on April 9 waives all FSA requirements for this year and grants districts great flexibility to promote third graders by means other than a test. And yet, some schools are still telling parents of remote third grade students, who have NO documented reading deficiency, that if they don’t send their proficient third graders in to school to take an in-person assessment, they’re going to be retained in the third grade.

Are school districts REALLY prepared to retain proficient third grade students with NO reading deficiency THIS YEAR? – under an executive order?

Parents – Is your school district just testing YOU now? The new parenting stamina test?

If parents have kept a child at home all year because of considerable health risks to the family during the pandemic, AND the school wants the child to take a test in person to prove what the state is not even requiring, then the parents must decide how much of a health risk they are willing to accommodate just to appease the school.

The state is not requiring that third grade students complete a test to demonstrate that they should be promoted. The order is clear. It ALSO permits “OTHER MEANS, reasonably calculated to provide reliable evidence of a student’s performance.

FACT: The Commissioner has said he would LIKE all students to test, but the executive order does not say THAT.

It bears repeating: The state is NOT REQUIRING a good cause exemption this year.

the good cause exemption process provided in s. 1008.25, Fla. Stat., OR OTHER MEANS, reasonably calculated to provide reliable evidence of a student’s performance.

FLDOE – April 9, 2021

At last check, OR still means one or the other. Either. Not both.

When a school threatens harm to a child in order to force parents into compliance with their demands, we call that emotional blackmail. It’s bullying, it needs to STOP and YOU can stop it by shining a light on it.

Districts have publicly repeated the FLDOE’s position on “treating families with grace and compassion.” If the districts are saying one thing, but the schools are doing another, then parents need to ask the district to clarify their position to the schools.

Here’s a letter to district leadership to help you do that:

Dear Superintendent_______________,

We have kept our child at home all school year because of health concerns during the pandemic. I am being told by my son’s school that if he does not come into school for an in-person assessment to satisfy a good cause exemption, then he will be retained in the third grade.

From the FLDOE executive order of April 9 on third grade promotion:

II. Promotion and Retention Decisions
Third grade promotion. Notwithstanding the requirements found in s. 1008.25(5), Fla. Stat., a student may be promoted to grade four, regardless of the absence of an English Language Arts (ELA) assessment score or the absence of a Level 2 or higher ELA score, if the district is able to determine that a student is performing at least at Level 2 on the ELA assessment through the good cause exemption process provided in s. 1008.25, Fla. Stat., or other means reasonably calculated to provide reliable evidence of a student’s performance.”

I am respectfully requesting that the “other means” specified in the executive order be (name’s) grades, which he earned throughout the school year and his report card, which, together, are “reasonably calculated to provide reliable evidence of a student’s performance.”

With the flexibility granted to districts by the state because of the pandemic, and in the absence of a test performed in person – are you prepared to retain a proficient student; to force him to repeat the third grade needlessly, in spite of his demonstrating that he has NO reading deficiency?

From the FLDOE document, Read to Learn:


Retention does not mean that the child has failed. It does not mean that teachers or parents are not working hard enough. It does mean that the child needs more instructional time and help to catch up and meet grade 3 reading performance levels. The purpose of retention is to give children who have substantial reading deficiencies more time and the intensive instruction they need to catch up in reading.

(Name) has demonstrated that he does not have a reading deficiency and is a proficient reader who performs consistently at a level documented to be above average.

Please be advised that (Name) will not be coming into school to take an in-person assessment, merely for a test score that is not required, per the executive order.

Should the school persist in demanding an in-person assessment, I am prepared to withdraw him from school before the end of the school year and register him as a homeschool student, get his portfolio certified for promotion to the fourth grade by a certified teacher and re-enroll him into the fourth grade after summer.

Please advise further. I look forward to your reply.


Remember to CC all school board members, the principal AND your local education reporter.

Be aware that when you send your email, you may receive a reply email – OR a phone call. You may be told things that a district may not want documented. YOU NEED IT DOCUMENTED – such as “that your child will be retained if they don’t take the FSA.” It is important to document all communications with the school. Phone calls are fine. Just be prepared to take notes.

THEN – send an email stating what was discussed over the phone and ask for confirmation of your understanding:

This is to confirm our conversation on (date).

You stated:

Please reply to confirm. Thank you for your kind assistance.



If they won’t confirm it in writing, IT. DIDN’T. HAPPEN.


DOE Order No. 2021-EO-02 – April 9, 2021

FLDOE – Read To Learn

Third Grade Opt Out Toolbox

No more “minimal participation.” We OPT OUT.


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by Sandy Stenoff

Dear fellow parents,

This organization is NOT “The Minimal Participation Network.”

We are The OPT OUT Florida Network. Proudly. 

Since 2012, parents have turned to us in desperation, sharing their outrage and frustration about the campaign of intimidation they receive from schools when they voice any objection to the obsessive and inappropriate high stakes testing, which labels our capable children as failures, with devastating results. We empathize with parents AND teachers’ stories of incessant, weekly i-Ready minutes… or else…; bogus threats of retention that will not happen; unsubstantiated threats of remediation to their (YOUR) children – all based on test scores – FSA scores, to be specific. You are lied to, in order to secure your compliance and deliver up your child to a rigged test. You AND your children are bullied and harassed when you do opt out, even if you call it minimal participation. These are not appropriate behaviors for professional adults in a school environment.

Opting out says, “I do not consent.”

Anything else IS consent.

In our earlier days, when opting out was often met with hostile responses from schools, parents were hesitant to opt out and the term minimal participation was coined by a parent out of good intentions. It was a way to avoid pushback from the schools. But that comes from a place of fear, not empowerment, and it implies minimal effort.

We have rejected minimal participation before.

167526635_10224929786052973_4695478123732889404_n 3

Excerpt from the Opt Out Pocket Guide

Also see here.

Even though we continue to promote opting out in a way that does not affect the precious 95% participation, too many principals tell us, by their words and deeds, that they value school grades more than our kids.

Guess what, folks? 

What minimal participation and 95% participation guarantees is that the Florida legislature will NEVER listen to you. 

Think about it. Why should they?

