Former director of the Wyoming Department of Education, Richard Crandall, was faced with several parental requests to opt their children out of statewide assessments. The Wyoming Department of Education initially attempted to answer this question on their own by stating that parents could not opt out. However, when parents challenged this position by asking for the Department to reference the specific Wyoming statute that prohibited parental opt out, no such statute could be provided. Therefore, former Director Crandall turned to the Wyoming Attorney General for an opinion. The letter requesting that opinion was dated April 2014.
Flash forward approximately 5 months. The Wyoming Attorney General issued his opinion to the Wyoming Department of Education. In this opinion dated August 27, 2014, the AG gives the following short answer regarding the parental right to opt out question:
“The rules of the State Board of Education require districts to assess all eligible students. This requirement is within the Board’s statutory authority. Accordingly, districts must assess all eligible students, and students may not opt out of assessment” See the entire letter HERE.
The reasoning given? He believes parental rights have been trumped by the Wyoming Education Accountability Act that was passed in 2011. The Attorney General emphasizes that this accountability system gathers information on students, teachers and schools. Schools are then categorized into one of four performance levels: exceeding expectations, meeting expectations, partially meeting expectations or not meeting expectations. In his interpretation of Wyoming statute, the AG has determined that the State Board of Education by rule, requires as part of district accreditation that ALL students in Wyoming public schools participate in state testing.
Interestingly, the AG does not comment on the lack of penalty language in Wyoming statute. The final statement made in his opinion is that districts may not allow students or their parents to opt out of assessments provided by law. However, what would happen if they did? The statute is not clear and no penalties are provided by law.
Did the Wyoming legislature indeed intend to force ALL students in Wyoming to take statewide assessments, regardless of whether or not parents feel it is appropriate for their child? To date, that question remains unanswered. We would encourage you to speak to your elected officials and ask them to consider addressing a provision for parental opt out in the upcoming 2015 Legislative session. It would take a significant amount of students opting out of statewide assessments to truly impact the federal funding that districts receive under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Watch a video with reaction and commentary concerning the AG’s opinion HERE.
Read the official document from the Wyoming Attorney General HERE.
Contact the AG’s Department and let them know your how you feel concerning this decision HERE.