IMPORTANT: See update and NOTE below.

Across the nation, state-mandated testing is now in full swing.  The bullying and intimidation of families choosing to opt out has been rampant, egregious and unprecedented. In Florida, authoritarian rule is the FDOE’s preferred school culture, so it should come as no surprise that threatening children and parents who choose to opt out is a matter of policy.

For newcomers to the opt out movement, these letters could be read as real threats. They are really just empty threats. In order to reassure your child (and yourself) that these letters pose no real threat, please see, “What does this bully letter really mean?” which breaks down a bully letter, currently in circulation, into plain language.

This week, U.S. Congressman Tom Reed (NY) led the way in support of students’ and parents’ rights to opt out of state mandated testing with a stern rebuke to the USDOE for Ann Whalen’s letter of Dec 2015 to Chief State School Officers in the twelve states with the most opt outs. The letter ominously threatened to withhold funding if testing participation numbers did not meet the 95% threshold.

Here is Reed’s letter, which has now been signed by 18 other members of Congress.


Congressman Tom Reed’s letter of April 4, 2016 to Secretary John King.

Tom Reed Letter Signatures 04042016

Signatures – 17 Members of Congress

From Rep. Reed’s accompanying press release:

“The move comes after the Department of Education sent a letter to states warning of financial penalties for states and school districts that fail to meet certain testing targets. The recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which Reed supported, empowers parents and gives states increased flexibility in student opt-out. Reed’s letter clarifies congressional intent, including the expectation that the Department of Education support states in implementing ESSA.”

The response to Whalen’s letter from public education activists was pointed and swift from the time it was released last December. See responses from:

  1. Jeanette Deutermann, Founder – Long Island Opt Out movement in, “Sleeping Giant of Education Politics – Parents – are Awake and Rebelling
  2. A.J. Wagner, Ohio State School Board in, “State School Board Member Dismantles Federal ‘Reminder’ on Standardized Testing
  3. Mercedes Schneider, in depth analyses here & here.

If you have been the recipient of a bully letter from your school or district, email a copy of Rep. Reed’s letter to your child’s principal and copy it to your District Director of Assessment and Accountability, District Superintendent and to Florida Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart.

Tell them to stop threatening and scaring children with their lies.


Posted by education activist and blogger, Mercedes Schneider on April 5,
Legislators Send Letter to US Secretary of Ed John King about ESSA Mandated Testing

“ESSA tries to lock states into the same 95 percent testing requirement as NCLB, but ESSA tries to deflect any responsibility for doing so. Neither ECAA nor SSA– the two documents that entered the House-Senate conference on ESEA reauthroization– has the same opt-out-choking language as does the ESSA that emerged from that conference.”

Schneider adds:

“What the legislators believe to be intent will not matter given the actual language of the bill, and that bill clearly outlays that states are to test at least 95 percent of all enrolled students in grades 3 thru 8 and once in high school– and to show how that 95 percent of test scores will be incorporated in a state accountability plan. That is specified in the bill, and the apparent design is for the federal government to put the squeeze on states to get that 95 percent even as the feds say that they cannot be blamed one way or the other for state and local opt-out laws. The entire scene begs a lawsuit.”


Response from Monty Neill, Executive Director of FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing:

“Mercedes is correct about the language in the bill. But a state can can ‘factor in’ the percent as near zero and do nothing meaningful about it – and the Ed Dept, King and his successors, as far as I can tell, can do nothing about it given the much greater leeway given states in ESSA.”