Sarah Tully, EdSource

A bucket of forms to opt out of Common Core-aligned tests sits at a protest in May 2015 at Yorba Linda High School.

A parents group claims a Los Angeles County school district failed to notify parents of their right to opt their children out of Common Core-aligned tests in a lawsuit filed this week.

Concerned Parents of California filed the lawsuit against Walnut Valley Unified School District in Los Angeles Superior Court, saying that parent letters excluded information on opting out of Smarter Balanced assessments, according to the suit. Walnut Valley Unified, east of Los Angeles, has 14,500 students in kindergarten through 12th grades.

Matt Witmer, assistant superintendent for educational services at Walnut Valley Unified, declined to comment about the lawsuit because district officials had not received it as of Thursday morning.

But Witmer said the district “complied fully with the law” and followed the California Department of Education’s guidance when notifying parents about the Smarter Balanced assessments before they were given for the first time in the spring.

Brad Dacus, the lawyer who is representing Concerned Parents, said he has heard complaints statewide about districts failing to follow state law in telling parents about their opt-out rights. (See California Education Code 60615 and California Code of Regulations 852b.)

But Walnut Valley was chosen for the lawsuit because he knew parents in that district who received notices that excluded information about opting out, Dacus said.

“Without any doubt, this is not an isolated incident,” said Dacus, the president and founder of the Pacific Justice Institute, a legal defense organization that focuses on religious freedoms and parental rights. “This is a statewide problem and it needs to be corrected in school districts across the state of California. We’re hopeful this case will open the eyes of school districts across the state to correct their policies to ensure adequate notice.”

The lawsuit asks that the district comply with the law and award attorney’s fees to the parent group.

The Concerned Parents group has members statewide, including parents of students in Walnut Valley, the suit states. Concerned Parents chapters and the Pacific Justice Institute have been active in fighting the Common Core curriculum and tests.

The results of the Smarter Balanced assessments, part of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, were released last week. The assessments gauge students’ knowledge in English and math based on Common Core standards.

Out of 3.2 million students statewide, about 19,000 had parental exemptions from the tests, according to preliminary estimates. Final opt-out numbers are expected to be released next month.

While less than 1 percent of students opted out of the tests in California, other states have had far more objections. In Washington, about half of the high school juniors refused to take the test. About 20 percent of New York students opted out of the tests.

Update: Concerned Parents of California has filed a second related lawsuit against the Conejo Valley Unified School District in Ventura County Superior Court. Pacific Justice Institute lawyers say they are planning to file similar lawsuits against other districts, as well.


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  1. Pam 4 days ago4 days ago

    In Florida, we have counties that are retaining 3rd grade students for minimally participating. This is where they break the seal and sign their name. The school still makes money off them. There are 11 counties out 67 that retained proficient (A/B honor roll students) that refuse to promote. 17 familie are suing the State of Florida for retaining these students. We won our battle just to have it appealed. … Read More

    In Florida, we have counties that are retaining 3rd grade students for minimally participating. This is where they break the seal and sign their name. The school still makes money off them.
    There are 11 counties out 67 that retained proficient (A/B honor roll students) that refuse to promote. 17 familie are suing the State of Florida for retaining these students. We won our battle just to have it appealed. So most of these children are being homeschooled because we will not submit to having our children repeating the 3rd grade. Please support our fight. Legal cost are enormous. https://www.gofundme.com/stopgr3retention

  2. Dee 5 months ago5 months ago

    Hi:)
    I was wondering if Los Angeles Unified School District is required by law to inform parents, by letter, email or phone call, of their right to opt their child out of the SBAC tests? I have opted out the past two years but I don’t recall seeing any such notifications. Parents at my school are always so surprised to hear that they have a choice.
    Thanks for your help.

  3. Melissa 1 year ago1 year ago

    Connecticut fails to have this option to opt on tests as well .

