How to REFUSE the TEST


To refuse the test, you’ll need to make your request in writing and explain to your child why they will not be taking the test and to not be pressured into taking the test.

  1. Tennessee law does not have a provision for “opting out” of testing, but there is also no law that requires your child to take TNReady. You will have more success using the word “REFUSE.”
  2. If you wish to refuse the test, you must have a conversation with your child.
    • Explain the process in an age-appropriate way so tey understand what opting out will mean.
    • You may want to tell them that they may be the only one in their class not taking the test and that their grades may be affected (likely by only a small amount) by not taking the test. (If you’d like to avoid this discussion, you can ask your child’s teacher to print out a report card excluding test results to share with your child. This may reduce any stress your child may feel.)

      If you need some help with ideas, here’s a blog with some of those testing facts to share with your children:
  3. Submit your refusal in writing on the first day of school, if possible, preferably by hand delivery and email as well.
    • Send it to both the school’s principal and your child’s teacher(s).  
    • Be polite, yet firm. This is your child. You are his/her only true voice. Some schools allow instruction time to be used for test prep (i.e., learning to navigate test taking software on computers). Be clear that your request includes using instruction time for instruction only.
    • Ask about the consequences for refusing testing (which will differ from elementary to middle school).
    • Don’t expect the administration to be convinced of your decision to refuse the test. However, they should support you and your child’s decision. This should never be a punitive experience for your child.
    • If you receive a response that you are not allowed to opt your child out of testing, just ignore it. You’re not opting out, you are refusing. There is a difference.
  4. .About a week prior to the testing window, send a confirmation email to the school principal.
    • Ask what your child will be allowed or not allowed to do during testing. We found this differs with schools and even with teachers within the schools. Most of the time, children will be allowed to read.
    • You may also wish to hold your child out of school on test days. This could impact truancy reports, so be sure you speak to your child’s school about the impact of this decision. One parent who refused all tests was happy to keep her children home on testing days, knowing that if the school or state tried to punish her child for this decision, it would make a great news story.
  5. Find out who is proctoring the test to your child.
    • The proctor may be a teacher who your child does not know.
    • Send the proctor an email, attach your letter, and share what your child has been granted permission to do during testing time.
      • You do not want this teacher to be caught off guard when your child does not lift his/her pencil.
      • You do not want your child to be in a position to explain.
  6. Revisit the conversation with your child.
    • Help your child understand that if they are pushed to test, they are to refer the teacher or other staff member to you. Children should not be placed in a position to negotiate with anyone over the refusal to test. Some children will be worried about not doing what an adult was asking them to do, so prepare them with what to say to teachers, friends, etc.
    • Prep them with what to do when the test was placed on their desk, and make sure they have lots of options for the testing time – books, paper, worksheets, etc.
    • Make sure they understand that they have your support and that you are very proud of them!
  7. If you need more help beyond this page, is another great resource.

In the words of a Knoxville parent, “[C]ontinued public compliance toward testing allows people who are not invested in public education to make irresponsible decisions about public education. This has to stop. You CAN be a part of the change. I welcome you to join the movement.

Opt-Out Letter Template

Dear [name of school administrator],

Please accept this letter as record of our decision to refuse for our child, _________________, to participate in any TNReady tests at _____________ School during the 2021 spring testing window. Our refusal to participate in TNReady testing is a result of our belief that high stakes testing takes away time from the instructional experiences children might otherwise receive. The state believes that children are obligated to participate in testing because the state and/or policy makers demand it, when in fact the social contract of public schooling is grounded on the premise that the state and policy makers are obligated to the needs of children. We are aware that there is no “opt out” clause in the state of Tennessee, but the state has yet to provide any legal documentation that parents and children may not exercise their rights to refuse these tests.

________________   will come to school every day during the testing window with alternative, meaningful, self-directed learning activities that complement the curriculum, or is willing to participate in other meaningful activities as determined by the school or ___________ teachers during testing times.

We have the upmost respect for the teachers and administrators at _____________________ School. Each of you does an incredible job of providing daily instruction that supports ______ mental, emotional, and academic growth. The decision to refuse participation in TNReady testing is in no way a reflection of our feelings about _________ educational experiences at __________. Our issue remains that high stakes testing is harmful to children, the teaching profession, and the ideals of public education.

We trust that everyone will work constructively with us to ensure that ___________ will not be negatively affected as a result of our family’s decision to refuse participation in the TNReady tests.

[your name and contact information]

Thanks to public school parent and educator Elizabeth MacTavish for her contribution to this info.