Not until parents wake up and let it be known, en masse, that we reject their high stakes accountability, will the powers that be hear you.

Years ago, a teacher commented on the lengths parents go to just to make testing less painful for their children. He said to me,

Parents are constantly trying to figure out ways to make what schools do to their kids less traumatic. It’s as if they don’t realize they can shut down all the stupid testing with one, giant, focused protest.

“Minimal participation” is an example of that. It is parental tribute to the very adults who facilitate this broken system of test and punish accountability; a system, which makes children hate school and veteran teachers leave their profession.

It is a misnomer that has also led to the misperception, which implies:

  • that parents who opt out harm our schools. They do not.

  • that opting out is about “just this child.” It is not.

  • that parents, who opt out, thumb their noses at our schools and the people who work there. We. Do. Not. 

There is a bigger picture, and we are all a part of it. 

We know that standardized tests are a better measure of affluence than of true academic ability. When schools don’t “make the grade,” they are labeled as “failing schools” and are denied equitable funding and resources. Such schools are subject to being taken over by private, charter corporations; removing local control, and fracturing close-knit communities, in particular, predominantly black and brown communities.
We OPT OUT of that.

The Opt Out Florida Network objects to high stakes testing in order to strongly support public school teachers, who are also harmed by high stakes accountability. Because of high stakes testing, experienced teachers are fast becoming an endangered species. 
We OPT OUT of that.

No school has ever been denied funding because students opted out. None. Nationally. Not even in the state of New York, where annually, 20% of all students… OPT OUT.

There are many public school teachers, former and current, in our ranks, who not only support the movement with their time, but also opt their own kids out of testing. The behavior of a few rogue teachers or principals is not reflective of our alliance with educators in support of public education. Bad behavior on the part of our schools diminishes public education and it must be called out. Don’t complain about it. Report it. 

This week, a very informed parent notified her child’s school about opting out of the upcoming FSA.

Twice, the principal asked her if she wanted to opt out or “minimally participate.”
Twice, she told the principal that she wanted to “opt out” of all FSA testing for the year…

Principal: “There really isn’t an “opt out” option. “Minimal participation” is better for the school because it shows that we attempted to give the student the test, so they do count in our numbers.”

The irony.

“Please let us know what you would like (Name) to do.”

She did. Twice.
Was the mother not clear enough when she twice communicated,

“My child will opt out of all FSA tests this year”?

…or did the principal just dismiss her?

This principal is not informed enough to understand that minimal participation IS opting out, permitting one action and forbidding the other.  The spelling and meaning are different, but the manipulation of parents and students to test at all cost is what is perpetuated by using the language of minimal participation.

Even though schools know that we have successfully opted out for nearly a decade now, they must continue the line, because heaven help us if they ever gave us permission to opt out and it ends the testing abuse.

Don’t be afraid to call it what it is. Your protection against institutional bullying comes not from appeasing them to keep the peace, but from being informed, so that you can use that knowledge from a position of strength and confidence. You have that information hereContinue reading

Opting Out Of The FSA During A Pandemic


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by Sandy Stenoff

According to the Florida Dept of Education (FLDOE), as of February 2021, 30% of all public school children are still being schooled remotely, including 2.3% in virtual schools.

Many parents have made the difficult decision to keep their children at home, learning remotely, since the beginning of the school year. Some of the reasons we’ve heard from parents seeking opt out information include a parent who has had a heart transplant; a student’s sibling, who has cancer and undergoes chemotherapy; a third grade student who has Type 1 Diabetes, to name a few. All are immuno-compromised and are at high risk of serious illness or fatality if they were to contract the virus.

Update – April 5: Children now playing ‘huge role’ in spread of COVID-19 variant, expert says

In spite of increasing COVID-19 vaccination compliance in Florida and nationally, Florida continues to document the greatest number of COVID-19 variants.

Since January, thousands of new parents have joined The Opt Out Florida Network.

They are asking:

“We’ve kept our 8-yr old daughter home all year long because I have a heart transplant. Her school now says I have to send her in to take the FSA or else she will be retained. Is this true?”

“If, as a parent, I opt to keep my kids out of the classroom because a sibling has cancer, can the school force me to have my kids attend for state testing?”

“My son has Type 1 Diabetes. How do I opt out of the FSA if we’ve been learning remotely from home?

Some superintendents have provided guidance in response to overwhelming demands from parents for guidance. 

Orange County’s Supt. Jenkins addressed the issue of remote learners not attending FSA at the 2/23/21 OCPS board meeting:

District Letters To Parents
Orange County’s letter re-affirms what Dr. Jenkins said at the school board meeting – that “OCPS will not force any families to send kids in for face-to-face testing.”

Seminole County’s letter says they “will respect the decisions that parents will make on behalf of their students.”

From Miami-Dade County, quoting the Florida Commissioner of Education, Richard Corcoran, even as Corcoran maintains that all students must go into school to test in person:
“…the decision to participate ultimately rests with the parents and/or guardian.”

NOTE: None of the districts say that your child will be exempted from the requirements of testing – for third grade promotion or for graduation requirements. Only the governor or the commissioner of education can do that.


  • Florida statute mandates that all districts must administer the test and that all students must participate in the test, but it does not define “participation.
  • Tens of thousands of students have successfully opted out of the FSA since 2012 and have been promoted and appropriately placed, without incident, based on their report cards and teacher recommendations.
  • Nothing we post here is to be considered legal advice.

This post is about HOW to opt out, whether you are learning remotely from home or in person at school.

This post is not about how to get a Good Cause Exemption. ONLY third grade students require a Good Cause Exemption to be promoted. Information on approved Alternative Assessments for Good Cause Exemptions may be found in the Opt Out Guide and in the Third Grade Opt Out Toolbox.


Pushback from schools can be an issue when opting out of “mandatory” state tests, but NOT if you are informed, know what to expect and understand what your real options are.

ALL parents should expect a letter from school, saying, “There is no provision in state statutes for opting out of the FSA.” The letter does not mean that you can’t opt out, just that they have to tell you that you can’t. Please understand the difference.

Some principals and staff are compassionate and empathetic and will help you to get your child through this.

