Date of Conferral







Alice Eichholz


An increasing number of parents are opting-out their children from high-stakes. Accountability systems in education have used students' test scores to measure student learning, teacher effectiveness, and school district performance. Students who are opted-out of high-stakes tests are not being evaluated by the state tests, making their level of achievement or proficiency unknown by the state government. The purpose of this basic interpretive qualitative study was to gain an understanding of the various reasons, factors, experiences, and personal events that led parents to opt-out their children from at least one 3rd through 8th grade high-stakes test. Data were collected using a researcher-designed semi-structured interview protocol developed using ecological approaches to systems theories and critical pedagogy theories. The study was set in New York and 10 participants were interviewed, all from different rural or small suburban school districts throughout the state. Five themes and 12 subthemes emerged from first and second cycle coding. Key findings indicated that parents decided to opt-out their children from high-stakes tests because they felt high-stakes were inappropriate and unfair. Further, parents were dissatisfied with current high-stakes testing practices. Previous 3rd through 8th grade testing procedures that allowed teachers to make and grade the state tests were seen as acceptable. Parents indicated no issue with testing. However, from a social change perspective they felt the current system of high stakes testing was used improperly to rate students, teachers, programs, and school districts, and that testing should be used to drive instruction and help struggling students. This study is beneficial for school personnel and policy makers because it provides different ways to assess student achievement.