  4. cynthia 1 year ago1 year ago

    Unfortunately, this is the norm. In the 3 years of Common Core testing being implemented in NYC, not once have parents been notified of their legal right to opt their children out of the test. In the first year not even the teachers knew this was possible. I'm proud that California has sued. All the bull talk about schools wanting and needing more parents to be involved in the educational process yet they go out … Read More

    Unfortunately, this is the norm. In the 3 years of Common Core testing being implemented in NYC, not once have parents been notified of their legal right to opt their children out of the test. In the first year not even the teachers knew this was possible. I’m proud that California has sued. All the bull talk about schools wanting and needing more parents to be involved in the educational process yet they go out of their way to keep us in the dark. Hopefully, other states will follow.

  5. Grissel Sepulveda 1 year ago1 year ago

    I would like to know if it is a national law that parents be given the option to have their children opt out of the common core exams. In New York City most of the students took the exam. I don't know if they were not notified. In Long Island NY many of the parents received letters from the school district informing them that their child could opt out of the test. I would appreciate … Read More

    I would like to know if it is a national law that parents be given the option to have their children opt out of the common core exams. In New York City most of the students took the exam. I don’t know if they were not notified. In Long Island NY many of the parents received letters from the school district informing them that their child could opt out of the test. I would appreciate knowing if this is a national law that parents be given an opportunity to have their children opt out of the test. Thank you for your help.

    Replies

    • Sarah Tully 1 year ago1 year ago

      Education Commission of the States did a report on the different opt-out laws per state: http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/01/17/68/11768.pdf

      This is also an issue that has come up with Congress as it debates the reauthorization of the federal education bill.

      I hope that helps. Sarah

  6. Kristin Phatak 1 year ago1 year ago

    The number of opt outers was prematurely reported by the state on September 5th as less than 1% while the state gave school districts until September 15th to report their opt outs. What is the real number of opt outs in California? Why don’t the CAASPP scores reflect the opt out students? There were many opt outers in my son’s grade at his school yet the CAASPP shows 100% participation for his grade.

    Replies

    • Sarah Tully 1 year ago1 year ago

      As I mentioned in my story, the final parental opt-out numbers aren’t available yet. We’ll be continuing to track this issue and report the final numbers when the become available.

      Sarah

  7. Johanna Santore 1 year ago1 year ago

    I was the only parent in our school that opted my child out. Our district did not inform parents either that they could opt out. Our school in particular was doing everything they could to make the test a “postive” thing and had lectures on all the new technology in place for the tests.

  8. Sara Puma-Sais 1 year ago1 year ago

    I am a Walnut Valley Unified School District parent. Our district is already struggling financially as it is and the only one that is going to get anything out of this lawsuit is Mr. Dacus. LEAVE OUR DISTRICT ALONE Mr. Dacus! Allow the district to remedy the problem by informing us parents and move on.

    Replies

    • Jon 5 months ago5 months ago

      Why would you want Mr. Dacus to leave alone your district if this is a right of the parent and you’re not being informed of it? Isn’t he shedding light to the situation?

  9. Patricia D 1 year ago1 year ago

    I believe that the only issue is districts not giving enough details about the underpinnings of why we have Common Core Standards in the first place. I support the movement towards bringing in critical thinking and higher our quality of teaching and learning since our antiquated public education system is NOT on par with the rest of the global learning community in terms of educating students. Yes, I agree that we over assess students … Read More

    I believe that the only issue is districts not giving enough details about the underpinnings of why we have Common Core Standards in the first place. I support the movement towards bringing in critical thinking and higher our quality of teaching and learning since our antiquated public education system is NOT on par with the rest of the global learning community in terms of educating students. Yes, I agree that we over assess students however, these CCS are not to be blamed for all the additional testing that districts are required to give. The CCS give our teachers great information for instruction.