Others will push hard to try to get you to bring your child in to take the test, which, for some families, is not an option now. If the district is saying one thing and your principal is doing another, there is a disconnect that must be corrected. Email your superintendent. If you can’t get a satisfactory response, forward it to your local education reporter. I’m not kidding.

Squeak, wheels. Squeak.

So, how DO you opt out if your child isn’t going into school face-to-face?


  • DON’T send them to school to take the FSA... That’s pretty much it.
  • Once you’ve made the decision not to send your child into school for testing, if you wish to notify the school, as a courtesy, you can find a sample letter to adapt to your own needs here.
  • DO read the updated OPT OUT GUIDE to help you to understand opting out.
  • DO read the Pocket Opt Out Guide, with lots of useful information to share with friends and school.
  • DO use the tools in the Opt Out Toolbox and in the RESOURCES link.
  • If your child is in the third grade, use the Third Grade Opt Out Toolbox to secure a Good Cause Exemption for promotion to the fourth grade.
  • THEN, if you still have questions, please join us here to ask your questions.


Students who are in school, in person, will opt out the same way that they have always opted out.

  1. Sit for the test.
  2. Don’t sign the Test Rules Acknowledgement.
  3. Open the test. 3a) On computer test, student will login.
  4. Push the test away. 4a) On computer, scroll through to the end of the test, without answering any questions and click submit.
  5. When urged to complete your test, politely decline saying, “No, thank you. I’m done.”
  6. Take a nap, read, draw, sit quietly or whatever you’re permitted to do when you’re finished testing.
    (Some students may be picked up from school by parents and returned to school after testing.)
  7. Congratulations! You’ve now opted out.


Some parents find “The Other Opt Out” easier on younger kids, especially when parents are not able to pick them up from school during testing. Kids opting out this way typically do not have to “sit and stare.”

Essentially, you keep your child out of school during the test and return them to school when class resumes. That could be a day of absence or going to school after the test has started. They cannot enter the classroom while testing is in session. The school is obligated to present a makeup test to your child until they either take it, or opt out. You will have to ask how this is done at your school, whether that’s in the classroom, or in a separate classroom with other kids who were either late or absent, like your child, or perhaps even in the office, with just a few other students.

  • Your child can then refuse just like in a regular opt out.
  • Push the test away.
  • When the proctor prompts student to take their test, they would politely refuse and close the booklet (or scroll through to the end, if on computer, and would then be finished.
  • They are usually sent back to class right after that.
  • Again, you would need to confirm with the school how they handle make up testing.
  • The Other Opt Out is also described in the Opt Out Pocket Guide, under Just The Facts.

Even young students understand the issues with testing and what it costs them. Given the choice, your child may surprise you and choose to opt out in person, in their classrooms, with their peers, where many consider it their own “silent protest.” There is value in students advocating for themselves in this way.


GRADE 3No score is better than a failing score.

  • Grade 3 has 2 days of Reading assessments, each counts separately. (No writing)
  • THEREFORE, your options are either to opt out or take the test on both days.
    All in or all out.
  • You can always opt out of the FSA Math.


  • BOTH Writing & Reading tests are needed for a valid ELA score in Gr 4-10.
  • THEREFORE, if a parent decides to opt out AFTER a student in Grade 4-10 has taken the Writing test, THEY CAN STILL OPT OUT of both days of Reading.
School districts establish daily testing schedules within these windows according to state guidance. For more detailed scheduling information for a specific school or district, please visit that district’s website.



  • Third graders are required to have either a passing FSA reading score to be promoted to the fourth grade – OR a Good Cause Exemption. But only ONE is needed.
  • Parents of third graders opting out should work with their child’s teacher for a Good Cause Exemption.
  • Use the tools in the THIRD GRADE OPT OUT TOOLBOX, in particular the information on developing a real portfolio, as opposed to t test portfolio.

Talking About Opting Out With Young Children:
If your younger student finds it difficult not to take a test that their teacher has asked them to take, you may find these conversations with children helpful in getting the conversation started:

An 8-year Old Talks About Test Prep

If I Didn’t Opt Out, I’d Be A Liar

Whether your third grader opts out in person, is merely absent, or fails the FSA, the punitive consequences are the same. The guidelines for ensuring your child meets the state requirements for promotion are the same – they need a Good Cause Exemption to be promoted. 

Parents need to work with the school to ensure a Good Cause Exemption for promotion (since you are opting out), however, it is also in each school’s interest to facilitate promotion.

For detailed information on securing a portfolio for a Good Cause Exemption for promotion from third grade to fourth grade, see the recent post, I’m Not Sending My Third Grader In For The FSA… Now What?


  • To fulfil graduation requirements, tenth graders need a passing FSA ELA score OR a concordant (passing) score on the ACT or the SAT. Only ONE is needed.
  • Students have until the end of their senior year to meet this requirement.
  • Different graduating classes have different cut scores, updated by the FLDOE last year and are outlined in the updated opt out guide. PLEASE READ THE GUIDE.
  • Parents must check the FLDOE website for updates to Florida graduation requirements, which are subject to change by the FLDOE at any time.

Remember that although the FSA is a graduation requirement for a high school diploma, it is NOT a requirement for ANY college admission considerations. 

NO college requires the FSA.


All Other Grades
While third and tenth grades carry risk for not having a passing FSA score, for ALL other grades, opting out is simply a matter of talking your child through why you are choosing to opt them out of testing. 

Notifying the school
If your child is learning remotely and you plan to keep them home, you can just keep them home. It’s up to you whether you notify school in advance or not.

Early notification:

  • Is a courtesy to the teacher, who must plan, especially during the pandemic. 
  • Tells the teacher that you put more trust their ability to assess your child than you do in a single, high stakes standardized test. It puts you on the same side: Your child’s.
  • It frees the teacher to teach your child authentically, as if they were not testing, because they aren’t.
  • Releases your child from the stress and monotony of test prep so they can actually learn to love school.

Specific to this year, early notice to your school puts the state of Florida on notice that a significant number of students will not be counted. The greater the number of parents who commit to opting out, the more meaningless the test administration will be and the more likely it will be that Florida’s governor and Commissioner of Education will be forced to consider cancellation of the test.

