My son is in third grade this year, and boy, has it been rough! First, we dealt with an emotionally abusive teacher and the fight to have him removed from her classroom. In order to do that, I had to have him moved up a level (he was right in the middle, closer to higher levels of reading and math). So now he’s struggling because he’s in a higher level. The amount of homework his math teacher gives is enough to make me want to scream every night and now he’s failing reading, of all things, because he’s not “engaged” enough. Mind you, the boy blows through 100+ page books in a day at home.

Opt out of the PSSA

As if 3rd grade isn’t already kicking our butts, it’s also the first year Jacob has to take standardized tests. In PA, they’re called the PSSAs. Jacob came home the first day of school stressing out because of these tests, and they don’t even take place until the end of March! I remembered my aunt talking about opting her son out of the New York standard tests, so I immediately went online to see if I could do that here in PA. Good news! If you have a religious objection to anything in the PSSAs, you can opt your child out! Better news, I don’t believe in organized religion and follow my own, so I get to make up the rules as I go along! Guess who is now religiously opposed to the PSSAs?

How do you opt your child out of the PSSAs?

If you live in PA, you can opt your child out for any religious or philosophical objection. You don’t need to tell the school what religion you are or why your religion objects to the test. I am personally opposed to putting that level of stress on an 8-year-old. I believe that standardized tests like these are driving our children to early-onset anxiety and depression disorders. To opt your child out you need to do a few things.

  1. Call your school and ask to see the test. You’ll have to sign a confidentiality agreement before viewing it.
  2. Review the test.
  3. Go home and type up a letter to the school superintendent informing him or her that you are religiously opposed to the test and are opting your child out.

That’s pretty much it. When I informed my son’s principal that I was planning to opt Jacob out of the PSSAs, he told me I couldn’t do that. I said “sure I can, for religious reasons!” He got all flustered, then said “oh, yes, but not for medical or other reasons.” Well, I knew that, but really, how messed up is that? Medical reasons should be just as valid a reason as philosophical reasons if you want to opt your child out of nightmare-inducing tests.

Why am I opting my child out of the PSSAs?

It’s really quite simple: I think standardized tests are ruining the education system. Teachers spend so much time teaching to the test that nothing else seems to matter anymore. Not only that, but these tests tell kids that there is only one right way to arrive at an answer. We were told that our kids could get every single answer on the test correct and still get a poor grade if they don’t arrive at the answer the way they’re expected to. Oh, and “new math” is freaking crazy. It takes my son 30 minutes to do less than 10 questions, not because he doesn’t know the answer but because it takes that long to show your work the way they expect to see it.

I also think it is insane to put that much pressure on 8-year-old children. When I expressed concerns about the amount of homework and the stress my son was feeling, I was told that “Third grade is time to toughen up.” Toughen up? They’re 8! When I was in school, I didn’t get homework like that until middle school! I am seriously “this” close to yanking my son out of the joke of a school that he’s in and going the Cyber school route. If I wasn’t a single mom providing the only income to keep a roof over our heads, I’d do it in a second. As it is, I’m trying to move the heck out of this area to get him away from the East Stroudsburg Area School District.

Well, that turned into quite a long and winding rant, didn’t it? The whole point of this article is to let parents know that you do have options here. Depending on your state, your child may not have to take the ridiculous standardized tests. If enough of us opt our kids out, maybe it will send a message to educators that we expect better from our schools than crappy standardized tests. United OptOut has a great guide and sample letters to help you with your opt out letter, in case you need it. 


Do you think standardized tests are a good way to evaluate children’s educational progress? Would you opt your child out?