    I attended many parent informational meetings on the implementation of these standards and I support our State in their decision for schools to align what our students are expected to know and do by the time they leave our high school system. We are in a global economy people and I don’t understand how else we are going to help our students acquire the skills of performance task, defending their thinking, presenting their thinking and engaging in the inquiry and problem-based projects. The big picture – The CCS are the what and the 21st Century skills are the how. Go ahead and opt out, unfortunately your child’s teacher will not be able to help your child without understanding where they need to improve. Read what the experts say and note that students will have a difficult time getting into colleges and universities without having the scores or the skills to take computer adaptive online tests to show their capabilities.

    Opt-out your kids but don’t expect us parents who support our kids being educated in a twenty-first century environment to expect our schools to take a step back into the 19th century school houses. I support our State Superintendent of Schools, Districts and Teachers. Let our expert educators deliver an instructional program that will help our students succeed in the global economy. Walnut Valley Unified is a high performing District. I believe they got to that place by knowing what is best for our kids.

  10. Zeev Wurman 1 year ago1 year ago

    What doesn't come across from this report is that even the CDE model of a notification letter to the parents about testing has illegally omitted information about parental right to opt out. CDE seems to have removed easy access to the model letter but the letter itself can be still found here: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ca/documents/caasp15testnotifyltr.doc So this was not just a stumble by a local school district that didn't know any better. This probably was an intentional omission … Read More

    What doesn’t come across from this report is that even the CDE model of a notification letter to the parents about testing has illegally omitted information about parental right to opt out.

    CDE seems to have removed easy access to the model letter but the letter itself can be still found here: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ca/documents/caasp15testnotifyltr.doc

    So this was not just a stumble by a local school district that didn’t know any better. This probably was an intentional omission by CDE higher ups, possibly against their own legal advisers. And it led many districts astray, Palo Alto included.

    Replies

    • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

      Thanks, Ze’ev. It amazes me how many parents are simply uneducated on their rights vis-vis testing. Obviously, the Department Od Education wants to makes sure people remained u.neducated

  11. Mark Bailey 1 year ago1 year ago

    Parents are suing because the school system allegedly failed to meet a requirement of California state regulations regarding schools. If the schools are allowed to ignore the regulations sited, what other inconvenient regulations might they ignore. School systems are run by bureaucracies, and bureaucracies have a well justified reputation for acting in capricious, autocratic and frequently illegal ways to promote their goals and protect themselves. Failure to curb them whenever they overstep … Read More

    Parents are suing because the school system allegedly failed to meet a requirement of California state regulations regarding schools. If the schools are allowed to ignore the regulations sited, what other inconvenient regulations might they ignore. School systems are run by bureaucracies, and bureaucracies have a well justified reputation for acting in capricious, autocratic and frequently illegal ways to promote their goals and protect themselves. Failure to curb them whenever they overstep their bounds is like feeding a bear, you are inviting it to demand more and more until you end up on the menu.

  12. CarolineSF 1 year ago1 year ago

    Pacific Justice Institute is a far-Christian-right organization, but there's passion all across the political spectrum for opposing standardized testing. I follow a slew of opt-out Facebook pages, and sparks fly if anyone mentions an issue BESIDES standardized testing, because there's such an array of political views on everything else. Much of the MSM until recently misclassified the opt-out movement as an entirely far-right nutball fringe thing, but now some (including the N.Y. Times) misclassify it … Read More

    Pacific Justice Institute is a far-Christian-right organization, but there’s passion all across the political spectrum for opposing standardized testing. I follow a slew of opt-out Facebook pages, and sparks fly if anyone mentions an issue BESIDES standardized testing, because there’s such an array of political views on everything else.

    Much of the MSM until recently misclassified the opt-out movement as an entirely far-right nutball fringe thing, but now some (including the N.Y. Times) misclassify it a bunch of hapless dupes mindlessly following the designs of wily teachers’ unions. As noted, both views are misclassifications.

    Replies

    • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

      Caroline, while we’re on the subject of proper classifications, regarding your phrase “far-right Christian right[s] organization”, to my knowledge there is no such classification. There is such a thing as First Amendment religious liberties and they apply equally to all religions.

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