Many of you have kept your children at home for various reasons throughout this school year. You have come to us now to figure out how to get your child promoted without an FSA score, perhaps not thinking of sitting out the FSA now as “opting out” in protest.

But, protest you will, no matter what anyone wants to call it; because to refuse to comply with the state’s mandate to test all children, in person, during a pandemic, IS a protest. And we support you.

We encourage you to keep learning more about why you should continue to opt out after this year.



“The “choice” of millions of parents to keep students at home during COVID-19 should mean something significant in the state of Florida. The FSA testing window opens in April and FL Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is determined to disrespect parents who do not choose to return their child to school to take a test. For those parents, this is a seminal moment. The consequences of returning to school for the FSA could come at a far greater cost than all of Florida’s punitive accountability system combined.”

CLICK HERE: Take action, tell Gov. DeSantis & Commissioner Corcoran to remove all 2021 FSA consequences – including to those students who do not return face-to-face to test.

Orlando Sentinel, March 28, 2021

Opt Out Orlando – Statewide hub for Opt Out discussions
Local opt out groups across Florida
Opt OutFlorida Third Grade – specific to Third Grade and Good Cause Exemption

Opt Out Guide
Pocket Guide
Video – How To Opt Out Of A Computer Test
Opt Out Toolbox
Third Grade Opt Out Toolbox
The Opt Out Florida Network – Be sure to LIKE to get the most current education and testing news

I’m Not Sending My Third Grader In For The FSA… now what?


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by Sandy Stenoff

You’ve kept your third grader at home all year long during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Now, you’ve received a stern “bully” letter telling you:

“There’s no opt out in Florida and the state requires you to send your child in to take the FSA.”

What CAN you do?

Parents, you are not powerless.
ow is NOT the time to send your child into a school, merely to take the FSA.

Ask for a portfolio.

Superintendents understand that, no matter what “the state” says, some parents will simply not be sending their kids in to take the FSA. Increasingly, they are saying on the record at school board meetings, that they will not force families to send children in to test, and that they will work to achieve Good Cause Exemptions for promotion. 

Please consider replying with a letter sent in an email, like the one below and letting us know how your district responds so that we can continue to provide the most current information to other parents in Opt Out Florida Third Grade and in The Opt Out Florida Network.

In Florida, third grade is the only grade requiring EITHER a passing FSA score OR a Good Cause Exemption to be promoted to the next grade, including a portfolio.
Only one is required.

This sample letter presumes that you are seeking to have your child promoted based on the merits of their work throughout the year, not to substitute the FSA with another test. It also presumes the your child does not have a reading deficiency.

This is not legal advice.

Dear Mrs. Principal,

Thank you for that information. 

This is to inform you that I will not be sending (Name) into school for FSA testing. 

Because of family who are at high medical risk for COVID, we have kept (Name) home since the beginning of the school year. Please understand that putting our family at risk over the FSA test is simply not something that is going to happen.

I am respectfully asking the district for guidance on how to ensure that (Name) will have a Good Cause Exemption to be promoted to the fourth grade. We have trust in her capable teacher, who has assessed her reading skills and ability throughout the year, all documented in her progress reports and report card on file.

Per FLDOE Promotion to 4th Grade Technical Assistance Paper (TAP)


7. “…A parent of a student in grade 3 who is identified anytime during the year as being at risk of retention may request that the school immediately begin collecting evidence for a portfolio.”

As (Name) will not be entering the school to take the FSA, she will not have a test score and may be at risk of retention. I am therefore requesting that the school immediately begin collecting evidence for a portfolio.

To promote a student using a student portfolio as a good cause exemption, there must be evidence that demonstrates the student’s mastery of the Language Arts Florida Standards in reading is equal to at least a Level 2 performance on the grade 3 statewide English Language Arts Florida Standards Assessment. Such evidence shall be an organized collection of the student’s mastery of the Language Arts Florida Standards that are assessed by the grade 3 statewide English Language Arts Florida Standards Assessment. The student portfolio must meet the following criteria:

1. Be selected by the student’s teacher,

2. Be an accurate picture of the student’s ability and only include student work that has been independently produced in the classroom,

3. Include evidence that the standards assessed by the grade 3 statewide English Language Arts Florida Standards Assessment have been met. Evidence is to include multiple choice items and passages that are approximately sixty (60) percent literary text and forty (40) percent information text, and that are between 100-700 words with an average of 500 words. Such evidence could include chapter or unit tests from the district’s/school’s adopted core reading curriculum that are aligned with the Language Arts Florida Standards or teacher-prepared assessments.

4. Be an organized collection of evidence of the student’s mastery of the Language Arts Florida Standards that are assessed by the grade 3 statewide English Language Arts Florida Standards Assessment. For each standard, there must be at least three (3) examples of mastery as demonstrated by a grade of seventy (70) percent or above on each example, and,

5. Be signed by the teacher and the principal as an accurate assessment of the required reading skills.

The school principal shall review and discuss such recommendation with the teacher and make the determination as to whether the student should be promoted or retained. If the school principal determines that the student should be promoted, the school principal shall make such recommendation in writing to the district school superintendent. The district school superintendent shall accept or reject the school principal’s recommendation in writing.
(Rule 6A-1.094221, F.A.C., and Section 1008.25(6)(c)2, F.S.)

I am happy to meet virtually with her teacher to work out any details. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. Thank you for your prompt attention to this important request.



Once you send your letter, if you still get push back, send it to your superintendent and district Director of Assessment/Accountability as well.

You are not requesting an alternative test, at least not here. This post is limited to REQUESTING A THIRD GRADE PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENT for a Good Cause Exemption and does not include any discussion of the eight state-approved alternative assessments listed in the FLDOE Promotion to 4th Grade Technical Assistance Paper (TAP).

When you request a portfolio, your district’s version of a “portfolio” may be a collection of mini-FSA tests from the state’s test bank. To begin that “test portfolio” now would mean MORE testing for your child. It may contain up to 42 separate assessments, kept secret from teachers, and covers material that may not yet have been taught. That is not the same as the portfolio of schoolwork supported here. Your child has likely already completed a great deal of progress monitoring testing, unit tests, chapter tests, etc., that could be used for their portfolio, and which may already satisfy most of the required standards – because the teachers have been teaching them.

Read about just how much progress monitoring is done here.

If there is insufficient progress monitoring data for a portfolio, you may wish to consider requesting an approved alternative assessment to satisfy the Good Cause Exemption (that post is coming soon!) 


  • You are not asking anyone to do anything for your child, to which she is not entitled.
  • You are not asking the school to take any action that is prohibited.
  • You are not asking for special treatment.
  • You ARE asking the school district, in this unusual and unprecedented time, to be reasonable and to do what is reasonable, within the framework of what is allowed under Florida education statutes to support your child’s education.
  • The Florida Statute provides alternatives for a Good Cause Exemption when there is no passing FSA score.

From FLDOE Read To Learn:

Therefore, if your child does not have a substantial reading deficiency, she/he should not be retained.

Parents must be strong advocates for their child. The FLDOE documents made available here are public documents. There is no secret. Use them to protect your 

Most important links to support authentic portfolio assessment *

More resources in the Third Grade Opt Out Toolbox. Dig in!

Our Support Network
Opt Out Florida Third Grade
The Opt Out Florida Network

‘Test and punish system’: Parents can opt children out of statewide testing


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Jennifer Sabin is an Admin in Opt Out Polk and was the subject of this article in The Ledger (below). She is an academic advisor at Southeastern University. Jennifer is also a former eighth grade Language Arts teacher from Polk County, Florida, with a BS in Communication from the University of Miami, a mom of three beautiful children and a former Polk County school board candidate. Jennifer has been opting her kids out of Florida’s high stakes tests since 2016.

This article was originally posted in The Ledger
Link to original article:
‘Test and punish system’: Parents can opt their children out of statewide testing
 Kimberly C. Moore The Ledger
Published 7:13 a.m. ET Mar. 12, 2021

LAKELAND — Charlotte Sabin, 13, has been opting out of state Florida Standards Assessment testing for five years now, beginning when she was in the third grade, with no repercussions.

“I was kind of nervous because I was the only one in my school doing it,” she said about not participating with the rest of her third-grade class. “But I also felt really cool because I was sitting there going, ‘All you have to take this test and I’m going to go eat doughnuts.’ The next year, I had a friend who opted out and it was cool because that was the only time in my life I’ve ever been a trendsetter.”

Charlotte, who attends Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, goes to class on testing days, breaks the seal on her test, fills out her name, then her mother, Jennifer Sabin, checks her out of school and the pair head to the doughnut shop. It has become an annual tradition.

Jennifer Sabin, of Opt Out Polk and daughter, Charlotte, 13.

It was Sabin who talked to her daughter about what she feels is the importance of opting out of statewide testing, something she and other critics refer to as the “test and punish system.” That’s because kids who do well in class otherwise are retained in the third grade if they don’t pass the test. In addition, high school seniors who pass all their classes can be held back from graduating if they don’t pass the FSA. And teachers whose students don’t make something known as “adequate yearly progress,” can have bonuses withheld, which, they say, is unfair for teachers instructing struggling students.

Charlotte said her mom “explained that it was a really important thing for her … she explained that it helped the teachers and the students. It would be a great thing to do because it could help bring change. And if you do this, other people might do it, too. I like helping people. It’s fun.”

Sabin said opting out of testing is something most parents don’t realize they can do — despite what any administrator or guidance counselor might tell parents.

Opt Out Polk

Sabin heads up a group called Opt Out Polk, which helps to answer questions from parents who are considering having their child not take the statewide test. Some parents say the test gives their children crippling anxiety, while others say one test should not make or break a child’s progression from third grade to fourth. Failing any portion of the FSA can also keep a high school student from graduating.

Read more about opting out

To read more about opting out of testing, go to: https://theoptoutfloridanetwork.wordpress.com/

Standardized testing in Polk County began last week and lasts for several more weeks as students in different grades and in different subjects fill in the bubbles on their answer sheets, click on the right answers on a computer or write essays.

“I think I first realized it because somebody told me, ‘Have you heard of Opt Out?’” Sabin recalled. “I was frustrated with the way the test was being used and I didn’t want my kids to participate in that system of evaluation.”

Sabin teamed up with The Opt Out Florida Network, finding a little-known option for parents: the good cause exemption, which allows parents to use other assessments instead of the FSA, or a student-work portfolio from throughout the school year.

Jennifer has been opting out of the FSA for years. Charlotte, seen here on the right, is noticeably younger in this photo.

According to the Polk County Public Schools webpage, the determination of a good cause exemption for promotion to fourth grade includes:

  • Standford Achievement Test, Tenth Edition, scoring above the 45th percentile.
  • STAR Reading Assessment — scoring at or above the 50th percentile.
  • Istation ISIP Reading Assessment — scoring at or above the 50th percentile.

“Polk County Public Schools fully supports the option of third-grade portfolios as outlined in (state statute), which states that a student who demonstrates through a portfolio that he/she is performing at least at level 2 on the statewide standardized assessment is eligible for good cause exemption,” the website reads.

It is not known how many Polk County Public Schools students opt out because district officials say they do not keep track of that statistic.

Sabin, who is an academic adviser at Southeastern University, said the test was not originally designed to be used the way the state uses it.

“There’s no good reason to take the FSA,” Sabin said. “It wasn’t designed to evaluate students the way Florida uses it. It wasn’t designed to evaluate teachers the way they use   it. The FSA causes harm to teachers and schools. We know it correlates strongly with socio- economic status. It makes it hard for students from low socio-economic status to perform well.”

Pros and cons of standardized tests

State standardized testing came about under the late Democratic Gov Lawton Chiles, who developed the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test — or FCAT — in the 1990s. When Republican Gov. Jeb Bush was sworn into office in 1999, he developed his A-Plus Plan, which for the first time tied state testing to school grades and held struggling schools accountable — allowing students at those schools to transfer to better-performing public schools, charter schools or even private schools and to take their per-pupil funding with them.

And that tie to money is when things got competitive and complicated with testing.

According to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which “promotes educational excellence for every child in America via quality research, analysis, and commentary, as well as advocacy and exemplary charter school authorizing in Ohio,” standardized tests offer objective assessment.

They measure “students based on a similar set of questions, are given under nearly   identical testing conditions, and are graded by a machine or blind reviewer. They are intended to provide an accurate, unfiltered measure of what a student knows,” the institute states.

The institute says the tests offer officials the chance to compare student achievement at the classroom, school, local and statewide levels.

And finally, the Fordham Institute says, “like it or not, standardized exam data remain the best way to hold schools accountable for their academic performance.” The measures enable education officials to identify the schools that need intervention, extra help or even closure.

But opponents say the playing field is not level because students are not all the same.

According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, which has 113,573 members who are superintendents principals teachers and education advocates from more than 129 countries, there are multiple reasons standardized tests are problematic.

“Standardized tests exist for administrative, political, and financial purposes, not for educational ones,” the ASCD website reads. “Test companies make billions. Politicians get elected by promising better test results. Administrators get funding and avoid harsh penalties by boosting test scores. Everyone benefits except the children. For them, standardized testing is worthless and worse.”

The association points out that “test companies (a multibillion-dollar a year industry) not only manufacture the tests, they also manufacture the courses and programs that can be taken to ‘prepare for the test.’” And, the association says, tests favor those who have socio- economic advantages because their parents can buy them books, computers and even tutors to help them.

“If you don’t have the money, and your school is in a low socio-economic area that gets less funding than rich suburban schools, then you’re not getting the same preparation for the test as those at the higher socio-economic levels do,” the association website reads.

The association added that standardized tests don’t value the diversity of students taking the tests, who have different cultural backgrounds, different levels of proficiency in the English language, different learning and thinking styles, different family backgrounds, and different past experiences.

The association says the tests cause unwarranted stress for students. And, because teachers know that test scores may affect their salaries and job security, they and their administrators have been caught on multiple occasions cheating.

In December 2008, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper investigation found suspect test scores at five Atlanta-area elementary schools. An investigation was launched and specially appointed state investigators cited multiple cheating violations, along with organized and systematic misconduct in Atlanta  schools.  The  state investigators’ report named 178 teachers,principals and administrators at 44 Atlanta schools, with 80 educators confessing to cheating, according to the report. More than 20 pleaded guilty, while 11 were found guilty of felony charges.

Not all testing is bad

Sabin said that while she does not want her children to participate in something she views as ultimately unfair to everyone involved, she actually has no problem with teachers testing their students.

“There is a common misperception that those of us who support opting out are anti- assessment,” Sabin said. “It’s that assessment done by the professional educator that we rely on as to where (students) are and where they need to be. The teachers are constantly assessing what their students need to know    The five question quizzes — those are the assessments that are valuable. The end of course exams do function differently…… It’s part of their course grade. They’re going to take a 30% hit to their grade, which is going to hurt their (grade point average). I don’t advocate opting out of EOC.”

She said, ultimately, FSA and tests like it are preparing students who want to go to college and graduate school, but not all students are headed in that direction.

“I don’t think we need to spend 10 years of a kid’s education to fill in a bubble in case they want to go to grad school,” she said.

As for Charlotte, without ever taking a standardized test, she is heading to Harrison School for the Arts next year — a high-performing public school with a highly competitive selection process.

Jennifer Sabin of Opt out Polk and daughter, Charlotte, 13

“I’m really surprised that I got in, myself,” Charlotte said. “I would say that I’m pretty good at creative writing. After college, one thing I plan to do is become a book editor because I can get paid to read books. And encourage (authors) to make their book better and grow as a person, as well.”

Ledger reporter Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at kmoore@theledger.com or 863-802- 7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.


IMPORTANT RESOURCES to keep you informed in support of your choice to opt out.
This page is updated regularly.

Last updated March 7, 2021

*  Sample Opt Out Letters
*  VIDEO How To Opt Out of Computer Test

* Special Third Grade Opt Out Toolbox
* Opt Out Third Grade 101: bit.ly/OO3rdGrade101
* Navigating Gr 3 Retention Threat: bit.ly/Gr3RetentionThreat
* Sample Letter Request 3rd Grade Portfolio: http://bit.ly/PortfolioLetter
Promotion to Grade 4 Technical Assistance Paper
FLDOE Technical Assistance Paper Third-Grade Student Progression (Pages 5-7)

Much of the push back that you may face from your school, administrator or school district can be challenged by these detailed Fact Sheets from FairTest – The National Center for Fair and Open Testing:
– Federal Law and Regulations on Opting Out Under ESSA (Updated February 2018)
– Why You Can Boycott Standardized Tests Without Fear of Federal Penalties to Your School (Updated February 2018)
1,350+ Accredited, 4-Year Colleges & Universities with ACT/SAT-Optional Testing Policies for Fall, 2022 Admissions – searchable by state (Updated March 3, 2021)
– 925+ “Top Tier” Schools Deemphasizing the ACT/SAT in Admissions Decisions for Fall 2021 per U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Guide – 2020 Edition (updated December 16, 2020)

What Is A TRUE Portfolio?…and how do I get one?


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When a third grade student in Florida fails the FSA, or opts out of the FSA, they will need a Good Cause Exemption to be promoted to the fourth grade. Parents will need to work with their child’s school to make that happen. The Alternative Assessments allowed by the State for a Good Cause Exemption can be another test, but it can also be a portfolio; a TRUE portfolio, not a battery of secret mini-tests from Florida’s Item Bank and Test Platform.

Kevin Foster is a Lake County father and Administrator for Opt Out Lake County, who opts his child out of the FSA. As a result of advocating for Lake County to include a true portfolio in the district’s Student Progression Plan (SPP), the Lake County SPP now includes language (just one phrase) that supports the use of a true portfolio, for a Good Cause Exemption. A TRUE portfolio is a collection of your child’s work throughout the school year. 

Some districts already include this language in their SPP, but some do not. Some districts, which have true portfolio language (which comes directly from Florida Statute) in their SPP, do not comply with that SPP. Only parents can hold their feet to the fire.

Here’s what Kevin shared:

After several unproductive meetings with various Lake County School District administrative officials, my wife and I were invited by Superintendent Kornegay to sit down for a discussion regarding the Portfolio option as a Good Cause Exemption from 3rd Grade Mandatory Retention.  We discussed a wide range of topics including participating, but minimally, in the FSA, DOE Rule 6A-1.094221, and the results of the (then recently decided) lawsuit by 3rd Grade parents against the State and several school districts.

We explained our view that opting out, or minimal participation (signing the test and pushing it away without answering any questions), satisfied the statutory requirement that all students participate in FSA testing.  

We also pointed out that there was a key part of Rule 6A-1.094221 that was seemingly being ignored by everyone, which stated that, “chapter and unit tests from the district’s/school’s adopted core reading curriculum could be used as part of the portfolio.”

We also explained our view, that it was a waste of precious instructional time to remove a child from the classroom in order to give them a battery of mini-tests from Florida’s Item Bank and Test Platform.

And, we pointed out that the (then) recent Appeals Court ruling against parents answered a key question about who has the final say on promotion to 4th grade.  The Court said it was the Superintendent (not the FLDOE).  We explained that this meant that the process was intended to be a bottom-up thing, rather than a top-down thing, and that teachers and principals should be allowed to make a recommendation for promotion if they believe the student deserves to be promoted.

At the end of that meeting, Supt. Kornegay asked me directly, “What do you want me to do?”

I replied, “I want you to put this specific language about the portfolio from FLDOE Rule 6A-1.094221 into the Lake County 3rd Grade Progression Plan.” 

It said (referring to the portfolio Good Cause Exemption), “Such evidence could be selected from… chapter and unit tests from the district’s/schools’s adopted core reading curriculum.”  This may seem like a small thing, but it’s not.

The very next time that the Progression Plan was up for a vote before the School Board, that language was included in the draft version, and the Board voted to approve it.  It’s been there ever since.  (You can find it on Page 36 of the Lake County Progression Plan which can be downloaded here.

You can also find it on pages 2-3 of the FLDOE Promotion to Grade 4 Technical Assistance Paper

Why is this important? 

Well…  the Chapter and Unit Tests are the work that your child does throughout the school year.  It’s a true portfolio.  If your child does well on those chapter and unit tests throughout the year, there should be no (or very little) need to remove them from class to create a portfolio based on the Florida Item Bank and Test Platform.  Some of those Item Bank mini-tests may still be necessary in order to round out your child’s portfolio if they don’t have all 3 examples of each of the 22 standards.  (Also, keep in mind that they must score at least a 70 for each of those to count as a valid example.)

What if your school insists that they will not start a portfolio for your child until AFTER the FSA has been administered? 

As I see it, you have two options.  You can either educate yourself about the standards and attempt to collect the portfolio items yourself as they come home from school with your child, or…  you could lean on this specific note from the top of Page 37 in the Progression Plan. It’s also in the FLDOE TAP with Rule 6A-1.094221 and Florida Statute cited.

“Note: A parent of a student in grade 3 who is identified anytime during the year as being at risk of retention may request that the school immediately begin the portfolio assessment process.”

If you write a letter to your school principal announcing your intention to opt-out/minimally participate in the FSA, that act alone should immediately “identify” your child as “being at risk of retention,” since retention is mandatory without a passing grade on the FSA. I cannot guarantee that this part of the process will work, but if you think about it, it makes a certain amount of sense.  Be prepared to fight for that “at risk” identification. 

The sooner you write that letter, the better.

If your child’s teacher agrees to develop a portfolio, you should request to examine it from time to time to make sure it’s being maintained. Parents in other districts have been told that a portfolio would be developed, only to find at the end of the year that it was not. You do not want to get to the end of the year and not have that portfolio documenting your child’s proficiency of the standards.

You should also be prepared to compile the portfolio yourself.  If you find yourself in this position, you’ll need to make sure that every “chapter and unit test” which is graded gets sent home to you for your collection.  Every one of those “chapter and unit tests” should include a notation regarding which standards are being assessed.  Note also that a single question may provide for more than one example, and for more than one standard. (Remember, 3 examples of each of the 22 standards are required.)  The sooner you get started compiling the portfolio, the better.

One final reminder:  I cannot guarantee that this will work.  But, it is the process that I envisioned when I asked Supt. Kornegay to add that specific language to our progression plan.  

Remember that opting out is an act of civil disobedience intended to challenge/change the current system. It requires courage and tenacity, but…. if successful, you will have blazed a trail for others to follow.

Good luck.

“The statewide, standardized English Language Arts assessment is not the sole determiner of promotion and that additional evaluations, portfolio reviews, and assessments are available to the child to assist parents and the school district in knowing when a child is reading at or above grade level and ready for grade promotion.”
(Section 1008.25(5)(c)6, F.S.)

– Sample Letter to Request a 3rd Grade Portfolio
– Statutory Third Grade Portfolio Checklist
– Student Portfolio Puts Assessment Where It Belongs… With Teachers
– Third Grade Portfolio Checklist – Working Document (updated 8/22/18)
– Third Grade Portfolio Instructions 
– Special Opt Out group for Third Grade Parents – for help, peer support and strategies to find fair and useful assessment for promotion

My Child Failed The FSA. Now what?


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by Sandy Stenoff

Teachers’ comment after release of 3rd Grade FSA scores

PARENTS, if your child failed the FSA and you’ve just found the Opt Out network and haven’t read anything about this until now… it will be up to YOU to fight retention.  You can.

Get out your highlighter… You have some reading to do. 

This is the guiding document from the Florida Department of Education for promotion or for fighting retention:

Link: FLDOE – Promotion to Grade 4 Technical Assistance Paper (TAP) – 10/27/17

  • EVERY third grade parent should familiarize themselves with this document and work through it with the teacher and school to develop a Good Cause Exemption. This is the most current FLDOE Technical Assistance Paper (TAP) on promotion to 4th grade. It spells out the approved alternative assessments and scores required for a Good Cause Exemption. 
  • If you have received a retention notice, this is the document to guide your actions toward promotion. USE IT. Print it out and share it with the school. They’ve probably never seen it.
  • Please read it from beginning to end.
  • PRINT THIS DOCUMENT AND TAKE IT TO YOUR MEETING AT SCHOOL. Use it in discussing anything to do with third grade right now.
  • Also find your current district Student Progression Plan.
    It’s on the internet. The whole progression plan could be more than 100 pages, so locate and print just the section on Third Grade promotion, retention and Good Cause Exemptions. Take this to your meeting as well. 
  • These documents should be required reading for every third grade teacher and elementary school principal. It’s unacceptable if they don’t know. Parents should not have to provide this info to schools. But if they do, it’s here.

READ THIS: Opting Out Of The Third Grade FSA
Shareable link: http://bit.ly/3rdGradeOptOut

AND THIS: Third Grade Opt Out Toolbox
Shareable link: http://bit.ly/Gr3OptOutToolbox

Read the various sections on Portfolio and “Navigating the Threat of Retention.” There’s a LOT of information and you may be overwhelmed, especially if you’ve just found us. Read it all.

No school has an incentive to retain a child, especially one who is not deficient. Most kids will get through this with a Good Cause Exemption. You’re getting mandatory notifications from school now. They are covering their butts. AND YOUR KID’S. SO WORK WITH THEM. NICELY.

That said, YOU have options:

Send an email today to your principal:

“In response to this notice about possible retention, I am requesting a copy of (Name)’s complete academic record, to include all assessments done with results for this school year.

Does (name) have a documented reading deficiency and if so, what is the specific basis for that determination? Because of the timeframe, please provide the copies on Tuesday, so that I can review them before the last day of school, Wednesday.

Thank you in advance for your kind assistance.

To compile a portfolio, collect all of your child’s work from the school year and organize it by date order in a 3-ring binder, separated by subject – Math, Language Arts, Science and Social Studies. Science and Social Studies can be used to cover the non-fiction reading requirements.

IF you have enough of your child’s classwork to show that he passed the required standards, you may be able to compile a portfolio that can be certified by a teacher or principal as meeting the required standards for promotion to 4th grade.

The requirements are specific:
Third Grade Portfolio Instructions 
Third Grade Portfolio Checklist  – Working Document (updated 8/22/18)
Promoted to 4th Grade Without a Test Score – a teacher’s account of his own child’s opt out and promotion.

If the school or the district refuse to assess your child’s portfolio, you can withdraw your child from school, register him as a home school student, get his student portfolio of classwork certified as passing by a certified teacher and re-enroll in 4th grade. If not… keep reading. 

(NOTE: if your child is in a charter school or a magnet outside of your school zone, your child could lose their place if you withdraw him/her.)

You also COULD try to push the district to promote based on the report card – which the Florida Statute allows …

But THAT would require you suing the district to comply. Can you say “attorney fees”?

State-approved list of alternative assessments. Student must pass just one assessment to earn a Good Cause Exemption for promotion to the 4th grade.

From the list above, some districts allow the use of any of the assessments listed. Other districts limit which assessments may be used. This should be listed on the district’s current Student Progression Plan (SPP), searchable on the internet.

Most teachers like the SAT10, because it accurately represents the standards taught and does not include trick questions and test distractors. It’s a good, fair assessment with shorter reading passages, more age-appropriate vocabulary and most kids do well on it.

IF you request the SAT10 and your district won’t administer it, you can ask HOW they would accept it from an outside testing company. Hernando County accepts SAT10 results from an outside testing company. Here is a letter that you can share with your school:

Hernando County Schools letter about SAT10

If a student needs some time to prepare for the SAT10, parents can order the workbook online, or they can help their child online.
You can check out the SAT10 here: www.setontesting.com

Some helpful information from teachers:

Some schools are telling parents that they can only administer the SAT10 AFTER summer school. The State does not require summer school before the SAT10 may be administered. So if parents want the SAT10, they will have to ask the school or district to show where it is written that they must complete summer school first.

There are some students, who would benefit from summer school before going on to 4th grade. Some programs are terrific, with low student:teacher ratios and fun built in. Hopefully they’ll even get to read some real books!

There are kids who would be better off going to 4th grade and getting the appropriate support then. 

There are also kids who can read just fine and just need to pass a test to satisfy the system.

But seriously. They don’t call it summer SCHOOL for nothing. It’s still MORE SCHOOL, with the specific purpose of getting them ready to pass yet one more test. If their reading skills improve as well, we’ll call that a freebie.

Please read:
Retained? You can go to 4th grade… sort of…maybe.

Parents need to do what is best for their child, but they need to be fully informed in order to know what they can and cannot ask for.

If the school isn’t going to help them to be informed, then for the sake of their child, they will need to do it for themselves.


Opt Out Gets NR2, Not a Test Score

by Sandy Stenoff

When a student opts out of the FSA, they do not get a test score. At all.

If they answer 1-5 questions, they get a “score code” of NR2. It is not a numerical score like the score a student gets for taking the test. The FLDOE says that NR2 means that a student “did not meet attempted ness criteria.”

It says it right here in the FLDOE’s 2019 Understanding FSA Reports – see page 5.

So when you hear from school that opting out will result in a 1 or a 0, tell them:

“No, it doesn’t. The FLDOE (Florida Dept. of Education) even says so.”

This highlighted excerpt is from a parent’s email with the FLDOE explaining NR2 and that it does not get calculated into the school’s grade. Since there is no number value to calculate a school grade, there is none to evaluate a teacher either. 

Here is a link to the complete email thread.

To confirm that there is no actual score, failing or otherwise, let’s take a look at my own child’s actual 6th grade FSA transcript. 

Notice anything? 

Yeah. Me neither. No scores. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. 

Take a look at the categories. If assessments are supposed to provide teachers with information about where my child needs help in the class, the FSA isn’t going to do that. How would any of this information help my child’s teacher to teach her better? 

You can remind your child’s teacher and school that this is just one more reason why parents NEED to opt out of a test that doesn’t help either students OR teachers, and in fact harms both students AND teachers.

It is no kid’s job to protect the adults or the institution to which they are entrusted daily for their own education.

We just want our classrooms back.